Lisa Soronen

Author Articles

Unless something surprising happens, Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to take the bench before the Supreme Court hears the most recent challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on November 10. But before she is confirmed the Court will hear 10 cases in its October siting with only eight Justices on the bench.

At least four of those cases are of interest to states and local governments. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)...

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...

President Trump’s memoranda on anarchist cities, while generating significant criticism, does not take federal money away—yet. If the federal government actually tries to do so, affected jurisdictions will...

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...

The City of Philadelphia refused to contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) to place foster care children because CSS wouldn’t work with same-sex couples. Philadelphia requires all foster care agencies to follow its “fair practices” ordinance, which prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations.

The main question in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is whether Philadelphia has violated the...

The Supreme Court refused to overturn a consent decree in which Rhode Island state government officials agreed, due to COVID-19, to not enforce state law requiring the signature of two witnesses or a notary public for mail ballots.

The Court issued a statement noting that it stayed a court order in a case from Alabama similar to the consent decree in this case. However, according to the Court, in this case no state officials object to the consent...

The Supreme Court has not allowed a federal district court order to go into effect which required Oregon to include a ballot initiative with only 50 percent of the signatures required by Oregon’s constitution, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oregon Constitution requires advocates of ballot initiatives to obtain signatures equal to eight percent of ballots cast in the most recent governor’s race (here about 150,000) four months before the...

Without explanation the Supreme Court stayed a preliminary injunction requiring the Orange County California jail and jail officials to implement safety measures to protect inmates during the COVID–19 pandemic.

Justices Breyer and Kagan, without explaining their reasons, indicated they wouldn’t have granted the stay. Justice Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissented from the Court’s decision to lift the injunction and explained why. 

According to the...

In Idaho to get a citizen’s initiative on the ballot, petitioners must obtain signatures from six percent of electors by April 30. Reclaim Idaho asked to be temporarily allowed to gather signatures online due to COVID-19. It sued after state government officials informed it that Idaho statutes don’t allow electronic signatures for petitions and the governor didn’t intend to take executive action.

As the Supreme Court explained, “[t]he District Court in...

A federal district court has ruled that as long as there is a declared national health emergency related to COVID-19, the public charge rule may not go into effect.

Immigrants who are deemed a “public charge” are ineligible to receive green cards/lawful permanent resident status. The most recent definition of public charge, adopted in 1999, included immigrants who demonstrated a need for “institutionalization for...

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