Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

McCrory v. Harris is a typical redistricting case in at least two respects. First, it raises so many legal issues that it is impossible to know what the Supreme Court will focus on. Second, beyond all the technical legal arguments, plaintiffs’ fundamental objection to the redistricting plan is familiar:  they claim the legislature packed minority voters into safe minority districts under the guise of complying with the Voting Right Act (VRA) to reduce minority voters’ influence in other districts. North Carolina claims it is caught in a “Catch-22.”

Elijah Manuel was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance even though a field test indicated his pills weren’t illegal drugs. About six weeks after his arrest he was released when a state crime laboratory test cleared him.  

If Manuel would have brought a timely false arrest claim it is almost certain he would have won. But such a claim would not have been timely because Manuel didn’t sue within two years of being arrested or charged.

In McDonnell v. United States the Supreme Court unanimously reversed former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s bribery conviction. The Court held that setting up meetings, calling other public officials, and hosting events do not alone qualify as “official acts.”

While in office McDonnell accepted more than $175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits from Jonnie Williams. Williams wanted a Virginia state university to test a dietary supplement, Anatabloc, his company, Star Scientific, had developed.

Federal bribery statutes make it a crime for public officials to “receive or accept anything of value” in exchange for being “influenced in the performance of any official act.”

In Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt the Supreme Court held 5-3 that Texas’s admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements create an unconstitutional undue burden on women seeking abortions.

The admitting privileges law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It can be difficult for abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges because “hospitals often condition admitting privileges on...

In March 2015, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion for Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to re-examine Quill.” Two lawsuits out of South Dakota and Alabama might be exactly the case Kennedy had in mind. 

The Supreme Court issued a 4-4 ruling in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The Court’s decision leaves in place the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that in some instances nonmembers of Indian tribes (including state and local governments) can be sued in tribal court (as opposed to state or federal court) for tort (civil wrongdoing) claims.

John Doe, a thirteen-year-old tribe member, alleges that his supervisor sexually molested him while he was working as part of a job training program at a Dollar General located on a reservation. Doe sued Dollar General in tribal court alleging a variety of torts including negligent hiring, training, and supervision.

In Birchfield v. North Dakota the Supreme Court held 5-3 that states may criminalize an arrestee’s refusal to take a warrantless breath test. If states criminalize the refusal to take a blood test police must obtain a warrant. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that states should be able to criminalize warrantless refusal to consent when a person is arrested upon suspicion of drunken driving.   

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 15 states currently criminalize refusal to consent. Criminal penalties typically include fines and jail time.    

In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions program is constitutional, as least of 2008, when this case was first brought. Justice Kagan did not participate in this case.

Even though this case arises in the higher education context, the Supreme Court has decided relatively few affirmative action cases so all are of interest to state and local governments that use race as a factor in decision-making.  

The Supreme Court split 4-4 in United States v. Texas on whether the President’s deferred action immigration program violates federal law. As a result, the Fifth Circuit’s nationwide temporary stay of the program remains in effect. Next, a trial court may rule on whether the program should be permanently stayed.    

The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program allows certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years and either came here as children or already have children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents to lawfully stay and work temporarily in the United States. About 5 million people are affected.

Twenty-six states sued the United States. The Fifth Circuit granted them a nationwide temporary injunction preventing the program from going into effect. The states appealed to the Supreme Court on a variety of grounds.  

Now it is as if this case never went to the Supreme Court.

A police officer stopped Edward Streiff after he left a suspected drug house. The officer discovered Streiff had an outstanding warrant, searched him (legally), and discovered he was carrying illegal drugs. The Supreme Court held 5-3 that even though the initial stop was illegal, the drug evidence could be admissible against Streiff in a trial.

Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion in Utah v. Strieff  notes how common outstanding warrants are not just in the county where the arrest in this case occurred but also in Ferguson, Missouri (16,000 warrants out of 21,000 people).

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