Supreme Court to Consider Legislative Authority Case

The results of the Supreme Court’s long conference are in! The court granted a total of 11 petitions.

Two cases stand out as having a particular impact on CSG members. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, legislative congressional redistricting authority is on the line. And in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, the constitutionality of a common judicial conduct rule prohibiting candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds is being challenged.

In a provision added by citizen initiative, the Arizona Constitution removes congressional redistricting authority from the Arizona State Legislature and places it in an unelected commission. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court will decide whether this violates the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, which requires the time, place and manner of congressional elections be prescribed in each state by the “Legislature thereof.”

The Arizona district court ruled against the Arizona legislature, reasoning that the U.S. Supreme Court previously held in two cases that a state may allow state bodies other than the legislature to redistrict. A dissenting judge didn’t disagree with this, but pointed out that, in those cases, the state legislature still participated in the redistricting process “in some very significant and meaningful capacity.”

While the use of redistricting commissions is popular for drawing state legislative district lines, only Arizona and California have mandated them for congressional redistricting.

In Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, the court will decide whether Florida’s Cannon 7C(1), which prohibits candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds, violates the First Amendment.

The Florida Supreme Court held Cannon 7C(1) does not violate the First Amendment because it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

The Florida Supreme Court had previously held that Florida “has a compelling interest in protecting the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary,” and concluded that Cannon 7C(1) serves these goals. Cannon 7C(1) was narrowly tailored because it seeks to “insulate judicial candidates from the solicitation and receipt of funds while leaving open, ample alternative means for candidates to raise the resources necessary to run their campaigns.”

Thirty-nine states have some form of popular election for judges; 30 of those states prohibit judges from personally seeking campaign contributions.

Below is a brief summary of the other cases relevant to states the court accepted during the long conference:

Medicaid private right of action. In 2012 in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, the court was supposed to decide whether the Supremacy Clause allows private parties to sue states to enforce a Medicaid reimbursement statute. The court ultimately did not decide the issue. The majority of the court seemed skeptical that the Supremacy Clause provides a cause of action; dissenting Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas concluded it does not. The court finally will resolve this issue in Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center. The State and Local Legal Center filed an amicus brief in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California.

Housing discrimination. For the third time, the court has accepted a case involving this issue of whether disparate impact—as opposed to disparate treatment—claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act. It remains to be seen if Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project will settle like its predecessors, Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Citizens in Action and Magner v. Gallagher. The 11 federal circuits that have decided this issue have all held that disparate impact claims are cognizable. The Supreme Court is expected to rule to the contrary.

Fourth Amendment search. In its second Fourth Amendment case of the term, Rodriguez v. United States, the court will decide whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by extending—for just a few minutes—an already-completed traffic stop for a dog sniff.

Employment discrimination. The issue in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores is whether an employer can violate Title VII for failing to hire someone because of a “religious observance and practice” that the employer knows about—but wasn’t told about directly by the applicant. The applicant in this case wore a hajib to her interview with Abercrombie & Fitch. When Abercrombie didn’t hire her because her hajib violated their “no caps” policy, she sued. The 10th Circuit ruled in favor of Abercrombie because the applicant did not inform Abercrombie she needed a religious accommodation.

Confrontation Clause. In Ohio v. Clark, the court will decide whether testimony of Head Start teachers about what a 3-year-old boy told them when they asked him who hurt him was admissible in his father’s assault trial. The Ohio Supreme Court held that admitting their testimony, when the boy did not testify due to his young age, violated the Confrontation Clause because the boy’s statements were “testimonial.” The court reasoned the teachers were acting as law enforcement agents when they questioned him because they have mandatory child abuse reporting obligations and the boy was not in the midst of an ongoing emergency when he was questioned.

For more information about these cases and other Supreme Court case relevant to states and local government, please attend the State and Local Legal Center’s free Supreme Court Preview webinar Oct. 16.