As of the end of July, Justice Anthony Kennedy is retired. For states and local governments he will be forever remembered as the Justice who championed allowing online sales tax collection.
In March 2015, Justice Kennedy wrote that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill,” which held that businesses without a physical presence in the state did not have to collect sales tax. In his last majority opinion on the bench, South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court overturned Quill.
Justice Kennedy was a pivotal Justice for most of his thirty year tenure on the Supreme Court. He often provided the Court’s crucial fifth vote on hot-button national issues. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Justice Kennedy blazed a middle path, writing part of the opinion that moved the Court slightly to the right while declining to overrule Roe v. Wade. In LGBTQ cases Justice Kennedy played a much more progressive role, writing for the majority to strike down a law allowing for same-sex discrimination and eventually striking down gay marriage bans in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Numerous academics have complained about the Supreme Court frequently reversing lower court decisions that have denied police officers qualified immunity. In Sause v. Bauer the Court reversed (and remanded) a grant of qualified immunity.
In a unanimous per curiam (unauthored) opinion, the Supreme Court remanded this case back to the lower court to reconsider its decision granting qualified immunity to police officers who ordered a person to stop praying.
The Supreme Court held 5-4 in Janus v. AFSCME that state statutes allowing public sector employers and unions to agree that employees who don’t join the union must still pay their “fair share” of collective bargaining costs violate the First Amendment. The Court also held that employees must “affirmatively consent” to join the union. More than 20 states authorize “fair share” for public sector employees.
In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prevent “agency shop” arrangements where public employees who do not join the union are still required to pay their “fair share” of union dues for collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment. In Janus, the Supreme Court overruled Abood.
In a 5-4 decision in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Supreme Court ruled that a California law requiring licensed pregnancy clinics to disclose they don’t offer abortions and unlicensed pregnancy clinics to disclose the fact they are unlicensed likely violates the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case asking the Court not to apply the highest level of scrutiny (strict scrutiny) to commercial speech or to every disclosure requirement adopted by states and local governments.
California law requires that “licensed covered facilities” that provide family planning or pregnancy-related services must disseminate a notice stating that publicly-funded family planning services, including contraception and abortion, are available. It also requires “unlicensed covered facilities” to disseminate a notice they are unlicensed. The author of the law noted there are nearly 200 licensed and unlicensed crisis pregnancy centers in California. These centers “aim to discourage and prevent women from seeking abortions.”
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) operates licensed and unlicensed covered facilities that don’t offer abortions. It argues these requirements violate its First Amendment right to free speech.
In a 5-4 decision in Trump v. Hawaii the Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Trump’s travel ban.
The third travel ban indefinitely prevents immigration from six countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Yemen. Hawaii and others sued President Trump claiming the ban was illegal and unconstitutional.
The Court agreed to decide four issues. First, whether the case is justiciable, meaning whether the legal issues are “fit for review.” Second, whether the third travel ban exceeds the President’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Third, whether the travel ban violates the Establishment Clause because it seeks to exclude Muslims. Fourth, whether the Ninth Circuit nationwide injunction was overbroad.
Abbott v. Perezis odd and unusually complicated even for a racial gerrymandering case.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld all but one of Texas’ 2013 congressional and state legislative districts. The Texas Legislature’s 2013 redistricting plan codified a Texas federal district court’s second attempt at redrawing the legislature’s 2011 plan. The Supreme Court concluded the lower court erred when it required the Texas Legislature to prove that it purged the racially discriminatory taint of the 2011 legislative-drawn plan.
In a long-awaited decision in Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Fourth Amendment requires the government to receive a warrant to obtain cell-site location information (CSLI).
In the Court’s majority opinion Chief Justice Roberts provides an explanation of how CSLI works. “Cell phones continuously scan their environment looking for the best signal, which generally comes from the closest cell site. Most modern devices, such as smartphones, tap into the wireless network several times a minute whenever their signal is on, even if the owner is not using one of the phone’s features. Each time the phone connects to a cell site, it generates a time-stamped record known as cell-site location information (CSLI).”
In South Dakota v. Wayfair the Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments can require vendors with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax. According to the Court, in a 5-4 decision, “economic and virtual contacts” are enough to create a “substantial nexus” with the state allowing the state to require collection.
Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess.
Fane Lozman may be the only person to fit within a “unique class of retaliatory arrest claims.” But that is all it took for him to win his (second) Supreme Court case.
In an 8-1 decision in Lozman v. Riviera Beach, the Supreme Court held that a citizen who was arrested for making comments at a city council meeting (possibly because the City had an official policy of retaliating against him) was not barred from bringing a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim against the City even if it had probable cause to arrest him.
The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that an arrestee could not bring a First Amendment retaliatory arrest lawsuit if probable cause existed. The Court declined to decide whether as a general rule probable cause bars First Amendment retaliation cases against police officers.
In 1986 a majority of the Supreme Court agreed that partisan gerrymandering may be unconstitutional in certain circumstances. But in that case and since then the Court has failed to agree on a standard for when partisan gerrymandering crosses the line. In Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone the Supreme Court again declined to adopt a standard for what constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
In Gill the Court concluded that the gerrymandering challengers failed to demonstrate they had standing to bring their lawsuit. In Benisek the Court allowed Maryland’s redistricting plan to go into effect because, among other reasons, the challengers were too delayed in bringing their lawsuit.