Archives: IMLA Briefs

South Dakota Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Accept Sales Tax Case

South Dakota has filed a petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to its law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax.

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

In March 2015, Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors.

Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed legislation requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In September the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule it.  Continue reading

 

SLLC Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Statute of Limitations Case Involving a City

Federalism cases raise legal issues big and small, pedestrian and esoteric.

The very simple question in Artis v. District of Columbia is what does it mean for a statute of limitations to “toll” under 28 U.S.C 1367(d)? The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed a Supreme Court amicus brief agreeing with the District of Columbia’s interpretation of “toll.”

A year after the fact, Stephanie Artis sued the District of Columbia in federal court bringing a number of federal and state law claims related to her termination as a code inspector. It took the federal district court over two and a half years to rule on her claims. It dismissed her sole federal claim as “facially deficient” and no longer had jurisdiction to decide the state law claims.

28 U.S.C 1367(d) states that statutes of limitations for state law claims pending in federal court shall be “tolled” for a period of 30 days after they are dismissed (unless state law provides a longer tolling period).

While Artis was waiting for the federal district court to rule, the three-year statutes of limitations on all her state law claims passed. She waited 59 days to re-file her claims in state court after the federal district court dismissed her case.

Was her claim timely? The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held no.   Continue reading

 

SLLC Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Voter Roll Maintenance Case

Maintaining accurate voter rolls means walking a fine line.

 In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute the Supreme Court will decide whether federal law allows states and local governments to remove people from the voter rolls if the state or local government sends them a confirmation notice after they haven’t voted for two years, they don’t respond to the notice, and then they don’t vote in the next four years.

 While Ohio is being sued in this case, twelve other states use a similar process. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case supporting Ohio.

 The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) says that roll maintenance procedures “shall not result in” people being removed from the polls for failure to vote. The Help America Vote Act modified the NVRA to say that states may remove voters if they don’t respond to a confirmation notice and don’t vote in the next two federal election cycles. Continue reading

 

States and Local Governments Win Takings Case

Good news for local governments with “merger” ordinances: you can keep them on the books.

 It has been a number of years since states and local governments have won a property rights case. But in Murr v. Wisconsin the Supreme Court concluded 5-3 that no taking occurred where state law and local ordinances “merged” nonconforming, adjacent lots under common ownership, meaning the property owners could not sell one of the lots by itself. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC), filed an amicus brief, which the Court cited two times, arguing that these very common provisions are constitutional. 

 The Murrs owned contiguous lots E and F, which together are .98 acres. Lot F contained a cabin and lot E was undeveloped. State law and a St. Croix County merger ordinance prohibit the individual development or sale of adjacent lots under common ownership that are less than one acre total. A grandfather clause allows for the sale and development of separately owned substandard lots purchased before the statute and ordinance went into effect.

     The Murrs sought and were denied a variance to sell Lot E to finance moving the cabin on Lot F. They claimed the ordinance resulted in an unconstitutional uncompensated taking. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Sex Offender Social Networking Case Relevant to Local Governments

In Packingham v. North Carolina the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a North Carolina law making it a felony for a registered sex offender to access social networking sites where minors can create profiles violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result.

Lester Packingham was charged with violating the North Carolina statute because he praised God on Facebook when a parking ticket was dismissed.

This case may not see particularly relevant to local governments. But, if a statute (or ordinance) limits speech based on content, it is subject to strict (nearly always fatal) scrutiny. In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015), the Supreme Court held that the definition of content-based is very broad.

The SLLC amicus brief argued, among other things, that the North Carolina law isn’t content-based, contrary to the opinion of a dissenting North Carolina Supreme Court judge. A conviction under the statute does not turn on the content of the speech; it turns on whether sex offenders have accessed websites where minors can maintain profiles.

The Supreme Court assumed the statute was content-neutral but held that it is too broad to withstand even less rigorous intermediate scrutiny. So, practically speaking, the Supreme Court didn’t expand or clarify the definition of content-based in Packingham.   Continue reading

 

State and Local Governments Win Excessive Force Police Case

No matter the legal issue, excessive forces cases are difficult for state and local governments to win because they often involve injury or death (in this case of a totally innocent person). To win one unanimously likely says something about the problematic nature of the legal theory.

In County of Los Angeles v. Mendez the Supreme Court rejected the “provocation rule,” where police officers using reasonable force may be liable for violating the Fourth Amendment because they committed a separate Fourth Amendment violation that contributed to their need to use force. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reject the Ninth Circuit’s provocation rule.

