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2017: The Biggest Legal Decisions of the Year

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

It was a busy year for the Supreme Court, which started 2017 down one justice. Then Neil Gorsuch joined the Court in April, and immediately began making an impact. Lower federal and state courts handed down some influential rulings as well.

Here are the major court decisions from 2017:

1. Supreme Court Allows Maryland Assault Weapons Ban to Stand

Given the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas this year, it's only natural that gun control would be on everyone's mind. It was put before the Supreme Court as well, but the Court declined to review a lower court's decision upholding Maryland's ban on military-style rifles and detachable magazines, meaning the prohibitions will remain in place.

2. Supreme Court Limits Government's Power to Seize Property

Thanks to the efforts of John Oliver and many other news outlets, Americans learned about civil forfeiture this year -- the power of law enforcement to seize assets in criminal cases. The Supreme Court tried to rein those seizures in, limiting forfeiture to only that property a defendant actually acquired as the result of the crime.

3. Ban on Gay 'Conversion' Therapy Left in Place by Supreme Court

Conversion therapy has been controversial for years, and some states have prohibited licensed therapists from working with gay minors to change their sexual orientation to straight. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to California's ban on conversion therapy, leaving the law in effect.

4. Sex Offenders Have First Amendment Right to Social Media

Those convicted of crimes can lose all kinds of rights and privileges. Some states even prohibit ex-convicts from ever voting again. But bans on social media sites like Facebook are a step too far, according to the Supreme Court.

5. Uber Wins Arbitration Clause Case, Keeping Disputes out of Court

Uber didn't have the greatest year, from a public relations standpoint. But it did get one legal victory, after a New York appeals court ruled that clicking Uber's "Register" button constitutes consent to an arbitration clause in its terms of service. That means customer disputes must be resolved in front of more business-friendly arbitrators, rather than in front of more plaintiff-friendly juries.

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