Oral Argument Analysis: In ACA Argument, Justices Kennedy and Roberts Leave Everyone Guessing

For Justice Kennedy it was his questions, for Chief Justice Roberts it was his silence…

Today the Supreme Court heard oral argument in King v. Burwell, where it will decide whether federal health insurance exchanges, operating in 34 states, can offer subsidies to middle and low income purchasers of insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Simply put, the Court must decide whether it agrees with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that the following statutory language, “established by the State,” can include federal exchanges too.

All eyes and ears were on Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts during the argument.  Justice Kennedy is the Court’s “swing” Justice, and Chief Justice Roberts crucially concluded in the first Supreme Court challenge to the ACA that the individual mandate is a constitutional “tax.”  Continue reading

 

Old….But Good: Citing Older Decisions

Don’t assume that an argument should be discarded because it is supported only an old case.  For example, plaintiffs relied on Stevens v. Los Angeles Dock & Terminal Co., 20 Cal.App.743 (2d Dist. 1912), and defendant  More-Gas first noted that Stevens is “’a 100 year old case that has never been cited by another California case.’” The court in McGuire v. More-Gas Investments, LLC, 220 Cal.App.4th 512, 526 (3d Dist. 2013), responded:

That fact is of no significance. While it is true Stevens has never been cited by any published appellate decision in California, that does not undercut the validity of the reasoning in the case. Indeed, the principle applied in Stevens is well known in the common law, including here in California. An appellate court in New York that cited Stevens over 70 years ago succinctly articulated that principle as follows:

As McGuire illustrates, age of a compelling case is not necessarily a matter of consequence.  What are some ways to show why the case is compelling when it has never been cited by another California court? Continue reading

 

Supreme Court’s Docket Chalked Full of Local Government Cases

The Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 docket is now complete.  While the same-sex marriage and Affordable Care Act cases will receive the most attention, the docket is chalked full of cases significant to local government.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) Midterm Review article summarizes all the cases accepted and already decided that will affect local government.  Expect decisions in all the cases by the end of June.  If you are interested in these cases and others register here for the SLLC’s FREE Supreme Court Midterm Review webinar held on March 5.

Here are some highlights:

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona and Sheehan v. City & County of San Francisco are probably the most significant cases of the term for local government.  Depending on how the Court rules, both could impact every city and county in the United States.  The issue in Reed is whether sign codes may treat some categories of temporary signs more favorably than others.  If the Court holds they cannot, virtually all local governments will have to rewrite their sign codes.  In Sheehan the Court will decide whether the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to arresting a mentally ill suspect who is armed and violent.

Continue reading

 

Who Asks Who Tells: IMLA Writes SCOTUS Amicus Brief in Religious Accommodation Case

HR 101: Don’t ask prospective employees about protected characteristics such as age, sex, race, national origin, religion, etc. No, no says the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC), if an employer thinks an employee may need a religious accommodation an employer must ask about religion. Is the EEOC’s (new) view correct?

That is what the Supreme Court will decide in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores. Who must ask about the need for a religious accommodation—the employer or the employee/applicant? The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief, which IMLA wrote, argues the employee/applicant should ask.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy” requires sale-floor employees to wear clothing consistent with what Abercrombie sells in it stores and prohibits headwear. Samantha Elauf wore a head scarf to an interview at Abercrombie but didn’t ask for a religious accommodation. Her interviewer assumed but did not ask if she were Muslim and wore the headscarf for religious reasons. Ms. Elauf was ultimately not hired because of the headscarf. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Abercrombie alleging it violated Title VII by failing to accommodate Ms. Elauf’s religious beliefs. At trial, EEOC’s expert testified that some women wear headscarves for cultural rather than religious reasons. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Set Specifics of Excessive Force Standard for Pretrial Detainees

Since the 1980s (and arguably the 1970s) the Supreme Court has been clear:  a pretrial detainees’ right to be free from excessive force derives from the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.  But what does that mean exactly?  The Supreme Court will lay out the specifics in Kingsley v. Hendrickson.

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages for constitutional violations.  A legal standard more deferential to government officials means that successful pretrial detainee excessive force lawsuits will be less likely.  More significantly, different excessive force standards for pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates, who are often housed in the same facility, will be difficult for correctional officers to comply with.  After all, correctional officers must make split decisions regarding the use of force and may not know whether an incarcerated person is a pretrial detainee or has been convicted. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Rules Correctional Institutions Must Allow Half Inch Beards for Religious Reasons

To the casual Supreme Court watcher Holt v. Hobbs will probably be known and remembered more for John Oliver’s rendition of the oral argument featuring dogs posed as Supreme Court Justices rather than what the Court held.  But, for Gregory Holt, and other inmates who have been not been allowed to grow half inch beards, it is the holding they will remember.

The Supreme Court held unanimously that an inmate’s rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Rights Act (RLUIPA) were violated when he was not allowed to grow a half inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs.  This case will affect correctional institutions with no-beard policies and may provide lower court’s guidance in evaluating RLUIPA claims in the corrections and land use context.   Continue reading

 

Phantom Law Recommended to Supreme Court

Commentary by Bill Brinton, Rogers Towers, Jacksonville, Florida

During the oral argument in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, Reed’s counsel, David Cortman of Lawrenceville, Georgia, recommended that temporary signs relating to a one-time event, such as an election or anything else that occurs on a particular date, be taken down within the same time period after that event. He represented to the Court that “in fact the Washington, D.C., municipal regulations have that exact code . . . it’s one we would recommend to the Court. . . . I believe it’s 13605.” According to Mr. Cortman, “what it says is all temporary signs should be treated the same, period. . . . Every temporary sign can be up for 180 days.” See Oral Argument Transcript at pages 16-17.

As a practitioner who defends and drafts sign regulations, I found a number of the propositions made by the petitioners to be impractical and contrary to common sense. I was curious about the D.C. municipal regulation 13605, and when I looked for the regulation I could not find it. There was a good reason. It is not a law at this time, nor has it ever been the law. There is simply a draft proposal from 2012 for a new Title 13, Chapter 6, that would provide regulation for temporary signs, but the same is still under review by the District, and has been undergoing further changes since 2012 based upon public input.

Continue reading

 

Stipulations of law: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all agree?

