The issue in Lee v. Tam is whether Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which bars the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks, violates the First Amendment.

Simon Shiao Tam named his band The Slants to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of Asian stereotypes. The PTO refused to register the band name finding it likely disparaging to persons of Asian descent. Tam sued the PTO arguing that Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.  

The first Monday in October (today) is Supreme Court opening day! Two other traditions coincide with this tradition. First is State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court Preview webinar. Second is the results of the Supreme Court’s “long” conference.

The SLLC Supreme Court Preview webinar is scheduled for October 13 at noon eastern time. The webinar is free; it will cover the cases of interest to state and local...

Twenty-one states are suing the Department of Labor over new overtime rules which make it more likely states will have to pay more employees overtime. They are seeking an injunction which will prevent the new rules from going into effect on December 1, 2016.

Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), “white collar” employees do not have to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Per Department of Labor regulations, adopted shortly after the FLSA was adopted in 1938, employees must perform specific duties and earn a certain salary to be exempt from overtime as white collar employees.

On May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued final rules nearly doubling the previous salary level test for white collar employees from $455 per week, or $23,660 per year to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year.

In Ivy v. Morath the Supreme Court will decide when state and local governments are responsible for ensuring that a private actor complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues they should be responsible when the private actor may fairly be said to be implementing a service, program, or activity of the public entity itself.

In Texas, state law requires most people under age 25 to attend a state-licensed private driver education school to obtain a driver’s license. None of the schools would accommodate deaf students. So a number of deaf students sued the Texas Education Agency (TEA) arguing it was required to bring the driver education schools into compliance with the ADA.  

Governors’ salaries in 2016 range from a low of $70,000 to a high of $190,823 with an average salary of $137,415. Maine Gov. Paul LePage earns the lowest gubernatorial salary at an annual rate of $70,000, followed by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who earns $90,000 per year. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has the highest gubernatorial salary at $190,823, followed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s salary of $187,500 per year, although Haslam returns his salary to the state. Governors in four states—Alabama, Florida, Illinois and Tennessee—do not accept a paycheck or return all or nearly all of their salaries to the state. 

In McDonnell v. United States the Supreme Court unanimously reversed former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s bribery conviction. The Court held that setting up meetings, calling other public officials, and hosting events do not alone qualify as “official acts.”

While in office McDonnell accepted more than $175,000 in loans, gifts, and other benefits from Jonnie Williams. Williams wanted a Virginia state university to test a dietary supplement, Anatabloc, his company, Star Scientific, had developed.

Federal bribery statutes make it a crime for public officials to “receive or accept anything of value” in exchange for being “influenced in the performance of any official act.”

How much will the increasing capacity of states to gather and manipulate large quantities of data help improve the use of performance measurement to make decisions? The possibilities are exciting and just begin with: an increased capacity to disaggregate performance measures, which helps attract public attention; better validation of performance measures and the capacity to make more use of information about the value-added aspects of programs.

Chapter 8 of the 2016 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The Supreme Court issued a 4-4 ruling in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The Court’s decision leaves in place the Fifth Circuit’s ruling that in some instances nonmembers of Indian tribes (including state and local governments) can be sued in tribal court (as opposed to state or federal court) for tort (civil wrongdoing) claims.

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.

This theory may help states at least indirectly in some instances.  

Fraud against the federal government is a problem for the states in particular when the fraud involves money taken from a federal-state program like Medicaid, which is what was alleged to have happened in Universal Health Services v. U.S. ex. rel. Escobar. The Supreme Court adopted a new theory of liability under the False Claims Act in this case. 

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