Government

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on May 18 that will allow him to name two new justices to the Arizona Supreme Court, bringing the number of justices to seven from the current five-member court. But how does the number of justices on the Arizona Supreme Court compare to courts of last resort in other states? Here’s a state-by-state look at the number of judicial seats on state courts of last resort from The Book of the States 2015.

Rebuffed is enough the Supreme Court ruled in CRST Van Expedited v. EEOC.

More specifically, employers who prevail in Title VII employment discrimination cases may recover attorney’s fees if they are able to “rebuff” employee’s claims for any reason—including reasons not related to the merits of the claims.   

CSG Midwest
Voters in two Midwestern states may soon have the chance to take the power of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of their legislatures. In South Dakota, a proposed constitutional amendment has already been certified and will appear on the fall ballot. It calls for a nine-member, independent commission to handle the state’s redistricting process. No commissioners could have served in state political office or a political party’s office within the last three years. In addition, no more than three people from the same political party could be named to the commission. 
CSG Midwest

Earlier this year, to coincide with an open-government initiative known as Sunshine Week, reporters from the Associated Press sent requests for the records of legislative leaders in all 50 states. They asked for lawmakers’ daily schedules as well as emails from their government accounts. In most cases, AP reported in March, its reporters came away empty-handed, as they ran into more denials for the requests than approvals.

This right to deny access to certain records is a long-standing, widespread prerogative of legislators in states across the country — the result of a mix of constitutional language and principles, statutory language, and legal opinions.

Merrill Lynch v. Manning is a victory for state courts. It’s just complicated to explain how.

Per a general federal court jurisdiction statute, Section 1331, federal courts have jurisdiction over all civil lawsuits “arising under” federal law. Section 27 of the Securities Exchange Act provides federal court jurisdiction for all suits “brought to enforce” the Exchange Act.  

In Merrill Lynch v. Manning the Supreme Court held that “arising under” and “brought to enforce” mean the same thing. If a lawsuit, involving violating securities law, such as the one in this case, only includes state law claims that don’t necessarily raise federal issues that lawsuit doesn’t “arise under” federal law. Per the Court’s opinion it also therefore isn’t “brought to enforce” the Exchange Act and must be heard in state court.

Special counsel, retained to collect debt on behalf of the Attorney General (AG) owed to the state, don’t violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when they use AG letterhead to communicate with debtors. The Supreme Court’s opinion in Sheriff v. Gillie written by Justice Ginsburg is unanimous.

An amicus brief filed by Michigan and 11 other states supporting Ohio cites a recent study concluding that all 50 states use “private collection agencies to some degree and ‘at some point in the process.’”

The Supreme Court sent Spokeo v. Robins, involving whether Thomas Robins may sue a search engine under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for providing inaccurate information about him, back to the lower court to determine whether Robins suffered a “concrete” harm and therefore had “standing” to sue.

While this case does not sound relevant to state and local government it is. A number of federal statutes applicable to state and local government—the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)—allow plaintiffs to sue even if they have not necessarily been harmed. Regardless, to bring a lawsuit in federal court a plaintiff must have “standing” per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Injury-in-fact—including a concrete harm—is one of the requirements for “standing.”

The diversity of policy experimentation and accountable governance made possible by the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has enabled our nation to thrive despite the changing needs of a global economy. Given the importance of federalism to our future, it is essential that The Council of State Governments dedicate itself to preserving the role of the states as the “laboratories of democracy” and work both to limit unnecessary federal intrusions into areas of state responsibility and to foster effective cooperation in areas of shared jurisdiction.

Econ Piggy

On May 1, Puerto Rico defaulted on a $422 million bond payment to little fanfare. Congress now has a brief window to address the commonwealth’s lack of options before a $2 billion payment is due July 1—a default that would likely not pass so quietly.

In March 2015 Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” A new challenge coming out of South Dakota might be just the case Justice Kennedy had in mind. 

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, decided in 1992, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

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