While it would be hard to top the Supreme Court’s last term the October 2015 term is one to watch not just because the Court has accepted numerous cases on controversial topics. Adding to the intrigue, many of the Court’s decisions this term are likely to be discussed by the 2016 Presidential candidates as the election heats up, including a number of cases affecting the states. Here is a preview of the most significant cases for the states that the Court has agreed to decide so far. 

It’s opening day at the Supreme Court!

With at least 20 cases more to accept between now and the end of January, what issues of interest to states is the Court likely to agree to hear in the near future?

Today 10 years ago John Glover Roberts Jr. became the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Roberts Court decisions have affected everyone from average Americans to Guantanamo Bay detainees. But what about states and local governments? This article provides a brief analysis of how the Roberts Court has impacted 10 areas of interest to states and local governments: federalism, preemption, race, free speech, religion, public employment, qualified immunity, Eighth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and gun control.

The issue in Merrill Lynch v. Manning is whether state law claims alleging that the “naked” short selling at issue in this case violated state law must be heard in federal court.

In a short sale, a short seller identifies a security he or she believes will decline in value, borrows some of those securities from a broker and sells them. When the securities decline in value he or she rebuys them and makes a profit.

In a “naked” short sale the seller doesn’t borrow the securities in time to deliver them to the buyer—to manipulate the security’s price or to avoid borrowing costs. While “naked” short selling isn’t per se illegal under federal law, some schemes may violate federal antifraud law and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules.

May nonmembers of Indian tribes (including state and local governments) be sued in tribal court (as opposed to state or federal court) for tort (civil wrongdoing) claims?

In Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians 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 Montana v. United States (1981) the Court held that generally nonmembers may not be sued in tribal court except that “tribe[s] may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members through commercial dealing.”  The question in this case is whether “other means” includes suing nonmembers for civil tort claims in tribal court. 

While the same-sex marriage and Affordable Care Act cases are the most significant of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014–15 term in general and specifically affecting states, other cases will significantly impact states too. The court decided three tax cases, a Medicaid reimbursement case, two redistricting cases and a Fair Housing Act disparate impact case.

If A state is sued in B state, do the courts of B state have to extend to A state the same immunities that they would apply to B state? And…can state A even be sued in state B?   

While this may sound like a nonsensical hypothetical, these are the issues the Supreme Court has agreed to decide in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that states must extend the same immunities that apply to them to foreign state and local governments sued in their state courts.

Grand juries historically were responsible for formally charging felony defendants in federal courts and in many state courts. Their role has changed very little to the present. However, recent events have caused some to question whether they are still a necessary component of those systems. The article below addresses the pros and cons of the modern grand jury process, as well as describing its historical roots.

Chapter 5 of the 2015 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

A 2014 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law predicts that the legalization of same-sex marriage could have a combined economic impact across all states of $2.6 billion during the first three years, primarily due to increased spending on weddings by same-sex resident couples and their out-of-state guests. In addition, the report estimates that legalization will boost state and local sales tax revenue by $184.7 million and support more than 13,000 jobs. The potential economic and fiscal impact varies across states.