Police officers entered the shack Mendez was living in without a warrant and unannounced. Mendez thought the officers were the property owner and picked up the BB gun he used to shoot rats so he could stand up. When the officers saw the gun, they shot him resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that the use of force in this case was reasonable. But it concluded the officers were liable per the provocation rule–the officers brought about the shooting by entering the shack without a warrant. (The Ninth Circuit granted the officers qualified immunity for failing to knock-and-announce themselves.) The Ninth Circuit also concluded that provocation rule aside, the officers were liable for causing the shooting because it was “reasonably foreseeable” that the officers would encounter an armed homeowner when they “barged into the shack unannounced.”  Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Tentatively Allows City Claims Against Banks for Discriminatory Lending to Proceed

The glass is more than half full after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bank of America v. Miami , but not as full as local governments would like. The Supreme Court could have completely shut down local government lawsuits against banks for discriminatory lending practices—but it didn’t. The Supreme Court also could have made it easier for local governments to prove these cases—but it didn’t.

In Bank of America v. Miami , the Supreme Court held 5-3 that local governments have “standing” to bring Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuits against banks alleging discriminatory lending practices. But to win these claims local governments must show that their injuries were more than merely foreseeable. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case on the side of the City of Miami.    Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Rules Statute Banning Credit-Card Surcharges Regulates Speech

Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman is the Supreme Court’s first First Amendment free speech ruling since Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015), where the Supreme Court defined content-based speech very broadly and held it is subject to strict (usually fatal) scrutiny. The Court didn’t cite to Reed in its opinion in this newly decided case.

The Court held unanimously that a New York statute prohibiting vendors from advertising a single price, and a statement that credit card customers must pay more, regulates speech under the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing this law doesn’t violate the First Amendment because it regulates conduct rather than speech.

When customers pay with a credit card, merchants must pay a transaction fee to the credit card company. Some merchants want to pass this fee along to credit card customers. But a New York statute states that “[n]o seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a [credit card] holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means.” Twelve states have adopted credit-card surcharge bans. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS to Decide Whether Intervenors Must Have Standing

The Supreme Court accepts all kinds of cases involving states and local governments. Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates involves a long, complicated story and legal issue.

Steven Sherman sued the Town of Chester alleging an unconstitutional taking as the town refused to approve a subdivision on plots of land Sherman intended to sell to Laroe Estates. Laroe Estates advanced Sherman money for the land in exchange for a mortgage on the property. Sherman defaulted on a loan to a senior mortgage holder who foreclosed on the property.

Laroe Estates, claiming to be the owner of the property, sought to “intervene” in the takings lawsuit. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure grant the right to intervene to non-parties who “claim an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant’s ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.” 

The district court concluded that Laroe Estates lacked Article III “standing” under the U.S. Constitution to assert a takings claim against the Town. Laroe Estates argued that it was a “contract vendee” of the Sherman property. According to the district court, under longstanding circuit court precedent “contract vendees lack standing to assert a takings claim.”

The question the Supreme Court will decide in Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates is whether Laroe Estates may intervene in this case even though it lacks standing.

Continue reading

 

Federal Agency Deference: SLLC Argues Less is More

If the war to overturn Chevron v. NRDC (1984) is to be won, many battles will probably have to be won first.

 While overturning Chevron is not on the table in Coventry Health Care of Missouri v. Nevils, limiting it is. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) asked the Court in its amicus brief to rule that Chevron deference does not apply when an agency is construing the scope of a statute’s preemption provision, absent Congress’s assent.  

 In Chevron v. NRDC the Supreme Court held that courts should defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes. States and local governments generally prefer that courts not defer to federal agency regulations because this deference gives federal agencies a lot of power.  Continue reading

 

SLLC Supreme Court Amicus Brief Urges Favorable First Amendment Ruling for Local Governments

In Packingham v. North Carolina the Supreme Court will hopefully refine its holding in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015) in a way favorable to local governments.

The issue the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether a North Carolina statute prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing social networking websites where they know minors can create or maintain a profile violates the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief argues this law does not violate the First Amendment.

Continue reading

 

SLLC Supreme Court Amicus Brief Urges Supreme Court to Pull the Plug on the Provocation Rule

Los Angeles County v. Mendez poses a simple question:  Should police officers be liable for the use of reasonable force (when they have done something they should not have).

In its amicus brief the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) asks the Supreme Court to reject the “provocation” rule, under which any time a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment and violence ensues, the officer will be personally liable for money damages for the resulting physical injuries.

 In Los Angeles County v. Mendez everyone agrees police officers used reasonable force when they shot Angel Mendez. As officers entered, unannounced, the shack where Mendez was staying they saw a silhouette of Mendez pointing what looked like a rifle at them.  Mendez kept a BB gun in his bed to shoot rats when they entered the shack. Mendez claimed that when the officers entered the shack he was in the process of moving the BB gun so he could sit up in bed. The officers shot Mendez. Continue reading

 

SLLC Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Credit Card Swipe Fees Case

Is a Price Speech?

Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, like most First Amendment cases, is about much more than its mere facts, here disallowing retailers to pass on credit-card swipe fees to consumers. It raises a more fundamental question over what exactly is speech.

The question the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether state “no-surcharge” laws that prohibit vendors from charging more to credit-card customers but allows them to charge less to cash customers violate the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief argues these laws don’t violate the First Amendment because they regulate conduct rather than speech. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Internet Sales Tax Case

The Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving the question of whether a Colorado law requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue is unconstitutional. As is always the case, the Supreme Court gave no reason for denying the petition.

In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, decided in 1992, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. In 2010 the Colorado legislature passed the law described above to improve sales tax collection. The Direct Marketing Association sued Colorado claiming the law unconstitutionally discriminates against interstate commerce and is unconstitutional under Quill.    Continue reading

 

Ohio Supreme Court Refuses to Extend Quill to a Business-Privilege Tax

In Crutchfield v. Testa the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio’s commercial activity tax (CAT) applies to online vendors even if they lack a physical presence in the state. More technically, the court refused to extend the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax, to Ohio’s privilege-of-doing-business tax.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of this result. Continue reading

 

State and Local Legal Center Urges Supreme Court to Wait for Right Internet Sales Tax Case

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court to not hear a case arguing that a Colorado law requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue is unconstitutional.

Continue reading

 

Cities v. Big Banks: Supreme Court to Pick the Winner

Trouble over phantom accounts isn’t the only problem Wells Fargo is currently facing. Cities have sued Wells Fargo and Bank of America for reverse redlining (lending to equally qualified minorities on less favorable terms than whites).

In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Wells Fargo v. City of Miami and Bank of America v. City of Miami the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues that Miami, and other cities across the country, should have “standing” to sue banks under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) for economic harm caused to cities by discriminatory lending practices. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS to Decide when State and Local Governments Must Police Private Actor Compliance with the ADA

If complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is difficult, it is even more difficult to ensure that another entity is complying as well. In Ivy v. Morath the Supreme Court will decide when state and local governments are responsible for ensuring that a private actor complies with the ADA. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues they should be responsible when the private actor may fairly be said to be implementing a service, program, or activity of the public entity itself. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS to Decide Whether Fourth Amendment Malicious Prosecution Claims are Possible

What does a litigant do when the statute of limitations has run on his or her best claim?  Get creative, of course, especially when the Supreme Court has left the door open.

Elijah Manuel was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance even though a field test indicated his pills weren’t illegal drugs. About six weeks after his arrest he was released when a state crime laboratory test cleared him.   Continue reading

 

Is Merger Doomed: SCOTUS to Decide

Whoever thought up merger probably long ago gave up worrying if it was unconstitutional, if they even ever thought about it. But now that person (and numerous cities, counties, and states) have reason to worry.

In Murr v. Wisconsin the Supreme Court will decide whether merger provisions in state law and local ordinances, where nonconforming, adjacent lots under common ownership are combined for zoning purposes, may result in the unconstitutional taking of property. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that these very common provisions are constitutional. 

Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Rules Against the Corp In (Small) WOTUS Case

The Supreme Court does not (yet) have the issue of whether the new regulations defining “waters of the United States” exceed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority. In the meantime in United States Army Corp of Engineers v. Hawkes the Court ruled unanimously that an approved jurisdictional determination that property contains “waters of the United States” may be immediately reviewed in court. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing in favor of this result. Continue reading

 

Mistaken Beliefs May Mean Constitutional Claims

Bad facts make bad law. That said, it is hard to imagine a case sympathetic to a public employer where it discharged or dismissed an employee based on its incorrect belief that the employee engaged in constitutionally protected speech. Either way, the case the Supreme Court heard, and ruled against the public employer in, involved a son helping his bedridden mother.

In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey the Supreme Court held 6-2 that a public employer violates the First Amendment when it acts on a mistaken belief that an employee engaged in First Amendment protected political activity. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief taking the opposite position.  Continue reading

 
 

SCOTUS Rules Accused Criminals May Keep Untainted Asset to Pay Attorney

In a 6-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel includes allowing a criminal defendant to use untainted substitute assets to hire an attorney, rather than freezing them for forfeiture to the government after conviction.

 The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result in Luis v. United States. State and local governments—police departments in particular—receive criminal asset forfeitures. Any many state forfeiture statutes allow freezing of substitute assets. Continue reading

 
 

California Supreme Court protects attorney-client privileged documents from inadvertent disclosure under Public Records Act

This morning, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited Opinion in Ardon v. City of Los Angeles, holding inadvertent disclosure of attorney-client privileged documents in response to a Public Records Act request does not waive the privilege. Continue reading

 

State and Local Legal Center Files First Supreme Court Amicus Certiorari Petition

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has made history and IMLA has been a part of it. For the first time ever, SLLC has asked the Supreme Court to accept and decide a case. IMLA joined the SLLC brief. The SLLC is asking the Court to hear United Student Aid Funds v. Bible and overturn Auer deference to federal agencies.   Continue reading

 

Unfair or Unconstitutional? The Supreme Court to Decide

You can’t make this stuff up. Really. But that doesn’t mean it is unconstitutional.

