Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

The Supreme Court held unanimously in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that public school districts must offer students with disabilities an individual education plan (IEP) “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

The Court rejected the Tenth Circuit’s holding that an IEP must merely confer “some educational benefit” that is “more than de minimis.”

This ruling came down while Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Gorsuch was the author of a 2008 opinion which was the basis for the Tenth Circuit’s opinion in Endrew F.

The Supreme Court held unanimously in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District that public school districts must offer students with disabilities an individual education plan (IEP) “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

The Court rejected the Tenth Circuit’s holding that an IEP must merely confer “some educational benefit” that is “more than de minimis.”

This ruling came down while Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Gorsuch was the author of a 2008 opinion which was the basis for the Tenth Circuit’s opinion in Endrew F.

In Manuel v. City of Joliet the Supreme Court held 6-2 that even after “legal process” (appearing before a judge) has occurred a person may bring a Fourth Amendment claim challenging pretrial detention. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that malicious prosecution claims cannot be brought under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court didn’t address this issue in its decision.

Elijah Manuel was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance even though a field test and a lab test indicated his pills weren’t illegal drugs. A county court judge further detained Manuel based on a complaint inaccurately reporting the results of the field and lab tests. Forty-eight days later Manuel was released when another laboratory test cleared him.  

Confirmation hearings generally follow a predictable course; Judge Gorsuch’s hearings have been no exception. Senators from the other side of the aisle as the President ask the nominee pointed questions on controversial topics which the nominee does his or her best to politely avoid answering. As a result, many issues of interest to states and local governments receive little meaningful attention.

While a friendly Senator (Flake, R-AZ) asked Judge Gorsuch whether a particular case he ruled in was consistent with the “principle of states as laboratories of democracy” and another friendly Senator (Crapo, R-ID) asked Judge Gorsuch to discuss the Tenth Amendment, federalism was rarely discussed as such and preemption wasn’t discussed at all. Likewise, many of the issues of particular importance to local governments—qualified immunity and property rights—also were not discussed.

Judge Gorsuch did discuss numerous times that judges should not act as legislators. “I get four law clerks for one year at a time. If you were to make laws, you wouldn't design a system where you'd let three older people with four law clerks straight out of law school legislate for a country of 320 million people.”

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that interveners to lawsuits must have standing even if there is a genuine case or controversy between the existing parties.

Steven Sherman sued the Town of Chester alleging an unconstitutional taking as the town refused to approve a subdivision on plots of land Sherman intended to sell to Laroe Estates. Laroe Estates advanced Sherman money for the land in exchange for a mortgage on the property. Sherman defaulted on a loan to a senior mortgage holder who foreclosed on the property.

On March 16, 2017, President Trump’s second travel ban executive order was scheduled to go into effect. Within hours of each other federal judges from Hawaii and Maryland issued decisions temporarily preventing portions of it from going into effect nationwide. Both decisions conclude that the executive order likely violates the Establishment Clause because it was intended to prevent people from for entering the United States on the basis of religion.

The State of Hawaii (and an American citizen of Egyptian descent with a Syrian mother-in-law lacking a visa) brought the case decided by the court in Hawaii.

A state trial court judge in South Dakota has ruled that a South Dakota law requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax is unconstitutional. This ruling was expected for precisely the reason the judge stated—a lower court must follow Supreme Court precedent.   

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, decided in 1992, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. The South Dakota law directly contradicts this precedent.

The Supreme Court will not decide—at least not this term—whether transgender students have a right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity due to changes in position on this issue from the Obama to Trump administration.

Title IX prohibits school districts that receive federal funds from discriminating “on the basis of sex.” A Title IX regulation states if school districts maintain separate bathrooms (locker rooms, showers, etc.) “on the basis of sex” they must provide comparable facilities for the other sex.

In a 2015 letter the Department of Education (DOE) interpreted the Title IX regulation to mean that if schools provide for separate boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. DOE and the Department of Justice reaffirmed this stance in a May 2016 “Dear Colleague” letter.

President Trump’s executive order Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the United States" Rule calls for the “rescinding or revising” of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definitional rule published in the summer of 2015. Many state and local governments objected to the broad nature of these regulations, in particular to the expansive definition of ditches and the ambiguous definition of tributaries.  

The executive order acknowledges that rewriting the WOTUS definitional regulations will require going through the lengthy and complicated process under the Administrative Procedures Act which the 2015 final regulations went through. This process involves proposing a new rule, receiving and responding to (likely thousands) of comments, and issuing a final rule.

President Trump’s executive order Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the "Waters of the United States" Rule calls for the “rescinding or revising” of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definitional rule published in the summer of 2015. Many state and local governments objected to the broad nature of these regulations, in particular to the expansive definition of ditches and the ambiguous definition of tributaries.  

The executive order acknowledges that rewriting the WOTUS definitional regulations will require going through the lengthy and complicated process under the Administrative Procedures Act which the 2015 final regulations went through. This process involves proposing a new rule, receiving and responding to (likely thousands) of comments, and issuing a final rule.

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