Capitol Comments

It has been a number of years since states and local governments have won a property rights case. But in Murr v. Wisconsin the Supreme Court concluded 5-3 that no taking occurred where state law and local ordinance “merged” nonconforming, adjacent lots under common ownership, meaning the property owners could not sell one of the lots by itself. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC), filed an amicus brief, which the Court cited two times, arguing that these very common provisions are constitutional. 

On its last opinion day of the term, the Supreme Court announced that it would rule on the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s revised travel ban. In the meantime to the extent the executive order prevents foreign nationals and refugees “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” from entering the United States, it may go into effect until the Supreme Court rules on the merits of this case.   

The president’s first executive order prevented people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, froze decisions on refugee applications for 120 days, and capped total refugee admissions at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

The Ninth Circuit temporarily struck it down, concluding this executive order was not religion-neutral, and that it likely violated the due process rights of lawful permanent residents, nonimmigrant visa holders, and refugees.

In Ziglar v. Abbasi, the Supreme Court in a 4-2 decision granted a number of high level federal executive agency officials qualified immunity related to a claim they conspired to violate the equal protection rights of a number of undocumented immigrants held on suspicion of a connection to terrorism after September 11, 2001. 

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages in their individual capacity if they violate a person’s constitutional rights.  Qualified immunity protects government officials from such lawsuits where the law they violated isn’t “clearly established.”

This case doesn’t involve any state or local government officials. But every qualified immunity case matters.

States and local governments don’t particularly care that trademarks aren’t government speech. But they do care about the breadth of the government speech doctrine because government speech is not protected by the First Amendment (meaning governments can say what they want and exclude messages they disagree with).

One small caveat for state legislature: most states have adopted the Model State Trademark Act, which bars state trademark registration on the same basis as Section 2(1) of the Lanham Act, discussed below. 

In Packingham v. North Carolina the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a North Carolina law making it a felony for a registered sex offender to access social networking sites where minors can create profiles violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result. 

Lester Packingham was charged with violating the North Carolina statute because he praised God on Facebook when a parking ticket was dismissed.

Georgia’s 6th District Special Election to replace now Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price’s, House seat will be one for the history books. The money spent and the voter turnout for this election quickly turned unprecedented as this seat became a crucial battle between the Republican and Democrat parties. This closely watched election is taking place against the backdrop of a potential data breach of 6.5 million voter records maintained by the Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems.  The center assists the Georgia Secretary of State and all 159 Georgia counties in administering election operations and voting machines deployed statewide.

In Gill v. Whitford the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether and when it is possible to bring a claim that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.  

While the Court has repeatedly struck down district maps that rely on racial gerrymandering, it has never ruled that maps drawn to secure partisan advantage are unconstitutional. In 2004, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy – who may be the deciding vote in Whitford – wrote a concurring opinion indicating that partisan gerrymandering could be unconstitutional.

According to new data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, per student spending on public elementary and secondary school systems increased for every state in 2015, except for Arizona where spending decreased by 0.5 percent. Alaska and New York lead the pack, with both increasing spending by more than nine percent. Nationally, per student spending was $11,392 in 2015 – a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year – representing the largest year-over-year increase in per student spending since 2008.

Technology grows at a rapid pace in today’s increasingly connected society. The computers we used in 2002 seem nearly fossil-like in comparison to 2017’s array of computing tablets, laptops, desktops, and smartphones. The same holds true for the election equipment we used in 2002, and Minnesota recognizes the need to upgrade.

A couple of weeks ago, a relatively quiet vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward on a proposal could have big implications on how we use the internet and how it is regulated in the future. The proposal would roll back rules that were put in place during the Obama administration regarding net neutrality. It will now move...

Pages