Judicial Branch

History will remember Justice Ginsburg as a glass ceiling smasher, a feminist, a liberal, a dissenter, and an icon. States and local governments will also remember something subtler about her which was more visible in the Court’s lower profile cases. And that was her pragmatism.

Perhaps the most important case for states and local governments where Justice Ginsburg demonstrated this quality is South Dakota v. Wayfair. She was the sole liberal...

Since April 2020 the Supreme Court has handled numerous emergency requests related to COVID-19. Requests involving stay-at-home orders and judge-made changes to elections laws are of most interest to states and local governments. The trends in both categories of cases is clear but the reasons are murky. Oftentimes none of the Justices announce, much less explain, their vote.

In these emergency requests the challenger isn’t asking the Supreme Court to decide the case on the merits. Instead, it is either asking the Supreme...

Beginning this week for the first time ever the Supreme Court is holding oral argument over the phone and allowing the public to listen in live. Today’s argument in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania illustrates the myriad ways live, phone argument is different from the traditional in-person version. 

Other than Justice Thomas asking questions, the Chief Justice’s role is the most...

The Supreme Court is known for its ceaselessness. Government shut downs, snowstorms, anthrax, and vacancies haven’t slowed down the High Court. But it has not been spared by this global pandemic.

This term the Supreme Court is expected to issue about 56 opinions—about...

Delaware’s Constitution requires that three state courts be balanced between the two major political parties. The main question before the Supreme Court in Carney v. Adams is whether this scheme violates the First Amendment. In an amicus brief the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues it does not.  

Per Delaware...

Delaware’s Constitution requires that three state courts be balanced between the two major political parties. The main question before the Supreme Court in Carney v. Adams is whether this scheme violates the First Amendment.

Per Delaware’s Constitution no more than half of the members of the Delaware Supreme Court, Superior Court, or Chancery Court may be of the same major political party.

Delaware attorney James Adams wants to be a...

CSG Midwest
After years of trying, Iowa lawmakers and others wanting to tweak or completely replace a decades-old system of selecting state Supreme Court judges were able to proclaim legislative victory in 2019. But as of early October, they still needed some wins in court to ensure the change.
At issue is Iowa’s 57-year-old merit-based selection process: State supreme court justices are appointed by the governor, whose choices are limited to a list of three candidates submitted by a judicial nominating commission. Four other Midwestern states also use some form of merit selection.

Chapter 5 of The Book of the States 2019 contains the following tables:

CSG Midwest
A legislative change in Iowa's process for selecting Supreme Court judges will put more power in the hands of the governor. SF 638, signed into law in May, alters how the 17-member State Judicial Nominating Commission will be appointed.
The governor now has the authority to choose a majority of commission members, nine of the 17. The remaining eight appointments will come from elections held among the state's lawyers.
CSG Midwest
A legal dispute in Indiana over private property rights and the public trust doctrine ended in February when the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. In 2018, Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled that public use of the Lake Michigan shoreline extended to the lake’s “natural ordinary high water mark.” Some lakefront property owners argued that the “water’s edge” should instead be used as the legal dividing line. The Indiana justices disagreed: “At a minimum, walking below the natural [ordinary high water mark] along the shores of Lake Michigan is a protected public use.”

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