Lisa Soronen

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The Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Oneok v. Learjet is a solid win for states, consumer protection, and the Ninth Circuit. The Court held the Natural Gas Act does not preempt state-law antitrust lawsuits alleging price manipulation that affect both federally regulated wholesale natural-gas prices and nonfederally regulated retail natural-gas prices.

Historically, federal regulation of the natural-gas industry has been divided into three segments:  production, interstate gas pipelines (wholesale), and local gas distribution (retail). The federal Natural Gas Act regulates only the second segment—the interstate shipment of gas including rate setting—states regulate the other segments. Since deregulation in the 1970s, pipeline wholesalers have sold natural gas at market rate based on price indices of voluntarily reported data of natural gas sales. In 2003 the indices were found to be inaccurate because natural-gas traders had been reporting false data. 

In a 6-3 decision in Rodriguez v. United States the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff conducted after a completed traffic stop violates the Fourth Amendment. 

Officer Struble pulled over Dennys Rodriguez after he veered onto the shoulder of the highway and jerked back on the road. Officer Struble ran a records check on Rodriguez, then questioned his passenger and ran a records check on the passenger and called for backup, and next wrote Rodriguez a warning ticket. Seven or eight minutes passed between Officer Struble issuing the warning, back up arriving, and Officer Struble’s drug-sniffing dog alerting for drugs.  Rodriguez argued that prolonging the completed traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment.

In Kingsley v. Hendrickson the Supreme Court will specify the standard for determining what amount of force used against a pretrial detainee is excessive.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing that the same or similar standard should apply to excessive force claims brought by pretrial detainees and post-conviction detainees. 

To date, the Supreme Court’s docket for next term has less than ten cases.  Two of them involve the death penalty.  Combined, they raise at least three issues.   

It is difficult to know what issues the Court will decide in Hurst v. Florida.  In his certiorari petition Timothy Lee Hurst asked the Court to decide at least six issues.  The Court combined and shortened Hurst’s questions presented to address whether Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme violates the Sixth (right to a jury trial) and Eighth (no cruel and unusual punishment) Amendments.    

Beginning in the mid-2000s numerous states adopted “Jessica’s” laws requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  These statutes have been challenged on a number of grounds—including that they violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.  Eight states, including North Carolina, monitor for life.             

The Supreme Court ruling that GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders is a Fourth Amendment search doesn’t invalidate these statutes.  But if the lower court—and ultimately the Supreme...

In 2012 in Miller v. Alabama the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that states may not mandate that juvenile offenders be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  In Montgomery v. Louisiana the Court will decide whether Miller is retroactive; that is, whether it should apply to those convicted before the case was decided. 

This case will be decided next term (by the end of June 2016).  The Court agreed to hear a case raising the exact same issue, also from Louisiana, this term.   Toca v. Louisiana was dismissed when George Toca was released from prison after pleading guilty to two counts of armed robbery in exchange for his murder conviction being vacated.   

In Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center the Supreme Court held 5-4 that Medicaid providers cannot rely on the Supremacy Clause or equity to sue states to enforce a Medicaid reimbursement statute. 

The Court’s rejection of a private cause of action under the Supremacy Clause has implications well beyond this case.  Had the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, the Supremacy Clause would have provided a cause of action for every federal statute that arguably conflicts with state law.  

Young v. United Parcel Service presents a dilemma most employers, including state and local governments, can relate to.  What should an employer do if a pregnant employee’s job requires that she lift an amount well above what her doctor has approved during pregnancy? 

The specific issue the Court had to decide in this case was whether an employer violated Title VII because it accommodated many but not all nonpregnancy-related disabilities but...

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama the Supreme Court held 5-4 that when determining whether unconstitutional racial gerrymandering occurred—if race was a “predominant motivating factor” in creating districts—one-person-one-vote should be a background factor, not a factor balanced against the use of race.  And Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) does not require a covered jurisdiction to maintain a particular percent of minority voters in minority-majority districts.  The Court sent this case back to the lower court to reconsider in light of its opinion.

In 2006 the Department of Labor (DOL) stated in an opinion letter that mortgage loan officers were eligible for overtime but then changed its mind in 2010 in an “Administrator’s Interpretation.”

In Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association the Supreme Court held unanimously that federal agencies do not have to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) before changing an interpretive rule, like the...

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