State courts adopted unprecedented cost-saving strategies and innovations during the Great Recession. Today, courts continue to embrace this legacy of innovation to maintain, and even improve, the administration of justice. The projects featured in this article highlight the large gains and potential for future innovation in the state courts.

A detailed look at two issues impacting judges: The unsuccessful push by judges to increase or repeal mandatory judicial retirement ages, and the ongoing struggle judges have maintaining established judicial benefits.

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two Texas abortion restrictions. The first required doctors at abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The second required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers. Currently 26 states have one or both of these provisions.

Chapter 5 of the 2016 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on May 18 that will allow him to name two new justices to the Arizona Supreme Court, bringing the number of justices to seven from the current five-member court. But how does the number of justices on the Arizona Supreme Court compare to courts of last resort in other states? Here’s a state-by-state look at the number of judicial seats on state courts of last resort from The Book of the States 2015.

Merrill Lynch v. Manning is a victory for state courts. It’s just complicated to explain how.

Per a general federal court jurisdiction statute, Section 1331, federal courts have jurisdiction over all civil lawsuits “arising under” federal law. Section 27 of the Securities Exchange Act provides federal court jurisdiction for all suits “brought to enforce” the Exchange Act.  

In Merrill Lynch v. Manning the Supreme Court held that “arising under” and “brought to enforce” mean the same thing. If a lawsuit, involving violating securities law, such as the one in this case, only includes state law claims that don’t necessarily raise federal issues that lawsuit doesn’t “arise under” federal law. Per the Court’s opinion it also therefore isn’t “brought to enforce” the Exchange Act and must be heard in state court.

In Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt the Supreme Court held 6-2 that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause requires state courts to apply a damages cap, which applies to the state, to  foreign states and local governments sued in its court.

The State and Local Legal Center filed an amicus brief in this case asking the Court to reach this result. State and local governments are frequently sued out-of-state and will benefit if other states’ immunities apply to them.  

In the words of the Colorado Supreme Court, two fundamental tenets of our judicial system are at odds with each other in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado:  protecting the secrecy of jury deliberations and ensuring a defendant’s constitutional right to an impartial jury.

Most states, including Colorado, and the federal government have a “no-impeachment” rule which prevents jurors from testifying after a verdict about what happened during deliberations with limited exceptions that do not include that a juror expressed racial bias.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s midterm has come and gone. The Court will only hear argument in 10 more cases and the term will end June 30. But the Court has issued decisions in less than half of the cases of the term so far. So now might be just the time to take stock of the Supreme Court’s term as it relates to the states.

The Court has already decided two big cases and has four more left to go. Only one of the six big cases (involving the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate) will have no direct impact on the states.

CSG Midwest
More than a half-century ago, some unpopular political maneuvering in Kansas caused voters there to create one of the nation’s more unique structures for appointing judges to a state supreme court. That change purposefully reined in the nomination powers of state elected officials, namely the governor.
Over the past few years, the legislative and executive branches have been exploring ideas to get some of that authority back.
“Kansas is the only state in the country where the selection of supreme court justices is controlled by a handful of lawyers,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in his annual State of the State address this year.
He has been among the state’s political leaders pushing for a constitutional change, one that would either alter Kansas’ merit-based selection process or get rid of it altogether. Like many states with merit-based appointment systems, Kansas uses a nominating commission to create a pool of candidates to fill open positions to the Supreme Court.

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