First Amendment

What does Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants have to do with state and local governments? The question the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether allowing robocalls for government-debt only violates the First Amendment. State and local governments aren’t likely recipients of such calls.

In one word the answer is Reed; as in Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015). In Reed the Supreme Court held that strict (usually fatal)-scrutiny applies to content-based restrictions on speech, and the Court defined content-based broadly. In short Reed was a bad decision for state and local governments, which regularly regulate content-based speech.  

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits automatic dialing or prerecorded calls to cell phones with three exceptions—emergencies, consent, and debt collection owed to or guaranteed by the United States. The American Association of Political Consultants claims the third exception violates the First Amendment.

Delaware’s Constitution requires that three state courts be balanced between the two major political parties. The main question before the Supreme Court in Carney v. Adams is whether this scheme violates the First Amendment.

Per Delaware’s Constitution no more than half of the members of the Delaware Supreme Court, Superior Court, or Chancery Court may be of the same major political party.

Delaware attorney James Adams wants to be a...

Following Thompson v. Hebdon states with low individual-to-candidate or individual-to-group campaign contribution limits may want to review their constitutionality.

In a per curiam (unauthored) opinion the Supreme Court instructed the Ninth Circuit to decide again whether Alaska law, which limits the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate for political office or to an election-oriented group other than a political party...

Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue raises an issue the Supreme Court has long wrestled with:  if a state-aid program violates a state constitutional prohibition against mixing church and state because religious institutions may participate, does discontinuing that program violate the federal constitution’s Free Exercise or Equal Protection Clauses.

Montana statutes allow taxpayers to receive tax credits for contribution to Student Scholarship Organizations (SSO) that give students scholarships to attend private schools, including religious schools. The Montana Department of Revenue adopted Rule 1 disallowing religious schools to participate in the program because it concluded their participation would violate Montana’s constitution. Parents of students attending religiously-affiliated private schools challenged Rule 1.

The Bladensburg Peace Cross may stay the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association.  According to Justice Alito, writing for the majority of the Court: “It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions.’” The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case supporting the local government.

In late 1918, residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland, decided to erect a memorial to honor soldiers from the county who died in World War I. The monument, completed in 1925, is a 32-foot tall Latin cross that sits on a large pedestal. Among other things, it contains a plaque listing the names of 49 local men who died in the war. Over the years, memorials honoring the veterans of other conflicts have been added to the surrounding area. In 1961, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired the Cross and the land it is on in order to preserve it and address traffic-safety concerns.

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