Judicial Branch

In its October Term 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide four significant and prominent federalism cases involving states. These cases include the Affordable Care Act cases, the Arizona immigration case, the Texas redistricting case and the California Medicaid case. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed amicus curiae briefs in four cases to be decided this term affecting state and local government, including the California Medicaid case.

Chapter 5 of the 2012 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s October 2011 term has been an exciting one for state government. Prominent cases from this term affecting states include those involving the Affordable Care Act, Arizona’s immigration law, redistricting in Texas and a California Medicaid dispute.

The last week of June likely will be big even for Americans who generally don’t give a second thought to the U.S.  Supreme Court because the Affordable Care Act cases and the Arizona immigration case will be decided then. 

But for at least state government and the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) this week has been exciting!  The Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases where the SLLC filed an amicus brief:  Armour v. Indianapolis and Reichle v. Howards.  Remarkably, the SLLC’s brief was cited in Armour v. Indianapolis.     

As state leaders begin to realize and utilize the incredible potential of technology to promote transparency, encourage citizen participation and bring real-time information to their constituents, one area may have been overlooked. Every state provides public access to their statutory material online, but only seven states provide access to official versions of their statutes online. This distinction may seem academic or even trivial, but it opens the door to a number of questions that go far beyond simply whether or not a resource has an official label.

A recent story on multiple news outlets report a Texas man claimed a $300,000 McMansion for a mere $16 through an obscure property law concept called adverse possession.  The Texas resident, Kenneth Robinson, simply paid a $16 filing fee at the local courthouse and immediately moved into the foreclosed property.  Under Texas law, if he manages to stay in the property for three years, he will be granted title to the house and be its rightful owner.

Chapter 5 of the 2011 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Like most states, Alabama is currently facing the crisis of an overcrowded prison population and a recidivism rate that significantly threatens public safety and exacerbates already bleak state and local government budget shortfalls. Rather than continue to spend vast sums of money on a system that is clearly broken, Alabama is beginning the process of interbranch cooperation to implement effective reforms in the areas of sentencing and corrections at the state and local levels. A number of efforts are currently underway. For the sake of public safety and stark financial reality, Alabama must continue to modify its laws and carry out reforms to lower the costly burden of corrections and stop the revolving door of recidivism.

In the November 2010 retention elections in Iowa, out-of-state special interest groups funded a vigorous campaign to oust three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court who had joined in the court’s unanimous decision declaring Iowa’s defense of marriage act a violation of the equality clause of the Iowa Constitution. The avowed purpose of these groups was to send a message across the country that judges ignore the will of the people at their peril. Intimidation of judges and retaliation against judges who make politically unpopular decisions undermine our Founding Fathers’ vision of a society governed by the rule of law. “Judicial independence is the vital mechanism that empowers judges to make decisions that may be unpopular but nonetheless correct. ... And it gives life to the promise that the Rule of Law safeguards the minority from the tyranny of the majority.”1

The US Supreme Court has upheld an appellate ruling that California cannot regulate the sale or rental of violent video games to children.