Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

In National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense the Supreme Court held unanimously that a legal challenge to the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) must begin in a federal district court not a federal court of appeals. What this ruling means for the 2015 WOTUS definitional rule is unclear.  

As Justice Sotomayor stated at the beginning of the Court’s opinion, defining “[WOTUS]—a central component of the Clean Water Act—is a contentious and difficult task.” In 2015 the Obama administration issued a new WOTUS definitional rule which it intended to provide  “simpler, clearer, and more consistent approaches for identifying” the scope of the Act.

In Trump v. Hawaii the Ninth Circuit temporarily struck down President Trump’s third travel ban. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the Ninth Circuit decision.

An opinion in this case should be issued no later than the end of June 2018. Per a Supreme Court order issued in December 2017, the third travel ban is currently in effect regardless of the Ninth Circuit ruling.    

The Court has agreed to decide four issues. First, whether the case is justiciable, meaning whether the legal issues are “fit for review.” Second, whether the third travel ban exceeds the President’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Third, whether the Ninth Circuit nationwide injunction was overbroad. Fourth, whether the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause.

In ealry January a three-judge federal court struck down North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting plan concluding it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander designed to favor Republican candidates. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has agreed to decide two cases this term involving the question of whether and when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Read more about the North Carolina case and the lower court ruling here.

The federal court ordered the state legislature to come up with a new plan by January 24. The Supreme Court put that order on hold allowing the Republican legislators defending the plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

When a three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting plan the case received significant media attention. Supreme Court redistricting cases rarely receive as much fanfare.

The decision garnered so much attention because it is the third three-judge panel in a relatively short period of time to rule a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has yet to articulate if and exactly when redistricting in favor of a political party is unconstitutional. But such a ruling may be imminent. The Supreme Court has already heard a case from Wisconsin and will hear a case from Maryland this term involving the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax.

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. South Dakota asks the Supreme Court to overturn Quill in South Dakota v. Wayfair

A federal district court has issued a temporary nationwide injunction requiring the Trump administration to maintain much of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Four states (California, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota) and two local governments (San Jose and Santa Clara County) are among the plaintiffs who sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

DACA was established through a DHS Memorandum during the Obama presidency. The program allows undocumented persons who arrived in the United States before age 16 and have lived here since June 15, 2007, to stay, work, and go to school in the United States without facing the risk of deportation for two years with renewals available.

DHS rescinded DACA on September 5, 2017, after receiving a letter from the Attorney General stating the program was unconstitutional and created “without proper statutory authority.”

Since 2010 states and local governments have been waiting for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue regulations requiring them to increase website, equipment and furniture, and 9-1-1 accessibility for persons with disabilities. The wait is over; the regulations are no longer in the works (for now).

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits states and local governments from discriminating on the basis of disability in “all services, programs, and activities provided to the public.”

In 2010 DOJ issued three Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking indicating its desire to issue regulations regarding accessibility of state and local government websites and non-fixed equipment and furniture and use of Next Generation 9-1-1. While DOJ has been silent on the latter two issues since 2010, in 2016 it issued a supplemental advance notice regarding website accessibility

As of December 26, 2016, DOJ has withdrawn all four Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking while it evaluates whether promulgating regulations is “necessary and appropriate.” 

Before the start of the year, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco continued the trend, started last year with the sanctuary jurisdictions executive order, of cities suing the federal government.

In their recently filed compliant these cities ask a federal district court in Virginia to order the military to comply with a federal statute requiring federal agencies (including the military) to inform the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when the agency “has a record demonstrating” that a person has, among other things, committed a crime that prevents him or her from possessing a firearm.

The Ninth Circuit opinion temporarily striking down President Trump’s third travel ban was met with little fanfare likely for two reasons. The decision came down right before Christmas (December 22). And in early December the Supreme Court allowed the third travel ban to go into effect until the Supreme Court rules on it, even if the Ninth Circuit (or Fourth Circuit) were to strike it down in the meantime.   

Imagine this scenario:  husband buys life insurance and designates his wife as the beneficiary. A few years later the state adopts a revocation-upon-divorce statute applicable to life insurance beneficiaries which states that upon divorce the designation of a spouse as a life insurance beneficiary is revoked. A few years after that the couple divorces but the husband never changes his life insurance beneficiary. A few years after that the husband dies.

Is the ex-wife still the beneficiary?

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