Supreme Court’s Long Conference Significant for States

Since the Supreme Court’s term began in early October it has agreed to hear 15 cases—13 at its “long” conference before the term began and two subsequently. Many will have an impact on the states. And a number will only impact specific states (and a territory!).   

The question in Hughes v. PPL EnergyPlus and CPV Maryland v. PPL EnergyPlus is whether Maryland agreeing to give a power plant developer a twenty-year fixed revenue stream is preempted by federal law. The Federal Power Act vests in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to regulate interstate wholesale rates.

In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey Officer Heffernan was demoted after he was seen picking up a campaign sign for the current police chief’s opponent. The sign was for his bedridden mother. The Court will decide whether he may bring a lawsuit claiming that he was retaliated against based on the City’s perception he was exercising his First Amendment free association rights. 

In MHN Government Services v. Zaborowski the Court will decide whether California's arbitration-only severability rule is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act. While the Ninth Circuit acknowledged that the Federal Arbitration Act “expresses a strong preference for the enforcement of arbitration agreements,” California courts eliminate entire arbitration agreements when multiple provisions are unconscionable. 

The issue in Williams v. Pennsylvania is whether the Constitution is violated where a state supreme court justice declines to recuse himself in a capital case under the following circumstances. He had personally approved the decision to pursue capital punishment against the defendant when he was prosecutor, headed the prosecutor’s office when it defended the death verdict on appeal, and during his judicial campaign publically expressed strong support for the death penalty by stating that he had sent a specific number of people to death row, including the defendant. The judge’s vote was not decisive to the outcome of Williams’ case.

A police officer unlawfully stopped Edward Streiff. Upon having his identification run, the officer discovered Streiff had an outstanding warrant so the officer arrested and searched Streiff and found drugs. The issue in Utah v. Strieff is whether evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest on an outstanding warrant should be suppressed because the warrant was discovered during an investigatory stop later found to be unlawful.

In Sturgeon v. Masica John Sturgeon claims that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act precludes the federal government from regulating activities on state-owned lands and navigable waters that fall within the boundaries of National Park System units in Alaska. A National Park Service (NPS) regulation which bans the operations of hovercrafts on federally owned lands and water administered by NPS prevents him from using his hovercraft to hunt moose on a portion of a state-owned Alaska river contained in an NPS national preserve.

In Nebraska v. Parker the Supreme Court will review the Eighth Circuit’s decision that the original boundaries of the Omaha Indian Reservation were not diminished by an 1882 Act of Congress.

The question in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle is whether Puerto Rico may prosecute someone who has already been convicted in federal court.

What else might the Court take before the term is over of interest to states?  Right now, all eyes are on Friedman v. City of Highland Park, which the Court has now relisted (postponed agreeing or refusing to hear) twice. The question in this case is whether a Highland Park, Illinois ordinance banning large-capacity magazines and assault weapons violates the Second Amendment.