Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

If there ever was a case where the vote of only one Justice is likely to matter it is Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. All attention was focused on Justice Gorsuch this morning as the Supreme Court held oral argument in this case. And he was…silent.

The Court will decide the constitutionality of state statutes allowing public sector employers and unions to agree that employees who don’t join the union must still pay their “fair share” of collective bargaining costs. More than 20 states authorize fair share for public sector employees.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that when a prisoner wins a civil rights case “a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent) shall be applied to satisfy” his or her attorney’s fees award.

In Murphy v. Smith the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that this statute means “the court must pay the attorney’s entire fee award from the [prisoner’s] judgment until it reaches the 25% cap and only then turn to the [prison guards].” In other words, the court may not exercise its discretion and take any amount it wishes from the prisoner’s judgment to pay the attorney “from 25% down to a penny.”

If a collective bargaining agreement contains a general durational clause, retiree health insurance benefits last the duration of the agreement and aren’t vested for life the Supreme Court held in a per curiam (unauthored) opinion in CNH Industrial N. V. v. Reese.

CNH Industrial N.V. agreed to a six-year collective bargaining agreement providing those who retired under the pension plan health insurance but no other insurance benefits. The Sixth Circuit concluded the agreement was ambiguous as to whether retiree health insurance vested for life because it “carved out certain benefits” like life insurance “and stated that those coverages ceased at a time different than other provisions.” Extrinsic evidence supported lifetime vesting.

While the Supreme Court has agreed to review the constitutionality and legality of the third travel ban, the Fourth Circuit has joined the Ninth Circuit in striking it down. The Fourth Circuit concluded it likely violates the Establishment Clause because its primary purpose is to discriminate against Muslims.

Per a December 2017 Supreme Court order, the third travel ban is currently in effect regardless of the Ninth and Fourth Circuit rulings.    

On September 24, 2017, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation (the third travel ban) indefinitely banning immigration from six countries:  Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Yemen. Lawsuits were brought immediately in the Ninth and Fourth Circuits.

Just a few days before the Supreme Court may decide whether to review a temporary nationwide injunction issued by a federal court in California requiring the Trump administration to maintain much of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a federal district court in New York issued a similar temporary nationwide injunction.

The courts’ reasoning in both decisions is similar. Both courts were clear the Trump administration may “indisputably . . . end the DACA program.” But it must offer “legally adequate reasons” for doing so.  New York and 15 other states brought the case decided by the New York court.    

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that states and local governments should be able to ban political apparel at polling places. County election officials and the Minnesota Secretary of State were sued for violating the First Amendment in this case.

At least eight states (Delaware, Kansas, Montana, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont) other than Minnesota have enacted similar bans.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s 2011 Congressional redistricting plan constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. This is the fourth court in a relatively short period of time to rule that partisan gerrymandering may be unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing two of those decisions, one from Wisconsin and the other from Maryland, this term.

In Weyerhaeuser Company v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the Supreme Court will decide whether the “critical habitat” designation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may include land currently uninhabitable for the species in question. The Court will also decide whether a court may review the Service’s economic impact analysis.

Alabama and 17 other states filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to review this case because: “Critical habitat determinations have serious consequences for the economic and ecological interests of the States. Designations of critical habitat that go beyond what the statute allows cost jobs and tax revenue, while the States’ efforts to comply with these designations often require the expenditure of taxpayer funds.”    

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court amicus brief in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach argues if probable cause exists to make an arrest the arrestee should be barred from bringing a First Amendment retaliatory arrest lawsuit.

Fane Lozman lived in a floating house in the...

In its amicus brief in Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District v. SolarCity, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) urges the Supreme Court to rule that a district court’s denial of state-action immunity to a state or local government is immediately appealable.

The state-action doctrine provides states and, in some instances, local governments immunity from federal antitrust liability.

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