Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

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.

In Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools the Supreme Court held unanimously that if a student’s complaint against a school seeks relief for a denial of a free appropriate public education it must first be brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), instead of under other statutes that might also be violated.

Napoleon Community Schools prohibited a kindergartener with cerebral palsy from bringing a service dog to school. The district noted the student had a one-on-one human aid who was able to provide the same assistance as the dog.

This week the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), John Kelly, issued two immigration enforcement memorandums. While one of the memos addresses President Trump’s executive order involving sanctuary cities (Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States), neither memo discusses sanctuary cities.

The most direct effect of these memos on states and local governments is the expansion of a program allowing state and local law enforcement officers to be designated as “immigration officers” for the purposes of enforcing federal immigration law. But considering this program is voluntary the most significant effect for states and local governments may be the increased deportations of residents, and the effects of them on family members and the community as a whole, expected to occur as a result of the memos.

The fate of the most controversial case the Supreme Court has agreed to decide this term is uncertain now that the Department of Education (DOE) has issued a “Dear Colleague” letter withdrawing a previous letter requiring school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.

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 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. The new “Dear Colleague” letter takes no position on whether the term “sex” in Title IX includes gender identity.

The Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 docket is now set. The Court is still down a Justice but has accepted as many cases as usual (about 75). In theory all the cases discussed below will be decided by June 30, 2017. The Court may decide to rehear tied (4-4) cases next term, when a new Justice will presumably join the bench.

This articles covers cases of interest to the states which the Court agreed to hear this term accepted after September 15, 2016. Here is a summary of cases of interest to the states which the Court agreed to hear before September 15, 2016.

In Ake v. Oklahoma (1985) the Supreme Court held that if a criminal defendant’s mental health will be a significant factor at trial the state must ensure that the defendant has access to a “competent psychiatrist who will conduct an appropriate examination and assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.”

The question the Supreme Court will decide in McWilliams v. Dunn is whether such an expert must be independent of the prosecution.

Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates involves a long, complicated story and legal issue.

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...

In District of Columbia v. Wesby the Supreme Court will decide whether, when the owner of a vacant house informs police he has not authorized entry, an officer assessing probable cause to arrest those inside for trespassing may discredit the suspects' claims of an innocent mental state.

Facts similar to those in this case may not arise very often. But police officers must assess claims of innocence in numerous other instances (theft, assault, even homicide). 

On February 9 the Ninth Circuit refused to stay a district court’s temporary restraining order disallowing the President’s travel ban from going into effect. The executive order prevents people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days.

Washington and Minnesota sued President Trump claiming their public universities are harmed because students and faculty of the affected countries cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or personal reasons.

The government argued that the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend admissions of any class of aliens.” The Ninth Circuit disagreed stating: “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewablity, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.” 

President Trump’s “2 for 1” executive order where for every federal regulation proposed two must be “identified” for repeal, unsurprisingly, has been criticized by some and applauded by others. Per the executive order, for every regulation added the cost of the new regulation must be offset by eliminating two regulations.

Those who are for the executive order argue it will be good for the economy. Those who are against it argue most regulations exist for good reason and eliminating regulations like “limiting lead in drinking water and cutting pollution from school buses” will harm Americans. Those opposing the executive order also argue it is arbitrary to eliminate regulations based solely on cost without considering benefit.

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