Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

The same day Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced his plan to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census California filed a complaint seeking an injunction preventing the question from being added. The next day New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced he would lead a multi-state lawsuit challenging the question.

In December 2017 the Department of Justice (DOJ) requested that a question about citizenship be added to help DOJ more effectively enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in voting. Citizenship has not been asked about in the biennium census since 1950.

The challengers to the redistricting of Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District just might win—if the Supreme Court actually decides their case.

In Benisek v. Lamone in 2011 the Maryland legislature needed to move about 10,000 voters out of the Sixth Congressional District to comply with “one-person one-vote.” It moved about 360,000 Marylanders out of the district and about 350,000 Marylanders in the district. As a result only 34 percent of voters were registered Republican versus 47 percent before redistricting.

Most of the Trump administration’s disagreements over protecting undocumented immigrants have been with local governments. But on March 6 the Trump administration filed a complaint against the State of California. The administration claims three California statutes aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants are preempted by federal immigration law. The administration asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction disallowing California from enforcing the statutes.

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015) the Supreme Court held that strict (usually fatal) scrutiny applies to content-based regulations of speech. One of the questions in NIFLA v. Becerra is whether the Court means for Reed to apply to (nearly) every law regulating content-based speech. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that Reed should not be read that broadly.     

California law requires that licensed pregnancy-related clinics disseminate a notice stating that publically-funded family planning services, including contraception and abortion are available. It also requires unlicensed pregnancy-related clinics to disseminate a notice they are unlicensed. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) operates 111 pregnancy centers in California. None offer abortions or abortion referrals; only 73 are licensed.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in one of the most important cases of the organization's 35-year tenure:  South Dakota v. Wayfair.  

In this case South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to rule that states and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. Ruling this way will require the Supreme Court to overturn long-standing precedent.  

The Supreme Court will not be involved in the DACA litigation—for now.  

The Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request for it to review a California federal district court decision temporarily putting the administration’s decision to terminate DACA on hold. To get relief, the Trump administration must now appeal the district court decision to the Ninth Circuit. The Trump administration had asked the Supreme Court to get involved in this case before the Ninth Circuit had a chance to rule. The Supreme Court does not usually rule on federal district court decisions.

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.

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