Lisa Soronen

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In its amicus brief in Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District v. SolarCity, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) urges the Supreme Court to rule that a district court’s denial of state-action immunity to a state or local government is immediately appealable.

The state-action doctrine provides states and, in some instances, local governments immunity from federal antitrust liability.

In the mid-1800s Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest entered into treaties guaranteeing them a right to off-reservation fishing. In Washington v. United States the Supreme Court will decide whether the “fishing clause” guarantees “that the number of fish would always be sufficient to provide a ‘moderate living’ to the tribes.”

The “fishing clause” of the Stevens Treaties guaranteed “the right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations . . . in common with all citizens of the Territory.” In 2001 the United States and a number of tribes sued Washington State claiming that it violated the treaty by building culverts that prevented salmon for reproducing leading to the salmon supply significantly plummeting.

What if a district court adopts a redistricting plan and the state legislature later codifies that plan. May the same district court later rule the redistricting plan is unlawful and/or unconstitutional? That is what the Supreme Court will decide in Abbott v. Perez.

A number of persons and advocacy groups challenged the Texas Legislature’s 2011 state legislative and congressional redistricting plan claiming it discriminated against black and Hispanic voters in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act.

A three-judge district court issued a remedial redistricting plan which the U.S. Supreme Court vacated in 2012. The district court then drew another remedial redistricting plan called plan C235. In plan C235 the court reconfigured nine challenged districts from the legislature’s 2011 plan but retained two districts, CD27 and CD35, without reconfiguration. In 2013 the state legislature ultimately adopted plan C235.        

The Supreme Court held 5-4 in Artis v. District of Columbia that “tolled” under 28 U.S.C 1367(d) means suspended or that the clock is stopped. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of a different definition of “tolled.” Justice Ginsburg cited to the SLLC brief once in her majority opinion. Justice Gorsuch cited to it or discussed it four times in his dissenting opinion.   

A year after the fact, Stephanie Artis sued the District of Columbia in federal district court bringing a number of federal and state law claims related to her termination as a health inspector. It took the federal court over two and a half years to rule on her claims. It dismissed her sole federal claim and declined to exercise jurisdiction over her remaining state law claims.

28 U.S.C 1367(d) states that statutes of limitations for state law claims pending in federal court shall be “tolled” for a period of 30 days after they are dismissed (unless state law provides a longer tolling period).

In District of Columbia v. Wesby the majority of the Supreme Court ruled D.C. police officers had probable cause to arrest individuals for holding a “raucous, late-night party in a house they did not have permission to enter.” All nine of the Justices ruled in favor of granting qualified immunity to the police officers. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case supporting D.C.  

Police were called to a home in D.C. around 1AM based on complaints of loud music and illegal activity. The house was dirty with no furniture downstairs except a few metal chairs. In the living room the officers found “a makeshift strip club”; they found “more debauchery upstairs.” While many partygoers said they were there for a bachelor party no one could identify the bachelor.

Two of the women working the party said that “Peaches” was renting the house and had given them permission to be there. Police officers called Peaches who told them she gave the partygoers permission to use the house. But she ultimately admitted that she had no permission to use the house herself; she was in the process of renting it. The landlord confirmed by phone that Peaches hadn’t signed a lease. The partygoers were charged with, but never prosecuted for, disorderly conduct.

In National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense the Supreme Court held unanimously that a legal challenge to the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) must begin in a federal district court not a federal court of appeals. What this ruling means for the 2015 WOTUS definitional rule is unclear.  

As Justice Sotomayor stated at the beginning of the Court’s opinion, defining “[WOTUS]—a central component of the Clean Water Act—is a contentious and difficult task.” In 2015 the Obama administration issued a new WOTUS definitional rule which it intended to provide  “simpler, clearer, and more consistent approaches for identifying” the scope of the Act.

In Trump v. Hawaii the Ninth Circuit temporarily struck down President Trump’s third travel ban. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the Ninth Circuit decision.

An opinion in this case should be issued no later than the end of June 2018. Per a Supreme Court order issued in December 2017, the third travel ban is currently in effect regardless of the Ninth Circuit ruling.    

The Court has agreed to decide four issues. First, whether the case is justiciable, meaning whether the legal issues are “fit for review.” Second, whether the third travel ban exceeds the President’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Third, whether the Ninth Circuit nationwide injunction was overbroad. Fourth, whether the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause.

In ealry January a three-judge federal court struck down North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting plan concluding it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander designed to favor Republican candidates. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has agreed to decide two cases this term involving the question of whether and when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Read more about the North Carolina case and the lower court ruling here.

The federal court ordered the state legislature to come up with a new plan by January 24. The Supreme Court put that order on hold allowing the Republican legislators defending the plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.

When a three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional redistricting plan the case received significant media attention. Supreme Court redistricting cases rarely receive as much fanfare.

The decision garnered so much attention because it is the third three-judge panel in a relatively short period of time to rule a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has yet to articulate if and exactly when redistricting in favor of a political party is unconstitutional. But such a ruling may be imminent. The Supreme Court has already heard a case from Wisconsin and will hear a case from Maryland this term involving the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether states may require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax.

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. South Dakota asks the Supreme Court to overturn Quill in South Dakota v. Wayfair

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