What's New

May a private entity running a public access channel ban speakers based on the content of their speech—something a government entity running the same channels could not do? Yes, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 opinion in Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck. Why? Because the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private entities in this instance.

The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 authorizes states and local governments to require cable operators to set aside channels on their cable systems for public access. Under New York law the cable operator operates the public access channels unless the local government chooses to do so or designates a private entity to do so.

New York City designated a private nonprofit, Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), to operate the public access channels in Manhattan. MNN suspended two producers from its facilities and services after MNN ran a film they produced about MNN’s alleged neglect of the East Harlem community. The producers claimed MNN violated their First Amendment free speech rights when it “restricted their access to the public access channels because of the content of their film.”

Does one branch of a state legislature have “standing” to litigate a redistricting case? Not unless state law says so the Supreme Court ruled.    

More technically, in Virginia House of Delegates v. Golden Bethune-Hill, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the Virginia House of Delegates lacks standing to appeal a ruling striking down Virginia’s redistricting plan because Virginia law does not allow it to displace the Attorney General and it is only a single chamber of a bicameral legislature.

After oral argument Court commentators predicated the Supreme Court wouldn’t overrule the “dual-sovereignty” doctrine. In a 7-2 decision in Gamble v. United States it didn’t. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the result in this case.  

The Double Jeopardy Clause provides that no person may be “twice put in jeopardy” “for the same offence.” Per the “dual-sovereignty” doctrine the Supreme Court has long held that a “crime under one sovereign’s laws is not ‘the same offence’ as a crime under the laws of another sovereign.”

The Supreme Court held 6-3 in Virginia Uranium v. Warren that Virginia’s statute prohibiting uranium mining isn’t preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act (AEA).

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for this result. The SLLC brief encouraged the Court to not inquire into the intent of the Virginia legislature in deciding whether the statute was preempted. Justice Gorsuch, writing for himself and Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh, went to such great length discussing “the perils of inquiring into legislative motive,” that Justices Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, only joined his plurality opinion as to its result (not its reasoning).

In February 2019, lawmakers in Oregon introduced House Bill 2020 that would make Oregon the second state to have an economy-wide cap-and-trade system. The basic premise of a cap-and-trade system is a cap is set on the total carbon emissions of an area; in this case, the state of Oregon. This total allotment of carbon emissions is then divided up into permits. Each company that produces emissions above a certain threshold is required to purchase...

In McKinney v. Arizona James Erin McKinney wants the Arizona Supreme Court out of his death penalty case. More specifically, the Supreme Court will decide whether a jury rather than a judge must weigh the factors mitigating against imposing a death sentence when the law at the time he was convicted allowed a judge to weigh mitigating factors. The Court also has agreed to decide whether a trial court rather than an appellate court must correct the failure to weigh relevant mitigating factors.

A jury found McKinney guilty of first-degree murder related to two separate burglaries and murders committed in 1991. McKinney had PTSD from his “horrific” childhood but the Arizona Supreme Court disallowed the sentancer to consider non-statutory mitigating evidence (including family background and mental condition) unconnected to the crime. In 1996 the trial court found the evidence of PTSD to be unconnected to the crime and sentenced McKinney to death.

Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian is a complicated case raising three legal issues which the Supreme Court has agreed to decide. To summarize the case in one sentence, the owners of a Superfund site object to having to take remedial action not required by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to benefit landowners located within the bounds of the site.   

The Anaconda Smelter, now owned by ARCO, processed copper ore from Butte for nearly one hundred years before shutting down in 1980. That same year Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund law. The purpose of this law is to “foster the cleanup of sites contaminated by hazardous waste, and to protect human health and the environment.”

The title of this article appears to be deceptive if not flat out wrong as Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media isn’t an employment case. Nevertheless, it presents an important legal question for employers because the law it involves applies to them as such. Understanding the issue in the case—whether a claim of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 fails in the absence of but-for causation—requires a little background.

Section 1981, enacted in 1866, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in contracting and employment, among other things. It states “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

One can’t help but wonder if the Supreme Court decided to hear Allen v. Cooper because it involves a pirate ship. The (not very glamorous) legal issue the Supreme Court will decide is whether states can be sued in federal court for copyright violations.

North Carolina owns a ship pirate Blackbeard captured, renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge, and sunk between 1717-18. In the late 1990s North Carolina permitted a private research and salvage firm to photograph the ship. North Carolina continued to own the shipwreck and its artifacts, and the company could make money from the sale of media related to the ship. Frederick Allen, who was hired by the salvage firm to take photos and videos of the ship, sued North Carolina for infringing on images Allen copyrighted.

The Eleventh Amendment protects states and state officials acting in their official capacity from being sued in federal court. Congress may abrogate sovereign immunity by making a clear statement of its intent and validly exercising congressional power. Allen claims North Carolina can be sued in federal court for infringing on his copyright because Congress abrogated states’ sovereign immunity in the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act. 

Before an employee alleging employment discrimination under Title VII (on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin) may bring a lawsuit in federal court he or she must file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis the Supreme Court held unanimously that Title VII’s charge-filing requirement is a “mandatory procedural prescription” that a court must consider if timely...

Pages