Occasionally an attorney will propose that the parties stipulate to the meaning of a relevant statute.  Such stipulations have no legal force and will be disregarded by the court.  Numerous cases so hold across the United States:

 

  • Parties to a dispute cannot stipulate to the law and assume that the court will follow blindly an incorrect interpretation of the law, especially in an unsettled and everchanging area.” Carlile v. South Routt School Dist. RE-3J, 739 F.2d 1496, 1500 (10th Cir. 1984)

 

  • “Parties may stipulate to facts but they may not stipulate to the law. Such stipulations as to the law will be disregarded.”  Ahlswede v. Schoneveld, 488 P.2d 908, 910  (Nev. 1971), followed in Southern Pacific Transp. Co. v. United States, 462 F. Supp. 1227, 1239 (E.D. Cal. 1978)

 

  • “As for the proper measure of damages and the parties’ stipulation thereto, we note the circuit court’s accurate statement from the bench that parties cannot stipulate to the law or to legal conclusions.”  Henry v. Mitchell, 428 S.W.3d 454 (Ark. 2013)

 

There is an important distinction between stipulations as to the interpretation of the law and agreements as to the choice of law.  Contracting parties can agree to the choice of law, especially before any dispute has arisen, absent the presence of facts that justify breaking the agreement such as duress, undue influence, illegality, or the like.

Don’t assume that the court has these rules memorized and instantly accessible.  On the other hand, don’t take advantage of the ignorance of your opponent and the workload of the trial court.  It often happens that the trial court accepts a stipulation as to interpretation of the law only to be reversed on appeal.  At that point, the party harmed by the stipulation may have new counsel or time to research the issue.  The appellate court is much more likely to have a law clerk to research such issues.  Attempts to argue that the stipulation should stand are likely to produce a loss of respect.  As a result, any benefit of the stipulation is typically more than negated by the cost of a reversal and retrial.

 

Outer Limits of the ADA’s Applicability?: Must Police Officers Accommodate Mentally Ill Arrestees?

Per the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), accommodating persons with disabilities is the norm.  Twenty-five years after the Act’s passage, the Supreme Court will decide whether it applies to police officers arresting a mentally ill suspect one who is armed and violent.

In City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan the Supreme Court will decide whether, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), police must accommodate a suspect’s mental illness when arresting him or her.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief argues no because no conclusive evidence indicates that accommodating mentally ill suspects reduces injuries or the use of force.  IMLA filed a separate amicus brief in this case making different arguments than those made in the SLLC’s brief.

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated.  When the officers reentered her room soon after leaving it, Sheehan stepped toward them with her knife raised and continued to hold it after the officers pepper sprayed and ultimately shot her.  Sheehan survived.

Title II of the ADA provides that individuals with a disability must be able to participate in the “services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” and that their disability must be reasonably accommodated.

Sheehan argues that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests and that the officers should have taken her mental illness into account when reentering her room.  Her proposed accommodations included:  respecting her comfort zone, engaging in non-threatening communications, and using the passage of time to defuse the situation.

The Ninth Circuit agreed with Sheehan that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests.  The ADA applies broadly to police “services, programs, or activities,” which the Ninth Circuit interpreted to mean “anything a public entity does,” including arresting people.  The court refused to dismiss Sheehan’s ADA claim against the city reasoning that whether her proposed accommodations are reasonable is a question of fact for a jury.

The Ninth Circuit also concluded that reentry into Sheehan’s room violated the Fourth Amendment because it was unreasonable.  Although Sheehan needed help, “the officers had no reason to believe that a delay in entering her room would cause her serious harm, especially when weighed against the high likelihood that a deadly confrontation would ensue if they forced a confrontation.”

State and local government officials can be sued for money damages in their individual capacity if they violate a person’s constitutional rights.  Qualified immunity protects government officials from such lawsuits where the law they violated isn’t “clearly established.”

The Ninth Circuit refused to grant the officers qualified immunity related to their reentry:  “If there was no pressing need to rush in, and every reason to expect that doing so would result in Sheehan’s death or serious injury, then any reasonable officer would have known that this use of force was excessive.”  The Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s qualified immunity ruling.

The SLLC’s amicus brief argues that the ADA should not apply to arrests.  While few police departments have the resources to adopt specialized approaches to responding to incidents involving the mentally ill, no conclusive evidence indicates that these approaches reduce the rate or severity of injuries to mentally ill suspects.  No one-size fits-all approach makes sense because police officers encounter a wide range of suspects with mental illnesses.  And even psychiatrists—much less police officers who aren’t mental health professionals—cannot predict with any reasonable degree of certainty whether an armed suspect with a mental illness will harm himself or herself or others in an emergency.  Finally, because the officers in this case could not predict whether Sheehan would harm herself or others if they did not reenter her room, they are entitled to qualified immunity.

Orry Korb, Danny Chou, Greta Hanson, and Melissa Kiniyalocts, County of Santa Clara, California wrote the SLLC’s amicus brief which was joined by the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the United States Conference of Mayors.

 

Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Same-Sex Marriage Bans are Unconstitutional

On Friday the Supreme Court elevated this term from mostly meat and potatoes to historic by agreeing to hear four same-sex marriage cases.  The Court will decide whether it is constitutional for states to prohibit same-sex marriage and whether states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed out of state.

 

While the Court refused to hear a number of cases presenting the same issues earlier in the term, these grants came as little surprise.  Between then and now the Sixth Circuit ruled that same-sex marriage bans are constitutional, making it the only federal circuit to consider this question and reach that conclusion.  The four cases the Court granted came out of each state in the Sixth Circuit (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee).

 

Currently, same-sex marriages are allowed in 36 states.  In some of these states legislatures have passed laws recognizing same-sex marriage, in other states courts have struck down laws disallowing same-sex marriage.

 

The Court will hear oral argument in these cases at the end of April and will issue a decision by the end of June.

State and local governments, as issuers of marriage licenses and as employers, will be affected by the Court’s decision in these cases.  And the legal test that the Court applies to determine the outcome of these cases will have implications for other cases brought by gays and lesbians.

 

SCOTUSblog editor Tom Goldstein predicts that the Court will rule that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional.  In his opinion, just a few years ago, the Court may have only had one Justice willing to rule this way.  What has changed?  He suggests the following:  “The challenge to Proposition 8 [California’s same-sex marriage ban] . . . required that measure’s defenders to put forward actual evidence in court to justify the claim that same-sex marriage was somehow harmful.  The fact that they so publicly failed to do so was, to my mind, the most significant development in this movement.”

