Lisa Soronen

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In T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell the Supreme Court will decide whether a letter denying a cell tower construction application that doesn’t explain the reasons for the denial meets the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (TCA) “in writing” requirement. 

T-Mobile applied to construct a 108-foot cell tower in an area zoned single-family residential.  The City of Roswell’s ordinance only allowed “alternative tower structures” in such a zone that were compatible with “the natural setting and surrounding structures.”  T-Mobile proposed an “alternative tower structure” in the shape of a man-made tree that would be about 25-feet taller than the pine trees surrounding it. 

Town of Greece v. Galloway could have been one of those cases where the Supreme Court totally changed the law.  But it wasn’t probably because two things “die hard” in the Supreme Court:  precedent and tradition.  Both lead to an inescapable (if 5-4) decision that if legislative prayer will die, it will “die another day.”  

In short, the Supreme Court held that the Town of Greece did not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with a prayer relying on precedent and the long-standing tradition of legislative prayer. 

Given the Supreme Court’s prominent role in deciding important issues of the day, it is easy to get caught up in the latest juicy Court mishap.  Justice Scalia erroneously depicted precedent in his dissent in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, which had to be corrected. But don’t let that be the reason you read this blog post.  This case is important for the states.

The Clean Air Act’s Good Neighbor Provision prohibits upwind states from emitting air pollution in amounts that will contribute significantly to downwind states failing to attain air quality standards.  In EPA v. EME Homer City Generation the Supreme Court resolved two issues related to the Good Neighbor Provision.  Justice Ginsburg wrote the 6-2 opinion.

Are your state’s traffic laws up-to-date?  If they aren’t consider what might happen…

In Heien v. North Carolina a police officer pulled over a car because he thought that North Carolina law required that motor vehicles have two working brake lights.  It turns out the officer was wrong.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals concluded that state law requires motor vehicles to only have one...

If you follow Supreme Court Fourth Amendment cases you know that seeing unusual line ups of Justice isn’t unusual at all.  Justice Scalia siding with the criminal defendant is usual though.  In Prado Navarette v. California Justice Scalia dissents with the three female Justices from a majority opinion that he claims “serves up a freedom-destroying cocktail.”

In this case an anonymous 911 caller reported that a vehicle had run her off the road.  The Court held 5-4 that a police stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.  When police stopped the Navarette brothers they smelled marijuana.  A search of the vehicle revealed 30 pounds of marijuana.    

On April 22, the Supreme Court issued a decision in one of the biggest cases of the term. And that case might affect your state today—or could affect it soon.  In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action the Supreme Court held 6-2 that voters may by ballot prohibit affirmative action in public universities admission decisions.

As NCSL’s Affirmative Action:  State Action chart describes, a number of states prohibit the use of affirmative action in a variety of contexts.  While this case was limited to the use of race in public university admission decisions, Michigan’s constitutional amendment also prohibits the use of racial-preference in state and local employment and contracting.  Presumably, these provisions are also constitutional. 

If you missed the Supreme Court's decision in Northwest v. Ginsberg it is understandable.  The case had been much overshadowed by the Court's decision the same day in the campaign finance case discussed here in this blog.  

In Northwest v. Ginsberg the Supreme Court held unanimously that an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim related to Northwest terminating membership in its frequent flyer miles program was preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) because the implied covenant claim was based on a state-imposed obligation.

The biggest cases of the Supreme Court’s term generally come down at the end of June. The campaign finance case probably makes most Court watchers' big three (or at least big five) list.  But, in an unusual move, the opinion came down the first week of April.  

The Court struck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees.  McCutcheon v. FEC will likely impact the dozen or so states that place aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions to candidates for state office.    

In Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States the Court held 8-1 that a private party, rather than the federal government, owns an abandoned railroad right-of-way granted by the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875.  When the federal government owns abandoned railroad rights-of-way, state and local governments may convert them into “Rails-to-Trails.”  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus curiae brief in this case.

What do the Supreme Court cases where corporations challenge the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate on religious grounds have to do with state government?  Nothing, at least on the surface.  But if you dig a little deeper the outcome of this case could affect state and local land use decisions.  That is why the State and Local Legal Center filed an amicus brief in this case. 

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