If Thursday’s presidential debate sparked an avalanche of news coverage, Friday’s opinions released by the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a tsunami of news stories, and justifiably.

One ruling will dramatically affect how government agencies regulate industries, from health care to the environment. Another decision, analyzed for us by legal scholar Riley T. Keenan, “may lead to the dismissal of obstruction charges, or reversal of obstruction convictions,” for hundreds of defendants charged in the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Keenan, who teaches constitutional law and federal courts at the University of Richmond School of Law, walks readers through the case known as Fischer v. United States, which turned on the court’s definition of a catch-all term in the law. The case concerns three men charged in the Capitol riot, but it has a much larger significance.

“The Supreme Court held that a federal statute that prohibits obstructing an official proceeding may not apply to three defendants who were charged with participating in the U.S. Capitol riot,” Keenan writes. “Although former President Donald Trump is not a defendant in the case, special counsel Jack Smith has charged him separately with violating the same statute.”

Will Trump’s prosecution survive the court’s opinion in Fischer?

“The ruling may … undermine special counsel Jack Smith’s case,” Keenan writes, adding that the former president may soon seek dismissal of the obstruction charge brought by Smith. But Trump may not succeed, Keenan says – because his actions in attempting to overturn the 2020 election results may well fit into the narrowed scope of the law just articulated by the court.

The Supreme Court released other major decisions yesterday, which we’ve covered in these articles:

• Supreme Court rules cities can ban homeless people from sleeping outdoors – Sotomayor dissent summarizes opinion as 'stay awake or be arrested'

How camping bans − like the one the Supreme Court just upheld − can fit into ‘hostile design’: Strategies to push out homeless people

This week we also liked stories about the marketing of menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, the mechanics of how hail forms and the importance of humor in Catholic life.

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Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Democracy

The Supreme Court faced a decision in a case involving participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot. AP Photo/John Minchillo, File

Supreme Court makes prosecution of Trump on obstruction charge more difficult, with ruling to narrowly define law used against him and Jan. 6 rioters

Riley T. Keenan, University of Richmond

Government prosecutors, ruled the Supreme Court, stretched the meaning of a law that’s been used to prosecute those alleged to have participated in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol.

Pope Francis meets with comedians at the Apostolic Palace on June 14, 2024, in Vatican City. Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Image

Pope Francis may have surprised many by inviting comedians to the Vatican, but the value of humor has deep roots in Catholic tradition

Joanne M. Pierce, College of the Holy Cross

Catholic theologians and monastics have always encouraged humor, emphasizing its power to heal and bring cultures together.

Getting hit by solid ice the size of a baseball would hurt. Gregory Dubus/iStock/Getty Images Plus

How does hail grow to the size of golf balls and even grapefruit? The science behind this destructive weather phenomenon

Brian Tang, University at Albany, State University of New York

An atmospheric scientist explains how hail forms and what to do if you’re suddenly being pelted by giant ice chunks falling from the sky.

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