 

Local Governments Mostly Win Cell Tower Supreme Court Case

The City of Roswell lost its case before the Supreme Court on what some might describe as a mere technicality–but overall local governments won.

 

In T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell the Supreme Court held 6-3 that the Telecommunications Act (TCA) requires local governments to provide reasons when denying an application to build a cell phone tower.  The reasons do not have to be stated in the denial letter but must be articulated “with sufficient clarity in some other written record issued essentially contemporaneously with the denial,” which can include the council meeting minutes.

 

The Court agreed with the position in the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)’s amicus brief that the reasons for a local government’s decision need not be in the same letter or document that denies the application and that council meeting minutes can be a sufficient source for the reasons for the denial.   The Court disagreed, however, with the SLLC’s argument that the council minutes need not be issued contemporaneously with the document denying the wireless provider’s application.

 

T-Mobile applied to construct a 108-foot cell tower in a residential zoning area.  Two days after a council hearing on the application, where city councilmembers voted to deny the application and stated various reasons for why they were going to vote against it, Roswell sent T-Mobile a brief letter stating that the application was denied and that T-Mobile could obtain hearing minutes from the city clerk.  Twenty-six days later the minutes were approved and published.

 

The TCA requires that a state or local government’s decision denying a cell tower construction permit be “in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.”

 

The majority of the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Sotomayor, held that local governments have to provide reasons for why they are denying a cell tower application so that courts can determine whether the denial was supported by substantial evidence.  The Court rejected, however, T-Mobile’s argument that the reasons must be set forth in a formal written decision denying the application instead of council meeting minutes because nothing in the TCA “imposes any requirement that the reasons be given in any particular form.”  But the Court also held that, because wireless providers have only 30 days after an adverse decision to seek judicial review, the council meeting minutes setting forth the reasons have to be issued “essentially contemporaneous[ly]”with the denial.

 

The Court’s ruling that written minutes can meet the TCA’s “in writing” requirement is favorable to local governments, many of which routinely compile meeting minutes regardless of whether a cell tower application is being considered.  But the Court’s requirement that a local government issue a denial letter and minutes at more or less the same time will be new to many local governments, and, as Chief Justice Roberts points out in his dissenting opinion, “could be a trap for the unwary hamlet or two.”

 

Following this decision, local governments should not issue any written denial of a wireless siting application until they (1) set forth the reasons for the denial in that written decision, or (2) make available to the wireless provider the final council meeting minutes or transcript of the meeting at which the action was taken.

 

The Roberts’ Court has been frequently characterized as “pro-business.”  Justice Roberts’ dissent belies that viewpoint.  His opinion repeatedly refers to T-Mobile’s savvy and culminates in this sarcastic assessment of how T-Mobile likely suffered no harm by receiving the minutes after the denial:  “T-Mobile somehow managed to make the tough call to seek review of the denial of an application it had spent months and many thousands of dollars to obtain, based on a hearing it had attended.”

 

Tim LayJessica Bell, and Katharine Mapes of Spiegel & McDiarmid in Washington, D.C., wrote the SLLC’s brief which was joined by the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors,  the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

 

 

SLLC Amicus Brief Contemplates Fourth Amendment Facial Challenges, Hotel Registry Ordinance, and More…

The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) Supreme Court amicus brief in Los Angeles v. Patel, which IMLA joined, is all that you expect from an amicus brief…and more.  It makes not one but all the usual amicus arguments:  don’t rule that state and local governments can be sued for yet another thing, if you rule against the city in this case many other cities and states will be affected, and a ruling against the city will likely impact many similar but unrelated statutes and ordinance. hotel   

A Los Angeles ordinance requires hotel and motel operators to keep specific information about their guests and allows police to inspect the registries without warrants.  Motel operators claim this ordinance is facially invalid under the Fourth Amendment.  The Ninth Circuit agreed, because the ordinance fails to expressly provide for pre-compliance judicial review before police can inspect the registry.   

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in Los Angeles v. Patel arguing that Fourth Amendment facial challenges should be disfavored and that if the ordinance in this case is unconstitutional similar hotel registry ordinances across the country—and laws and ordinances requiring record keeping and inspection of other businesses—may be unconstitutional. 

A facial challenge to the ordinance in this case requires a court to determine whether all searches that might be conducted pursuant to the ordinance are unconstitutional (as opposed to an as-applied challenge where the court would decide whether a particular search under the ordinance violates the Fourth Amendment). 

The SLLC argues that Fourth Amendment facial challenges don’t make sense because whether a search violates the Fourth Amendment depends on whether it is reasonable, which is necessarily a fact-based determination.  Under some set of facts almost any search would be reasonable.  For example, depending on the facts, warrantless searches of hotel registries could be reasonable under the “community care-taking exception,” because the registry is “in plain view,” or because of “exigent circumstances.” Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Fourth Circuit

Fifth Circuit

Sixth Circuit

Eighth Circuit

Ninth Circuit

Tenth Circuit

(12/15/2014-12/19/2014)

Image courtesy of Flickr from Ken Lund (creative-commons license, no changes made).

 

Heien v. North Carolina – A Win, But Not a Free Pass

In Heien v. North Carolina the Supreme Court held that a reasonable mistake of law can provide reasonable suspicion to uphold a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment.

A police officer pulled over a car that had only one working brake light because he believed that North Carolina law required both brake lights to work.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals, interpreting a statute over a half a century old, concluded only one working brake light is required. highway stop

When the vehicle’s occupants behaved suspiciously, the officer asked to search the car.  They consented, and the officer found cocaine.  The owner of the car argued that the stop violated the Fourth Amendment because driving with one working brake light doesn’t violate North Carolina law.

The Supreme Court has long held that reasonable mistakes of fact do not undermine Fourth Amendment searches and seizures.  Justice Roberts reasoned in this 8-1 decision:  “Whether the facts turn out to be not what was thought, or the law turns out to be not what was thought, the result is the same: the facts are outside the scope of the law. There is no reason, under the text of the Fourth Amendment or our precedents, why this same result should be acceptable when reached by way of a reasonable mistake of fact, but not when reached by way of a similarly reasonable mistake of law.” Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Rules No Pay for Passing through Security Screenings

In a unanimous opinion in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, the Supreme Court held that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require hourly employees to be paid for the time they spend waiting to undergo and undergoing security screenings.  Government employees who work in courthouses, correctional institutions, and warehouses routinely go through security screening at the beginning and/or end of the workday.   SCT stairs

Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro worked at warehouses filling Amazon.com orders.  They claimed that they should have been paid for the time they spent waiting and going through security screenings to prevent theft at the end of each shift.

