Lisa Soronen

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If a statutes of repose bill comes across your desk your second question (after what is a statute of repose) will be why? You need to look no further than the Supreme Court’s decision in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger.

In this case the Supreme Court held 7-2 that the federal Superfund statute, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), does not preempt state statutes of repose.  So homeowners’ state law claims for water contamination against an electronics manufacturer will be dismissed.  Five states have repose periods (Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon, and North Carolina). 

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama the Supreme Court will decide whether Alabama’s redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by intentionally packing black voters into districts already containing a majority of black voters. 

The Alabama legislature’s 2010 redistricting plan maintains the number of House and Senate majority-black districts.  But because most of the majority-black districts were underpopulated, the Legislature “redrew the districts by shifting more black voters into the majority-black districts to maintain the same relative percentages of black voters in those districts.” Black voters allege that packing them into super-majority districts limits their potential influence in other jurisdictions.

Are you a state legislator from Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, North Carolina, and Washington?  If so, keep reading.  Your legislature may need to rewrite its definition of intellectual disability as it applies to the death penalty. 

In Hall v. Florida the Supreme Court held 5-4 that if a capital defendant’s IQ falls within the standard error measurement (SEM) for intellectually disabled, the defendant must be allowed to present additional evidence of intellectual disability.  Hall may require the above 9 states to rewrite their death penalty statutes because they have strict IQ cutoff scores of 70.

Imagine yourself going through a security screening. Annoying, right?  Now imagine yourself getting paid to go through a security screening.  Better, right?  But what if you are a state government with a security screening process that as a result of a court decision must now pay employees to go through security screenings?  Sometime in the next year, the Supreme Court will affirm or reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision to this effect in ...

Taxpayers X and Y live in the same state and have the same income but Taxpayer X earns all of her income in-state while Taxpayer Y earns all of her income out-of-state.  Taxpayer Y pays more in taxes because she pays income taxes out-of-state and pays a county income tax in her home state.  Unfair?  (Not necessarily.  After all, Taxpayer Y receives government services in the county where she resides.)  Unconstitutional?  The Supreme Court will decide.    

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The Supreme Court will decide in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC whether state boards with members who are market participants elected by their peers must be “actively supervised” to be exempt from federal antitrust law.  This case will impact the thousands of state boards and commissions nationwide (at least those with market participants elected by their peers that take actions that implicate federal antitrust law). 

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The Supreme Court issued two unanimous opinions favoring state and local government in qualified immunity cases where the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed amicus briefs.

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages in their individual capacity if they violate a person’s constitutional rights. Qualified immunity protects government officials from such lawsuits where the law they violated isn’t “clearly established.” 

In T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell the Supreme Court will decide whether a letter denying a cell tower construction application that doesn’t explain the reasons for the denial meets the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) “in writing” requirement. 

T-Mobile applied to construct a 108-foot cell tower in an area zoned single-family residential.  The City of Roswell’s ordinance only allowed “alternative tower structures” in such a zone that were compatible with “the natural setting and surrounding structures.”  T-Mobile proposed an “alternative tower structure” in the shape of a man-made tree that would be about 25-feet taller than the pine trees surrounding it. 

Town of Greece v. Galloway could have been one of those cases where the Supreme Court totally changed the law.  But it wasn’t probably because two things “die hard” in the Supreme Court:  precedent and tradition.  Both lead to an inescapable (if 5-4) decision that if legislative prayer will die, it will “die another day.”  

In short, the Supreme Court held that the Town of Greece did not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with a prayer relying on precedent and the long-standing tradition of legislative prayer. 

Given the Supreme Court’s prominent role in deciding important issues of the day, it is easy to get caught up in the latest juicy Court mishap.  Justice Scalia erroneously depicted precedent in his dissent in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, which had to be corrected. But don’t let that be the reason you read this blog post.  This case is important for the states.

The Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollution in amounts that will contribute significantly to downwind states failing to attain air quality standards.  In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation the Supreme Court resolved two issues related to the Good Neighbor Provision.  Justice Ginsburg wrote the 6-2 opinion.

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