Supreme Court Cases of Interest to States

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 State and Local Legal Center filed amicus briefs in the California Medicaid case and in three others of interest to state and local governments. Below is a description of the issue or holding for those cases.

Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California

In Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, plaintiffs argued that California’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low to encourage an adequate number of providers to participate. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court left it to the lower court to decide whether a claim can be brought against a state under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause to enforce Medicaid regulations.

Filarsky v. Delia

In Filarsky v. Delia, the Court held, in a unanimous decision, that contract attorneys and other individuals working for the government on a part-time basis are eligible for qualified immunity from lawsuits in the same way as their full-time counterparts.

Reichle v. Howards

The key issue in Reichle v. Howards was whether a person arrested based on probable cause can bring a lawsuit claiming he or she was arrested in retaliation for asserting his or her First Amendment rights. The court ruled unanimously in June that it is not clearly established that retaliatory arrest claims can be brought when there is probable cause.

Armour v. Indianapolis

This issue in Armour v. Indianapolis was whether a city violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it forgave the assessments of homeowners who paid for sewer improvements in multi-year installments, but issued no refund to homeowners who paid for the same improvements in a lump sum. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled in June that the city had a rational basis for forgiving the installment payments because of the administrative inconvenience of collecting small payments for years.

About the State and Local Legal Center

Since 1983, the State and Local Legal Center has filed amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the “Big Seven”—national organizations representing the interests of state and local governments, including The Council of State Governments. The other Big Seven groups are the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the International City/County Management Association.

The center files an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case in which three of the Big Seven want a brief written, unless two organizations veto participation. Each of the Big Seven groups decides whether to sign onto a brief after reviewing it.

Briefs are generally filed in cases involving federalism, pre-emption and other legal questions where the interests of state and local government are at stake. To date, the center has filed more than 300 briefs with the Supreme Court.

The center also offers attorneys arguing state and local government cases before the Supreme Court with opportunities to take part in simulated court proceedings. To learn more about the center and to read the briefs filed on behalf of state and local governments, visit www.statelocallc.org or www.twitter.com/sllcscotus.

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