Under the FLSA employers only have to pay “non-exempt” employees for preliminary and postliminary activities that are “integral and indispensable” to a principal activity.  According to the Court, an activity is “integral and indispensable” to a principal activity “if it is an intrinsic element of those activities and one with which the employee cannot dispense if he is to perform his principal activities.”  The Court concluded that security screenings were not intrinsic to retrieving and packing products and that Integrity Staffing Solutions could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing employees’ ability to complete their work. Continue reading

 

This Case Isn’t (Only) About a Confederate Flag License Plate

In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board (Board) rejected the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (Texas SCV) application for a specialty license plate featuring images of the Confederate Flag.  The Supreme Court will decide whether this violates the First Amendment. 5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n

This case may have implications beyond the specialty license plate context.  Lower courts have struggled to determine whether government websites, advertisements on city buses, memorial bricks and tiles at public schools, etc. are government speech or private speech.

Texas allows nonprofits to propose license plate designs for state approval.  Texas SCV applied for a specialty plate featuring its logo, a Confederate flag framed on all four sides with the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896,” and a faint Confederate flag in the background.  The Board voted unanimously against the plate because it received numerous public comments objecting to it.

The Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas SCV.  Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Catching up on recent published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • S. Kingstown Sch. Cmte v. Joanna S., No. 14-1177 (Dec. 9, 2014): The court ruled in Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”) case that settlement agreement relieved school committee of obligation to perform or fund evaluations, and remanded to determine whether Joanna S. is entitled to attorney’s fees.

Second Circuit

Fourth Circuit

Fifth Circuit Continue reading

 

Does the ADA Apply to Arrests?

The Fourth Amendment applies to arrests, no question about it.  What about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?  Specifically, do individuals with mental illnesses have to be accommodated under the ADA when being arrested?  The Ninth Circuit said yes and the Supreme Court has agreed to review its decision in City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan.Gavel

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated.  When the officers reentered her room soon after leaving it, Sheehan stepped toward them with her knife raised and continued to hold it after the officers pepper sprayed and ultimately shot her.

Title II of the ADA provides that individuals with a disability must be able to participate in the “services, programs, or activities of a public entity,” and that their disability must be reasonably accommodated.

Sheehan argued that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests and that the officers should have taken her mental illness into account when reentering her room.  Her proposed accommodations included:  respecting her comfort zone, engaging in non-threatening communications, and using the passage of time to defuse the situation

The Ninth Circuit agreed with Sheehan that Title II of the ADA applies to arrests. Continue reading

 

Must All Signs Be the Same?

The Supreme Court’s decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona could upset sign codes nationally.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n  Most sign codes, like Gilbert’s, include different categories of temporary signs.  It makes sense, for example, to give people more time to remove thousands of election signs and less time to remove a few yard sale signs.  In this case the Court will decide whether local governments may regulate temporary directional signs differently than other temporary signs.  The Court could rule, practically speaking, that all temporary signs must have the same time, place, and manner requirements.  IMLA joined the State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief asking the Court not to go that far.

Gilbert’s Sign Code includes temporary directional signs, political signs, and ideological signs.  After being notified that its temporary directional signs announcing the time and location of church services were displayed longer than allowed, the Good News church sued Gilbert.  The church claimed Gilbert’s Sign Code violates the First Amendment because temporary directional signs receive the less favorable treatment (in terms of size, location, duration, etc.) than political signs and ideological signs. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

Third Circuit

Sixth Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Fourth Circuit

Sixth Circuit

 

Supreme Court Review of Same-Sex Marriage (Almost) Inevitable

Even though there was no disagreements among the federal circuit courts of appeals at the time, Court watchers were shocked with the Supreme Court denied certiorari in a series of cases striking down same-sex marriage bans.  All eyes then turned to the Ninth and Sixth Circuits who had pending cases.  The next day the Ninth Circuit struck down Nevada’s and Idaho’s ban.  On November 6 the Sixth Circuit became the first federal circuit court to uphold bans in four states (Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky).14692401305_ea57b7b223

In 12 bullet points Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog summarizes the Sixth Circuit’s majority opinion.  Judge Sutton eloquently explains why he parted company with his colleagues who decided the other cases:  “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers.  Better, in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

While the Supreme Court doesn’t resolve every circuit split immediately, given the significance of this issue it would be shocking if the Court didn’t resolve it shortly.  As Lyle Denniston describes on SCOTUSblog this does not necessarily mean that the Court will hear the Sixth Circuit’s case—the Ninth Circuit ruling could also be appealed or the Court could grant review in a case pending, not yet decided, from another circuit.

But the mostly likely outcome (now that we know none of the plaintiffs will ask all of the Sixth Circuit judges to rehear the case) is that the Court will accept the Sixth Circuit case for review.

So maybe the only question is will the Court hear the case this term or next? One petition has already been filed.  If all petitions and responses are ready for the Justices by their January 9 conference this case will be heard and decided by the end of June.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr by Stefan Ogrisek, creative-commons license, no changes made).

 

Supreme Court Accepts Obamacare Case

Last Friday the Supreme Court’s docket went from boring to big with the grant of just one case:  King v. Burwell.  The issue in this case is whether tax credits for low and middle income health insurance purchasers are available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if insurance is purchased on a federal exchange rather than a state exchange.  Only 16 states and the District of Columbia have established exchanges. Supreme Court3

The ACA makes tax credits available to those who buy health insurance on exchanges “established by the State.”  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) interpreted that language to include insurance purchased on federal exchanges too.

The Fourth Circuit in King v. Burwell upheld IRS’s interpretation, concluding that “established by the State” is ambiguous, when read in combination with other sections of the ACA, and could include federal exchanges.  The “board policy goals of the Act,” persuaded the court that the IRS’s interpretation was permissible.

The implications of the Supreme Court ruling that health insurance purchased on federal exchanges is not eligible for subsidies is huge.  Many people who want to buy insurance on the exchange would no longer be able to afford it without the subsidy.  And many who don’t want to buy insurance, depending on their income, would no longer be subject to the individual mandate that penalizes people for not buying insurance.  Similarly, large employers that don’t offer health insurance to fulltime employees would no longer have to pay a penalty.

