State chief justices are not only the leaders of an individual appellate court, but often exercise leadership and administrative authority over an entire state’s judicial branch. How far that authority goes and how individual chief justices exercise that leadership varies and may change depending on whether the chief justice is addressing leadership of their individual appellate court or as a leader in the justice system as a whole.

Chapter 5 of The Book of the States 2017 contains the following articles and tables:

This article discusses eight Supreme Court cases of interest to states during the 2016–17 term. This term lacks any blockbuster cases at least partially due to being down a Justice most of the term. The court will decide three First Amendment cases (one religion, two speech), one education case, one preemption case, and a few other interesting but narrow cases.

In Kindred Nursing Centers v. Clark the Supreme Court held 7-1 that an arbitration agreement entered into by a power of attorney may still be valid even if the power of attorney doesn’t specifically say the representative may enter into arbitration agreements.

Beverly Wellner and Janis Clark moved their husband and mother, respectively, into a nursing home using their powers of attorney. Both wanted to sue the nursing home in court after their relative died. But both had signed contracts stating that any claims would be resolved through arbitration.

The Kentucky Supreme Court concluded that Wellner’s power of attorney wasn’t broad enough to allow her to enter into an arbitration agreement but Clark’s was. Regardless, the court held that both arbitration agreements were invalid because “a power of attorney could not entitle a representative to enter into an arbitration agreement without specifically saying so.” According to the Kentucky Supreme Court, this is because the right to a jury trial under the Kentucky Constitution is the only right declared “sacred” and “inviolate.”

CSG Midwest
Two of the Midwest’s governors recently signed bipartisan legislation to overhaul aspects of their states’ criminal justice systems.

Justice Gorsuch is certainly aware of that fact that his confirmation was one of the most political in recent memory. Only time, and perhaps his idiosyncrasies on the bench, will tell us whether, like Chief Justice Roberts, he is concerned about the Court being perceived as apolitical.  

It is difficult for those of us who treasure our democracy and our legal system in particular to accept the notion that Supreme Court Justices (and even regular old judges) are chosen for political reasons. We want to believe that our judges dole out the law evenly, intelligently, and objectively and are picked based on their perceived ability to do so--with justice as the end result.

But beyond the thin veneer of choosing someone with stellar academic credentials who has had an impressive legal career, politics always looms large in the selection of Supreme Court Justices. This is as much because a President doesn’t want to see measures he worked on overturned and wants his political party to succeed, as it is that Supreme Court Justices are a key part of a President’s legacy. A 49-year-old Justice like Gorsuch may sit on the Court for 30 years.   

Artis v. District of Columbia might not have gotten a second look if it didn’t involve a city—but even if it had been brought against a non-government entity it would still affect any entity that gets sued regularly—including states and local governments.

In this case a year after the fact, Stephanie Artis sued the District of Columbia in federal court bringing a number of federal and state law claims related to her termination as a code inspector. It took the federal district court over two and a half years to rule on her claims. It dismissed her sole federal claim as “facially deficient” and no longer had jurisdiction to decide the 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).

Confirmation hearings generally follow a predictable course; Judge Gorsuch’s hearings have been no exception. Senators from the other side of the aisle as the President ask the nominee pointed questions on controversial topics which the nominee does his or her best to politely avoid answering. As a result, many issues of interest to states and local governments receive little meaningful attention.

While a friendly Senator (Flake, R-AZ) asked Judge Gorsuch whether a particular case he ruled in was consistent with the “principle of states as laboratories of democracy” and another friendly Senator (Crapo, R-ID) asked Judge Gorsuch to discuss the Tenth Amendment, federalism was rarely discussed as such and preemption wasn’t discussed at all. Likewise, many of the issues of particular importance to local governments—qualified immunity and property rights—also were not discussed.

Judge Gorsuch did discuss numerous times that judges should not act as legislators. “I get four law clerks for one year at a time. If you were to make laws, you wouldn't design a system where you'd let three older people with four law clerks straight out of law school legislate for a country of 320 million people.”

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that interveners to lawsuits must have standing even if there is a genuine case or controversy between the existing parties.

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 foreclosed on the property.

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.

Pages