Government

In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey the Supreme Court held 6-2 that a public employer violates the First Amendment when it acts on a mistaken belief that an employee engaged in First Amendment protected political activity. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief taking the opposite position.  

The Court assumed the following facts in this case:  Police officer Jeffery Heffernan worked in the office of the police chief. The mayor was running for reelection against a friend of Heffernan’s, Lawrence Spagnola. Heffernan was demoted after another member of the police force saw Heffernan picking up a Spagnola yard sign and talking to the Spagnola campaign manager and staff. Heffernan was picking up the sign for his bedridden mother.

While in office former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell accepted more than $175,000 in money and luxury goods from Jonnie Williams. Williams wanted a Virginia state university to test a dietary supplement his company, Star, had developed.  A jury found McDonnell guilty of violating a number of federal bribery statutes.

In McDonnell v. United States McDonnell essentially claims he did not do enough to help Williams to be guilty of bribery. From his brief: “[t]his case marks the first time in our history that a public official has been convicted of corruption despite never agreeing to put a thumb on the scales of any government decision.”

In Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt the Supreme Court held 6-2 that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause requires state courts to apply a damages cap, which applies to the state, to  foreign states and local governments sued in its court.

The State and Local Legal Center filed an amicus brief in this case asking the Court to reach this result. State and local governments are frequently sued out-of-state and will benefit if other states’ immunities apply to them.  

The U.S. Economic Development Administration will hold a series of informational webinars for prospective applicants to the agency’s $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition.

This year marks the National Park Service’s centennial. Protecting and preserving America’s historical places, cultural heritage sites and natural treasures for 100 years, the National Park Services helps to ensure that 400 sites across the country will be around for generations to come. And according to NPS, for every $1 invested in national parks, $10 is returned to the U.S. economy through tourism and recreational visitors. With national parks located throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories, it’s easy to #FindYourPark at www.nps.gov.

Here’s a look at the top 10 states and the District of Columbia for the number of recreational visitors to national parks in 2015.

United States v. Texas is about different things for different people. For some it is about keeping families together, for others executive overreach, and for about half of the states it is about “standing” to sue the federal government.   

The legal issue in this case is whether the President’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who have US citizen children to stay and work temporarily in the United States, violates federal law.

In the words of the Colorado Supreme Court, two fundamental tenets of our judicial system are at odds with each other in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado:  protecting the secrecy of jury deliberations and ensuring a defendant’s constitutional right to an impartial jury.

Most states, including Colorado, and the federal government have a “no-impeachment” rule which prevents jurors from testifying after a verdict about what happened during deliberations with limited exceptions that do not include that a juror expressed racial bias.

The False Claims Act (FCA) allows private individuals to sue on behalf of the United States to recover money that has been defrauded from the federal government. While the Supreme Court has yet to rule whether states and local governments can bring FCA claims, local governments, but not state governments, can be sued for making false claims against the federal government.   

What exactly is a false claim? The question for the Supreme Court in Universal Health Services v. Escobar is whether a claim for reimbursement from the federal government containing no affirmative misstatements can be deemed false because the claimant failed to disclose that it has violated a requirement of the federal program. Technically, this is called the “implied certification” theory of legal falsity.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s midterm has come and gone. The Court will only hear argument in 10 more cases and the term will end June 30. But the Court has issued decisions in less than half of the cases of the term so far. So now might be just the time to take stock of the Supreme Court’s term as it relates to the states.

The Court has already decided two big cases and has four more left to go. Only one of the six big cases (involving the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate) will have no direct impact on the states.

Title VII allows prevailing employers in frivolous Title VII employment discrimination lawsuits to collect a reasonable attorney’s fee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brings lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved employees. But before doing so it has a statutory obligation to investigate, find reasonable cause the employer violated Title VII, and conciliate the dispute.

On Monday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in CRST Van Expedited v. EEOC where it will decide whether an employer is a prevailing party where a court dismissed a Title VII case because the EEOC failed to meet its pre-lawsuit obligations.

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