More significantly, the Fourth Circuit (and many others) predict the ACA would “crumble” if tax credits are unavailable on federal exchanges.  The ACA bars insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on a person’s health.   The tax credit combined with the individual mandate was intended to create “an influx of enrollees with below-average spending for health care,” which would counteract adverse selection, where individuals disproportionately likely to use health care drive up the cost.  Such an influx is unlikely without the subsidy.

The Supreme Court generally hears cases when there is a circuit split, meaning two federal courts of appeals have decided the same issue differently.  Many were surprised when the Court agreed to hear this case given there is currently no circuit split, especially considering that last month the Court refused to hear a series of cases challenging the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans.  However, the Court also accepts cases involving “important question[s] of federal law,” which this case seems to raise.

On the same day in July a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel ruled opposite to the Fourth Circuit.  The entire D.C. Circuit was going to rehear the case, but it has been asked to not rule in that case pending Supreme Court resolution of King v. Burwell.

Wondering how the Supreme Court may rule?  SCOTUSblog offers an excellent symposium on this topic.

Image courtesy of Flickr from Kjetil Ree (creative-commons license, no changes made).

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are the last two weeks’ published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit Continue reading

 

Hotels in the Hot Seat: Supreme Court Accepts Hotel Registry Case

Cities and states from California to Maine have confronted the problem of hotels that are crime magnets. hotel One solution that some evidence suggests effectively deters crime is ordinances or state laws that require hotels to keep detailed information about guests that are subject to police inspection.  These ordinances and laws generally do not require police to obtain a warrant.

In Los Angeles v. Patel a Los Angeles ordinance requires hotel and motel operators to keep specific information about their guests and allows police to inspect the registries without warrants.  Motel operators claim this ordinance is facially invalid under the Fourth Amendment.

The first issue the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether facial challenges to ordinances and statutes are permitted under the Fourth Amendment. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Third Circuit

  • Thorpe v. Borough ofJim Thorpe, No. 13-2446 (Oct. 23, 2014): The court reversed district court’s conclusion that Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act requires the Borough to disinter Jim Thorpe. In the court’s view, “Congress could not have intended th[is] kind of patently absurd result.”

Fourth Circuit

 

Federal Agency Notice-And-Comment: Supreme Court To Decide When It Is Required

Interpretive and substantive rules.   What is the difference?SupremeCourt2  Under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) substantive regulations interpret statutes and federal agencies adopt them only after notice-and-comment.  Interpretive rules and are promulgated without-notice and-comment.  But what if an agency changes an interpretive rule;   should it first seek notice and comment?  The Supreme Court will decide this issue in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues yes in its amicus brief, which agrees with the lower court that significant changes to an interpretation of a regulation amounts to effectively changing the regulation, which requires notice-and-comment.  Local governments frequently have been surprised by interpretive rules that have changed regulations.  IMLA joined the SLLC’s brief. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Sixth Circuit

  • Cass v. City of Dayton, No. 13-4409 (Oct. 16, 2014): In 1983 action alleging that officer used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the court affirmed summary judgment for defendants because officer’s conduct was objectively reasonable and did not violate Fourth Amendment.

Seventh Circuit

Ninth Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • Showtime Entn’t v. Town of Mendon, No. 12-2121 (Oct. 8, 2014): The Town’s adult-business-entertainment bylaws unconstitutionally infringe on Showtime’s right to engage in a protected expressive activity; the regulations’ underinclusiveness indicates that Town does not have substantial interest in regulating adult businesses to curb secondary effects.

Seventh Circuit

Ninth Circuit Continue reading

 

What’s Next for Same-Sex Marriage?

For the six reasons Lyle Denniston describes on SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court’s announcement on Monday that it would not hear any of the seven petitions striking down same-sex marriage bans was stunning.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n  Even though there was no circuit split, conventional wisdom indicated the Court would decide the issue because of its importance and because both sides asked the Court for review.

Amy Howe also of SCOTUSblog and Scott Michelman writing on SCOTUSblog speculate as to the why the Court’s liberals and conservatives may have decided not to get involved in the issue now.  In short, the liberals had nothing to lose by waiting, and both side face uncertainty about Justice Kennedy’s position on the issue.

To understand where were are today with same-sex marriage a timetable is helpful.

  • On Sunday, 19 states recognized same-sex marriage.
  • On Monday, 11 more states were added from the Fourth (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) Seventh (Wisconsin and Indiana) and Tenth Circuits (Utah, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming).
  • On Tuesday 5 more states were added when the Ninth Circuit (Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, and Montana) struck down the Idaho and Nevada same-sex marriage bans.  (Implementation of this decision is still being worked out).

Technically, Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Second Circuit

  • Raspardo v. Carlone, No. 12-1686 (Oct. 6, 2014): In 1983 Title VII employment discrimination case brought by female police officers alleging hostile work environment and disparate treatment, the court affirmed denial of qualified immunity for one officer on hostile-work-environment claim, and reversed denial of qualified immunity for other officers.
  • Sunrise Detox V, LLC v. City of White Plains, No. 13-2911 (Oct. 2, 2014): In case in which  City denied request for facility to provide care for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse because facility did not satisfy zoning requirements, the court affirmed district court’s determination that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over ADA suit. Suit was not ripe because applicant had not sought variance or appealed the zoning decision.
  • Grogan v. Blooming Grove Volunteer Ambulance Corps, No. 13-656 (Sept. 29, 2014): The court affirmed dismissal of 1983 action after it determined that private emergency medical care and general ambulance services contracted for by municipality do not constitute “state action.”

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Long Conference Results Are In!

Last Monday’s Supreme Court “long conference” did not disappoint.  The Supreme Court granted a total of 11 petitions.Supreme Court3  At least four of those cases are relevant to local government.

Housing discrimination.  For the third time the Court has accepted a case involving this issue of whether disparate-impact (as opposed to disparate treatment) claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  It remains to be seen if Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project will settle like its predecessors, Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Citizens in Action and Magner v. Gallagher.  The 11 federal circuits that have decided this issue have all held that disparate-impact claims are actionable.  The Supreme Court is expected to rule to the contrary.  Local government have been sued for disparate impact under the FHA and have sued other entities.

Fourth Amendment search.  In its second Fourth Amendment case of the term, Rodriguez v. United States, the Court will decide whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by extending (for just a few minutes) an already-completed traffic stop for a dog sniff.  The Eighth Circuit held the search in this case was reasonable.  The police officer waited seven or eight minutes after the traffic stop was completed before deploying his sniffer dog because he wanted backup given that there were two people in the stopped car.

