The Supreme Court will decide in Nelson v. Colorado whether it violates due process to require criminal defendants whose convictions have been reversed to prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence to receive refunds of monetary penalties they have paid.  

Shannon Nelson was convicted of five charges relating to sexually assaulting her children. She was ordered to pay a variety of costs and fees. The appeals court overturned her conviction because the trial court allowed a lay witness to testify about the age at which children have the ability to remember information and relate it accurately. A new jury acquitted her.

She asked the trial court to refund the money she paid in costs and fees. It refused ruling that the legislature has not given it authority to issue refunds.

The issue in Lee v. Tam is whether Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which bars the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks, violates the First Amendment.

Simon Shiao Tam named his band The Slants to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of Asian stereotypes. The PTO refused to register the band name finding it likely disparaging to persons of Asian descent. Tam sued the PTO arguing that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.  

According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections, state government tax revenue increased 4.8 percent from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015 – growing from $875.0 billion to $916.5 billion. It’s the fifth consecutive year states have seen their tax revenue grow.

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Wells Fargo v. City of Miami and Bank of America v. City of Miami the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that Miami, and other local governments across the country, should have “standing” to sue banks under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for economic harm caused to local governments by discriminatory lending practices.

The City of Miami claims that Wells Fargo and Bank of America targeted black and Latino customers in the City for predatory loans that carried more risk, steeper fees, and higher costs than those offered to identically situated white customers. The City further claims the banks’ lending policies caused minority-owned property to fall into unnecessary or premature foreclosure.

The FHA makes it unlawful for banks to discriminate against mortgage recipients on the basis of race. To bring a lawsuit under the FHA the City of Miami must have “statutory standing,” in other words, “a cause of action under the statute.”

The first Monday in October (today) is Supreme Court opening day! Two other traditions coincide with this tradition. First is State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court Preview webinar. Second is the results of the Supreme Court’s “long” conference.

The SLLC Supreme Court Preview webinar is scheduled for October 13 at noon eastern time. The webinar is free; it will cover the cases of interest to state and local...

Policy makers in Kansas have long been pushing for a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration. In January 2016, newly appointed EAC executive director Brian Newby unilaterally altered the federal voter registration form to require proof of citizenship, which affects Kansas, Georgia and Alabama. In the most recent development of this situation, a top District of Columbia appeals court overturned his decision removing the proof-of-citizenship requirement from federal voter registration forms.

How can state leaders build the public’s confidence in government if the citizenry doesn’t understand how state government works? Although there has traditionally been a reasonable amount taught in schools about the federal level—checks and balances; how a bill becomes a law; and so on—students learn little about the policies, politics and management of states and localities. Fortunately, there’s a growing civics education movement, at both K-12 and university levels, to expand students' understanding about the entities that most closely touch their lives. This FREE CSG eCademy webcast explores the challenges and benefits of civics education both inside and outside the classroom.

Twenty-one states are suing the Department of Labor over new overtime rules which make it more likely states will have to pay more employees overtime. They are seeking an injunction which will prevent the new rules from going into effect on December 1, 2016.

Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “white collar” employees do not have to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Per Department of Labor regulations, adopted shortly after the FLSA was adopted in 1938, employees must perform specific duties and earn a certain salary to be exempt from overtime as white collar employees.

On May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued final rules nearly doubling the previous salary level test for white collar employees from $455 per week, or $23,660 per year to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year.

There are not many questions of public policy that economists widely agree upon. The benefits of free trade, negative impacts of rent controls, and the infeasibility of returning to a gold standard, are a few.  Add to that list the use of tax-exempt municipal bonds to subsidize the construction of professional sports complexes, a practice that 85% of surveyed economists disagree with.

While the Supreme Court is still down a Justice, its docket is about half full, which is typical for this time of the year. Five cases in particular on the Court’s docket, described below, will directly impact at least some states. Interestingly, the Court agreed to decide the religion and the takings case before Justice Scalia died last winter.