Public Safety

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court declined to decide one of the most important questions this term for state and local government: whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires police officers to accommodate suspects who are armed, violent, and mentally ill when bringing them into custody. But the Court held that the officers in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan were entitled to qualified immunity.

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness to take her to a hospital for psychiatric care, she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated. Before backup arrived, the officers decided to reenter her room to prevent her from gathering more weapons or escaping. Upon reentry, Sheehan still had the knife in her hand and yelled for them to leave. One officer pepper sprayed Sheehan but she refused to drop the knife. The officers then shot her multiple times but she survived.

CSG Midwest

A year ago, officials from all three branches of South Dakota government began taking a close, critical look at the state’s juvenile justice system. The working group didn’t like what it saw. “What we found is that South Dakota was an outlier nationally,” Sen. Alan Solano says. “While juvenile commitments were declining,” he adds, “South Dakota had the second-highest incarceration rate in the country in 2011, a rate of 385 youth per 100,000.” Further, that high commitment rate was not connected to a correspondingly high rate of violent crime, and South Dakota’s juvenile offenders were staying longer in out-of-home placements than they had in the past. Those placements were costly (anywhere from $41,000 to $144,000 per bed); were often for misdemeanors, probation violations and status offenses (such as truancy and underage drinking); and were not necessarily effective in treating young people (community-based supervision tends to yield better results).

In a 6-3 decision in Rodriguez v. United States the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff conducted after a completed traffic stop violates the Fourth Amendment. 

Officer Struble pulled over Dennys Rodriguez after he veered onto the shoulder of the highway and jerked back on the road. Officer Struble ran a records check on Rodriguez, then questioned his passenger and ran a records check on the passenger and called for backup, and next wrote Rodriguez a warning ticket. Seven or eight minutes passed between Officer Struble issuing the warning, back up arriving, and Officer Struble’s drug-sniffing dog alerting for drugs.  Rodriguez argued that prolonging the completed traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment.

CSG Midwest
Two years after passing milestone legislation to reform the state’s criminal justice system for adults, lawmakers in South Dakota have changed the state’s approach to managing and treating juvenile offenders. SB 73 was signed into law in March. Its goals are to cut costs, invest more in proven intervention programs and reduce recidivism among young people. 
 

In Kingsley v. Hendrickson the Supreme Court will specify the standard for determining what amount of force used against a pretrial detainee is excessive.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing that the same or similar standard should apply to excessive force claims brought by pretrial detainees and post-conviction detainees. 

To date, the Supreme Court’s docket for next term has less than ten cases.  Two of them involve the death penalty.  Combined, they raise at least three issues.   

It is difficult to know what issues the Court will decide in Hurst v. Florida.  In his certiorari petition Timothy Lee Hurst asked the Court to decide at least six issues.  The Court combined and shortened Hurst’s questions presented to address whether Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme violates the Sixth (right to a jury trial) and Eighth (no cruel and unusual punishment) Amendments.    

Beginning in the mid-2000s numerous states adopted “Jessica’s” laws requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  These statutes have been challenged on a number of grounds—including that they violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.  Eight states, including North Carolina, monitor for life.             

The Supreme Court ruling that GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders is a Fourth Amendment search doesn’t invalidate these statutes.  But if the lower court—and ultimately the Supreme...

In 2012 in Miller v. Alabama the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states may not mandate that juvenile offenders be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In Montgomery v. Louisiana the Court will decide whether Miller is retroactive; that is, whether it should apply to those convicted before the case was decided. 

This case will be decided next term (by the end of June 2016).  The Court agreed to hear a case raising the exact same issue, also from Louisiana, this term.   Toca v. Louisiana was dismissed when George Toca was released from prison after pleading guilty to two counts of armed robbery in exchange for his murder conviction being vacated.   

CSG Midwest
In April of last year, Wisconsin lawmakers passed a first-in-the-nation bill with new standards on how local law enforcement must handle investigations that involve the death of a civilian by an on-duty police officer.
The legislation, AB 409, didn’t get much national attention at the time. But a few months later, after high-profile incidents involving the death of a 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., and the acquittal of a New York police officer in the death of an unarmed African-American man, Wisconsin’s actions were being held up as a national model.
Recent concerns about officer-related deaths, and the investigations that follow, have resulted in much legislative activity in state capitols in 2015 (see below) — calls for an increased use of police body cameras, for example, and new rules for how violent incidents are handled, investigated and publicly reported.

The Border Legislative Conference, a program of The Council of State Governments West, released a report, “The U.S.-Mexico Border Economy in Transition,” at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. The report is the result of four Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums held along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 to collectively generate a shared vision and policy recommendations to strengthen economic competitiveness. The report lays out the major issues involved in border region economic development, compiles the many innovative ideas developed at the forums and weaves them into a series of policy recommendations that draw on the experiences of those who understand the border best: the individuals who live in border communities and who cross back and forth between Mexico and the United States as a part of their daily lives.

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