Employment discriminationContinue reading

 

Ninth Circuit: City’s Pioneering Drug-Disposal Ordinance Does Not Violate Commerce Clause

If your medicine cabinet is filled with old prescriptions and other medications that you no longer want or can use, you might have asked: how and where should I get rid of these? Pills

Local governments are beginning to provide an answer. Old medications are not only misused, they also pose dangers for the environment. Flushing pills or putting them in the trash can contaminate drinking water and cause other environmental problems.

But disposal programs can be expensive. What’s a local government to do?

Alameda County, California, devised a solution. It passed a Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance that requires any prescription drug producer who sells, offers for sale, or distributes drugs in the County to participate in a program to collect and dispose of the County’s unwanted drugs.

Manufacturers and distributors objected, however. They claimed that requiring them to pay for the program violates the dormant Commerce Clause because it discriminates against or directly regulates interstate commerce. Are they right?

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit said that the program does not violate the Commerce Clause.

The court ruled that Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here is last week’s one published decision involving a local government:court collumn

Seventh Circuit

Image courtesy of Flickr from Ken Lund (creative-commons license, no changes made).

(Sept. 22, 2014-Sept. 26, 2014)

 

The Supreme Court and Simple Math

Its simple math.  Really.  But will the Supreme Court do it?  The Eleventh Circuit refused.

The question in Alabama Department of Revenue v. CSX Transportation is whether a state discriminates against rail carriers in violation of federal law even when rail carriers pay less in total state taxes than motor carriers?  No, argues the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) in an amicus brief.  Forty-two states exempt motor carriers from sales tax on diesel fuel.  This case is relevant to local government because a number of cities and counties in Alabama impose an additional sales tax on railroad diesel fuel.calc

Rail carriers (railroads) in Alabama pay a four percent sales tax on diesel fuel.  Motor carriers (trucks) pay an excise tax of 19-cents per gallon and no sales tax.  The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4-R) prohibits state and local governments from imposing taxes that discriminate against railroads.  Since CSX filed its complaint, railroads paid less in sales tax than trucks paid in excise tax.  But, the Eleventh Circuit refused to compare the total taxation of railroads and trucks to avoid the “Sisyphean burden of evaluating the fairness of the State’s overall tax structure.”  Instead it concluded Alabama’s sales tax on railroads violates 4-R because Alabama’s competitors don’t pay it.

The SLLC brief argues that given state’s traditional power to tax the Court should interpret 4-R narrowly.   The brief suggests the Court could take three approaches to rule in favor of Alabama. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

  • United Pet Supply, Inc. v. City of Chattanooga, No. 13-5181 (Sept. 18, 2014): The court found that: (i) private animal-welfare employee that contracted with City may not assert qualified immunity; (ii) officers may not assert qualified-immunity defense to “official capacity” suits; (iii) seizure of animals without prior hearing did not violate procedural due process; (iv) revocation of permit without hearing did violate due process; (v) that warrantless animal seizure did not violate Fourth Amendment because of exigent circumstances; and (vi) seizure of records without warrant violated clearly established Fourth-Amendment right and therefore officer was not entitled to qualified immunity.
  • Finn v. Warren County, No. 13-6629 (Sept. 16, 2014): In action alleging inadequte medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment and state law claims including negligence after Finn died in his cell, the court reversed grant of summary judgment for officer, remanded for trial on negligence claim, and otherwise affirmed judgment below.

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Make It Easy

An appellant has the opportunity to make it easy for the appellate panel to locate the relevant documents in the record.  GavelIf you have the responsibility to create part of the record, select a page numbering system that makes sense so no pages have the same number.  Create a meaningful index to the record.  For example, if a document has an odd or misleading title, provide that title and, in brackets] a few accurate, neutral, descriptive words.  Identify the declarant or witness if that information is not in the title.  Provide copies of the index in the brief and in each volume of the record, marking which documents are in which volume.

Cite to the record for every point.  Dominguez v. Financial Indemnity Co., 183 Cal.App.4th 388, 392 n.2 (2010) (“because FIC’s brief fails to provide a citation to the appellate record for these facts, we do not consider them”); AdvanceMe, Inc. v. Finley, 275 Ga. App. 415, 620 S.E.2d 655, 657 (2005) (“It is not the function of this court to cull the record on behalf of a party”).  It almost goes without saying that you should cite accurately to the page with the relevant material.  Scott v. Bank of America, 292 Ga. App. 34 , 663 SE 2d 386, 387 (2008) (“while the parties cite to the appellate record, many of the page numbers cited are incorrect”).  Cite to the record by page and line, if the lines are numbered, even if that specificity is not required.  Skinner v. State, 83 Nev. 380, 432 P.2d 675, 384 & n.4 (1967); Anderson v. Meyer Broadcasting Co., 630 N.W.2d 46, 50 (N.D. 2001).  Cite by page and paragraph or use terms like “start,” “middle,” and “end” if there are no line numbers. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Ninth Circuit

Eleventh Circuit

  • West v. Davis, No. 13-14805 (Sept. 8, 2014): The court found that district court improperly granted summary judgment for security guard in case in which West challenged the actions of a security guard at courthouse security checkpoint; district court should have applied standard for “seizures” under the Fourth Amendment.

D.C. Circuit Continue reading

 

Supreme Court and Local Governments: What Will the Court Accept Next?

While the Supreme Court’s next term officially begins on October 6, its “long conference” is September 29.  At this conference the Court will review a backlog of petitions that have been piling up over the summer.  SCOTUSblog complies a list of petitions that it thinks have a reasonable chance of being granted.  Eight of the petitions the Court will consider either during the “long conference” or at a later conference directly involve or impact local governments.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n

Public nuisance.  A Brighton, Michigan, ordinance presumes that an unsafe structure will be demolished as a public nuisance if the cost of repairing it exceeds its value.  The owner has no right to repair the structure.  Brighton property owners wanted to repair two unsafe structures even though Brighton estimated it would cost almost double the property value do so.  In Bonner v. City of Brighton, Michigan, the property owners claim the ordinance violates substantive and procedural due process.

