In Dawson v. Steager the Supreme Court will decide whether states may give some retired state and local government employees a bigger tax break on retirement benefits than retired federal employees.
West Virginia taxes the government-provided retirement income of most local, state, and federal employees. While retired federal employees and most state and local government employees may exempt up to $2,000 of retirement benefits from their taxable income, certain state and local police officers, sheriffs, and firefighters can exempt all of their benefits. This group comprises about two percent of all state government retirees.
State sovereignty is front and center in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt. This case is before the U.S. Supreme Court for (possibly a record-breaking) third time. This time the Supreme Court will decide whether to overrule Nevada v. Hall (1979), which permits a state to be sued in the courts of another state without its consent. In Hyatt II (2016), the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on this question shortly after Justice Scalia died.
The Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause, which prohibits a person from being prosecuted more than once for the same conduct, is a familiar concept. Less familiar is the “separate sovereigns” exception which allows states and the federal government to convict and sentence a person for the same conduct. In Gamble v. United States, Terance Gamble asks the Supreme Court to overrule this exception.
Gamble was prosecuted for and convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under both Alabama and United States law. His challenge to the “separate sovereigns” exception is unsurprising given that Justice Thomas joined Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez-Valle (2016), which suggested the Court do a “fresh examination” of the “separate sovereigns” exception. These Justices are on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and typically don’t vote together in close cases.
The Supreme Court decides numerous difficult cases each term. It may be surprising that no issue has vexed the Court like whether probable cause to arrest someone means they can’t bring a First Amendment retaliation case. In Nieves v. Bartlett the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues in an amicus brief (for the third time) that probable cause defeats First Amendment retaliation claims.
Russell Bartlett was attending Arctic Man, an Alaskan snowmobile race, when he declined to talk to Police officer Luis Nieves who was patrolling the large outdoor party. Officer Nieves later observed Bartlett yelling at a separate officer, Bryce Weight, and Weight pushing Bartlett away. Believing Bartlett posed a danger to Officer Weight, Officer Nieves arrested Bartlett. Bartlett alleges that Nieves said “bet you wish you had talked to me now” in the process of the arrest.
Bartlett sued Officer Nieves claiming Nieves arrested him in retaliation for his refusal to initially speak to Nieves in violation of the First Amendment. The district concluded there was probable cause to arrest Bartlett. All federal circuit courts to decide this issue except the Ninth Circuit have held that to bring a First Amendment retaliatory arrest case plaintiffs must be able to prove the absence of probable cause to arrest them, which Bartlett could do not in this case.
The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has touched off a battle between Republicans eager to reshape the court by moving Justice Anthony Kennedy’s “swing seat” to the right and Democrats desperate to ensure that any change is minimal. Much of the national conversation on a “Justice” Kavanaugh centers around his potential views on the social issues for which Kennedy was the swing vote, particularly abortion and overturning Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh is something of an enigma on the issue: He stated at his confirmation hearing for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that he was bound by Roe v. Wade as precedent. But he named Chief Justice Rehnquist (who dissented in Roe) as a judicial hero, and he voted to uphold restrictions on abortion in certain situations while on the lower court.
The Township of Scott adopted an ordinance requiring cemeteries, whether public or private, to be free and open and accessible to the public during the day. Code enforcement could enter any property to determine the “existence and location” of a cemetery.
As of the end of July, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is retired. For many state and local governments he will be forever remembered as the justice who championed allowing online sales tax collection.
In March 2015, Kennedy wrote that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill,” which held that businesses without a physical presence in the state did not have to collect sales tax. In his last majority opinion on the bench, South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court overturned Quill.
As of the end of July, Justice Anthony Kennedy is retired. For states and local governments he will be forever remembered as the Justice who championed allowing online sales tax collection.
In March 2015, Justice Kennedy wrote that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill,” which held that businesses without a physical presence in the state did not have to collect sales tax. In his last majority opinion on the bench, South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court overturned Quill.
Justice Kennedy was a pivotal Justice for most of his thirty year tenure on the Supreme Court. He often provided the Court’s crucial fifth vote on hot-button national issues. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Kennedy blazed a middle path, writing part of the opinion that moved the Court slightly to the right while declining to overrule Roe v. Wade. In LGBTQ cases Justice Kennedy played a much more progressive role, writing for the majority to strike down a law allowing for same-sex discrimination and eventually striking down gay marriage bans in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Numerous academics have complained about the Supreme Court frequently reversing lower court decisions that have denied police officers qualified immunity. In Sause v. Bauer the Court reversed (and remanded) a grant of qualified immunity.
In a unanimous per curiam (unauthored) opinion, the Supreme Court remanded this case back to the lower court to reconsider its decision granting qualified immunity to police officers who ordered a person to stop praying.
The Supreme Court held 5-4 in Janus v. AFSCME that 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 violate the First Amendment. The Court also held that employees must “affirmatively consent” to join the union. More than 20 states authorize “fair share” for public sector employees.
In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prevent “agency shop” arrangements where public employees who do not join the union are still required to pay their “fair share” of union dues for collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment. In Janus, the Supreme Court overruled Abood.