Employment.  Under federal employment law to bring a discrimination claim a plaintiff must prove that an “adverse action” occurred, and to bring a retaliation claim a plaintiff must prove a “materially adverse action” occurred.  The question in Kalamazoo County Road Commission v. Deleon is whether either can be proven when an employer grants an employee’s request for a job transfer (and the new position turns out to be less desirable than the old position).  The International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) filed an amicus brief in this case. Continue reading

 

Use Block Quotes Carefully and Sparingly

Format selected block quotes for easy reading. Many readers find the dense text of standard block quotes tiresome enough to read that they may skip over the blocks entirely. Istvan & Ricks, Top 10 Ways to Write a Bad Brief, N.J. Law. (2006).  Add extra leading between the lines to reduce that tendency. If there are paragraphs in the block quote, retain that formatting fountain peninstead of substituting a paragraph mark.

Choose block quotes carefully and sparingly.  Judge Alex Kozinski remarked: “Whenever I see a block quote I figure the lawyer had to go to the bathroom and forgot to turn off the merge/store function on his computer.” Kozinski, The Wrong Stuff, B.Y.U.L. Rev. 325, 329 (1992). Given the danger that long block quotes may not be read, paraphrase the less critical material to shorten the block.  Write the lead in to the block to reveal its importance.  If the block is important because it states the three elements of this or the five tests for that—then add letters or numerals in brackets or otherwise format to assist the reader.  Although a textual repetition of the content immediately following the block is likely to offend the reader, the points can be worked into the text at a later opportunity. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Sixth Circuit

Eighth Circuit Continue reading

 

Baby Steps

One successful approach to the preparation of opening briefs is to assume the court knows nothing of the subject and is uncomfortable making a decision that no judge has made before.  Each step in the argument must then be accompanied by citation to relevant precedent reflecting the wisdom of the that step and, overall, of the decision you seek.  The key is to 8122523_ab151ea98b_zidentify the right starting place and the steps required to travel from the starting point to the desired end, avoiding the tendency to slide over or combine them.

Briefs using this model should provide all forms of authority needed to convince the judge to take the next step.  Possible evidentiary issues need to be resolved; substantive questions need to be answered or shown to be inapplicable.  As each step is explained and answered, the next step can be introduced and its issues and questions answered.  At the end, the table of contents alone can walk the reader through the points to the desired ruling.

Once the steps are identified, the writer may elect to address evidentiary issues as a group, at the beginning or end of the brief.  Alternatively, a writer may prefer to brief all issues presented by one step before turning to the next step.  No matter which technique is adopted, work on later steps will often turn up cases and points that can strengthen the earlier steps.  As work progresses, a single step may be perceived as comprising several steps, requiring additional reworking. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • Town of Johnston v. Fed. Housing Finance Agency, No. 13-2034 (Aug. 27, 2014): The court affirmed the dismissal of the municipalities’ claim that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed to pay taxes on property transfers; the court found that statutory exemptions from taxation applied. As the court put it: “Six other circuits have recently considered this attempt to shoe-horn a transfer tax into a real property tax, and they have unanimously rejected the argument.”

Second Circuit

Third Circuit Continue reading

 

IMLA Files Brief in Wyatt v. Gonzalez

On Friday, IMLA filed its brief in Wyatt v. Gonzalez,judicial bench a petition stage Supreme Court case, which involves a question of whether immaterial discrepancies in a police officer’s recollection of a stressful event amounted to a “genuine issue for trial” where the plaintiff offered no contradictory evidence.  In this case, the police officer was trapped inside a vehicle controlled by someone who had already committed several dangerous felonies.  The officer shot and killed the driver of the van, after he resisted verbal commands and non-lethal force.  The plaintiffs did not dispute that the driver of the van “stomped” on the accelerator with the officer trapped inside.  Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit ruled that summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claim was inappropriate because the parties disputed how fast the van was traveling at the time the officer employed deadly force.

IMLA’s brief argues that the Ninth Circuit’s focus on the speed of the van is misguided, as that particular fact is not material for the purposes of the summary judgment analysis.  Continue reading

 

Can You Hear Me Now? If Not, Read This

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. CellTower The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief, which IMLA joined, argues it does.

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.

After a hearing, where city councilmembers stated various reasons for why they were going to vote against the application, Roswell sent T-Mobile a brief letter saying the application was denied and that T-Mobile could obtain hearing minutes from the city clerk. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Apologies that this edition is delayed. I was tied up with a significant filing for the past week. The courts were busy too. Here are the last two weeks’ published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

First Circuit

  • Penn v. Escorsio, No. 13-2309 (Aug. 22, 2014): The court affirmed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage to corrections officers alleged to be deliberately indifferent to risk that detainee could commit suicide.  The court found that the issues presented on appeal were purely factual, and the court had no jurisdiction to decide them on interlocutory appeal.

Second Circuit Continue reading

 

People v. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. et al

[Editor’s Note: My colleague, Gary Schons, contributed this post. We hope to have more posts from Gary in the future. –Matt Schettenhelm]

One thing common to all appellate lawyers— they love to appeal.Gavel But, as all appellate lawyers know, the right to appeal is fixed by statute. (Trede v. Superior Court (1943) 21 Cal.2d 630.) Thus, our ability to practice our craft is dependent on the leave granted by the legislature. In this case, the issue before a California appellate court was whether a specific provision of the anti-SLAPP statute granting the right to an immediate appeal of an order granting or denying a special motion is effectively nullified by a separate provision of the statute making it wholly inapplicable to enforcement actions brought by state, county or city prosecutors. As the appellate court noted in the preamble to its decision, this issue was “thoroughly briefed,” and perhaps ominously, oral argument was “vigorous indeed.” I’ll bet it was. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Preview for Local Governments

Even though the Supreme Court’s next term won’t officially begin until October 6, the Court has already accepted about 40 of the 70 or so cases it will decide in the upcoming months.

For a more detailed summary of all the cases the Court has accepted so far affecting local government, read the State and Local Legal Center’s Supreme Court Preview for Local Governments.Supreme Court3

Here is a quick highlight of what is on the Court’s docket right now that will affect local government: Continue reading

 

IMLA Files Amicus Brief in Schultz v. Wescom

On Monday, IMLA filed its brief in Schultz v. Wescom, a petition stage Supreme Court case, which involves a question of whether a municipality/police officer may immediately appeal a decision by a district court to defer the issue of qualified immunity until NinthCircuitthe completion of discovery.  The Ninth Circuit held on appeal that there is no appellate jurisdiction of a rule 56(d) deferral for a limited time to conduct discovery as it does not amount to a denial of qualified immunity. The Circuit Courts are split on this question with the Seventh and Ninth Circuits holding that such a decision is not appealable on an interlocutory basis, while the majority of the other Circuit Courts hold that such a decision is immediately appealable.

IMLA’s brief argues that the purpose of qualified immunity is to shield officers from the costs of having to go through the litigation process, particularly costly discovery, and the Ninth and Seventh Circuits’ approach effectively denies police officers in those jurisdictions the benefits of qualified immunity and goes against Supreme Court precedent.  To read IMLA’s amicus brief in this case click here.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Ken Lund (creative-commons license, no changes made).

 

IMLA Files Amicus Brief in City of Newport Beach v. Pacific Shores Properties, LLC

On Monday, IMLA filed its brief in City of Newport Beach v. Pacific Shores Properties, LLC, a petition stage Supreme Court case, which involves questions of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, the issue before the Supreme Court is whether a disparate-treatment claim under the FHA and/or the8122523_ab151ea98b_z ADA that challenges a facially nondiscriminatory law on the ground that the law nevertheless intentionally discriminates on the basis of disability can prevail absent proof of discriminatory effects.

In this case, the Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiffs had created a triable issue of fact as to whether the City had violated the ADA and FHA when it enacted the zoning ordinance restricting the areas of the City in which group homes for recovering addicts, as well as other group residential living facilities, can be located. According to the Ninth Circuit, Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Fourth Circuit

  • Cherry v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City, No. 13-1007 (Aug. 6, 2014): In case brought by active and retired Baltimore police officers and fire fighters who participate in City’s pension plan, reversing district court’s decision that the City had violated the Contract Clause and affirming that the City had not violated the Takings Clause by changing how it calcualtes pension benefits.

Fifth Circuit

  • Thompson v. Mercer, No. 13-10773 (Aug. 7, 2014): In 1983 action against officer who shot and killed individual who had stolen vehicle and led police on a two-hour, high-speed chase, affirming grant of qualified immunity to officer because use of deadly force was not a constitutional violation.
  • Sullo & Bobbitt v. Milner, No. 13-10869 (Aug. 6, 2014): In unpublished decision, affirming dismissal of case brought by attorneys claiming First-Amendment right to access misdemeanor court records within one day of their filing.

Continue reading

 

Overtaxed? The SLLC and IMLA File Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Comptroller v. Wynne

Every Supreme Court tax case comes down to an argument perhaps most familiar to small children6355404323_cf97f9c58e:

“It isn’t fair.”

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)/International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) amicus brief in Comptroller v. Wynne argues that the tax policy choice the Maryland legislature made is fair (or at least fair enough) and that state and local governments should be able to devise tax schemes without judicial interference.

In Comptroller v. Wynne the Supreme Court will determine whether the U.S. Constitution requires states to give a credit for taxes paid on income earned out-of-state.

Continue reading

 

Legal Ethics Resources

Substantial information on legal ethics is available on the Internet, including:

  • http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/research/guides/legal_ethics.cfm, a broad-based Legal Ethics Research Guide offered by Georgetown Law Library with links to substantial material. Many of the links are to Lexis and Westlaw, but there is an extensive list of available resources, and some Internet links.legal ethics
  • http://legalethics.com/, which focuses on a variety of specific topics, including ethical walls, blogs, ethical issues associated with use of technology by legal professionals, use of the cloud, and a state by state directory.
  • http://www.freivogelonconflicts.com/, described as “A Guide to Conflicts of Interest for Lawyers,” which gathers material into multiple topics such as Co-Counsel/Common Interest, Corporate Families, Enjoining Conflicts, Investing in Clients/Stock for Fees, Lawyers Representing Lawyers.

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:Alexandria-court

Second Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:

SCT stairs[Update: I added the Ninth Circuit’s Daubert decision. (7/31)]
Second Circuit

Carter v. Inc. Vill. of Ocean Beach, No. 13-815 (July 21, 2014): Affirming award of attorney’s fees to County defendants in case brought by former police officers alleging wrongful termination and defamation.

Cox v. Onondaga Sheriff’s Dept., No. 12-1526 (July 23, 2014): Affirming dismissal of complaint alleging Title VII retaliation for racial-harassment claims.

Reyes v. New York City Dept. of Ed., No. 13-158 (July 25, 2014): Finding that under IDEA, proposed IEP and school placement failed to provide student with free appropriate public education.

Fourth Circuit Continue reading

 

Not Represented by the Same Counsel in This Court

Trial and appellate counsel may differ for a variety of reasons, not all of which reflect poorly on one or the other.Gavel  On occasion, however, trial counsel may have acted so unprofessionally or ignorantly as to be the target of strong remarks by the appellate court.  In this case, the appellate court should and often does inform readers of its decision that the same attorney did not appear in both courts. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:judicial bench

First Circuit

Merit Construction Alliance v. City of Quincy, No. 13-2189 (July 16, 2014): The court concluded that the district court: (1) properly determined that ERISA preempts a City ordinance mandating a specific apprentice-training program; and (2) erred by awarding attorney’s fees under ERISA’s fee-shifting statute.

Third Circuit

Batchelor v. Rose Tree Media Sch. Dist., No. 13-2192 (July 17, 2014): The court found that retaliation claims related to enforcement under the Indviduals with Disabilities in Education Act must be exhausted before a court may assert subject-matter jurisdiction. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Didn’t Overrule Abood

Supreme Court cases are usually known for what they hold.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n  Harris v. Quinn will forever be known for what it did not hold.  The Court did not overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 35-year old precedent that is a cornerstone of public sector collective bargaining.  But it certainly foreshadowed its demise.

In Harris v. Quinn the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from home health care providers who do not wish to join or support a union.  Continue reading

 

Birth Control Mandate Case Also a Land Use Case?

As usual, on the last day of the Supreme Court’s term it released its opinion in the biggest case of the term:  Burwell v. Hobby LobbyGavel The Court held 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as applied to closely held corporations.

Though not obvious, this case may have a significant impact on land use regulation.  For this reason, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief, which Justice Ginsburg quoted in her dissenting opinion. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments, a couple days late this week:Alexandria-court

Second Circuit

E.M. v. New York City Dept. of Ed., No. 11-1427 (July 11, 2014) (in IDEA case, concluding that district court improperly concluded that IEP was adequate by relying on retrospective evidence extrinsic to the IEP).

Fourth Circuit

Lefemine v. Wideman, No. 13-1629 (July 11, 2014) (reversing determination that successful plaintiff in 1983 First-Amendment case was not entitled to attorney’s fees). Continue reading

 
 
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