 In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court amicus brief argues that a government employer’s perception that an employee has exercised his or her First Amendment rights cannot be the basis for a First Amendment retaliation lawsuit. 

 Officer Heffernan was assigned to a detail in the Office of Chief of Police. He was reassigned after he was seen picking up a campaign sign for the current police chief’s opponent.

 The First Amendment protects non-policymaking public employees who support a candidate in an election. Officer Heffernan maintains that he was in no way involved with the police chief race. The sign wasn’t for himself; it was for his bedridden mother.

 Officer Heffernan’s claims he was retaliated against based on the City’s perception he was exercising his First Amendment free association rights. He points to lower court precedent holding that public employees may bring First Amendment retaliation claims if an adverse employment action is taken because they remain politically neutral or silent. Continue reading

 

Sue Me: If You Can?

Some Supreme Court case are epic because they are important. Other cases are epic because they have been litigated for decades. Depending on how the Court rules, Hyatt II may be important for both reasons.

Gilbert Hyatt’s dispute with the California Franchise Tax Board began in the early 1990s. The Supreme Court decided one issue in his case in the early 2000s. The stakes in Hyatt II are high not just for Hyatt but for all states.

 In 1993 the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) of California audited Gilbert Hyatt following a newspaper article reporting he made a lot of money patenting a computer chip. Hyatt’s 1991 tax return indicated he lived in California for only nine months and relocated to Nevada. FTB concluded that Hyatt moved to Nevada in 1992 and assessed him $10.5 million in taxes and interest. Continue reading

 

Raisin Takings Case: What’s in it for Local Governments?

Same-sex marriage, Affordable Care Act, raisins. What do these three have in common?  The Supreme Court has recently issued a ruling regarding each of them.

In Horne v. Department of Agriculture the Supreme Court held 8-1 that the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause by physically setting aside a percentage of a grower’s raisin crop each year without pay. At least six other agriculture set aside programs are in trouble as a result of this case. But what about its impact on state and local government?

Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Rules Against Jails in Excessive Force Case

In Kingsley v. Hendrickson the Supreme Court held 5-4 that to prove an excessive force claim a pretrial detainee must show that the officer’s force was objectively unreasonable, rejecting the subjectively unreasonable standard that is more deferential to law enforcement. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing for a subjective standard. As a result of this ruling it will be easier for pretrial detainees to bring successful excessive force claims against corrections officers.   Continue reading

 

Unconstitutional: Hotel Registry Ordinances and Statutes

While cities are rewriting their sign codes, per the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona they should check to see if they have a hotel registry ordinance.  If they do, it will need some rewriting too.

In City of Los Angeles v. Patel the Supreme Court held 5-4 that a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel and motel operators to make their guest registries available to police without at least a subpoena violates the Fourth Amendment. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Scalia cites to the State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief, which notes that local governments in at least 41 states have adopted similar ordinances. Eight states also have hotel registry statutes:  Indiana, Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.  Continue reading

 

Supreme Court’s Sign Case May Require Altering Sign Codes Nationwide

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert the Supreme Court held unanimously that Gilbert’s Sign Code, which treats various categories of signs differently based on the information they convey, violates the First Amendment. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing that Reed’s argument, if adopted by the Court, will render sign codes unconstitutional nationwide.

Gilbert’s Sign Code treats temporary directional signs less favorably (in terms of size, location, duration, etc.) than political signs and ideological signs.

Content-based laws are only constitutional if they pass strict scrutiny—that is, if they are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.

While the SLLC argued in its amicus brief that the sign categories in this case are based on function, the Court concluded they are based on content. The various categories draw distinctions based on the message a speaker conveys. So under Gilbert’s sign code: “[i]f a sign informs its reader of the time and place a book club will discuss John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, that sign will be treated differently from a sign expressing the view that one should vote for one of Locke’s followers in an upcoming election, and both signs will be treated differently from a sign expressing an ideological view rooted in Locke’s theory of government.” Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Rules Maryland May Not Double Tax

In a 5-4 decision in Comptroller v. Wynne the Supreme Court held that Maryland’s failure to offer residents a full credit against income taxes paid to other states is unconstitutional. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC)/International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) filed an amicus brief in support of Maryland.

Maryland taxes residents’ income earned in- and out-of-state. If Maryland residents pay income tax to another state for income earned there, Maryland allows them a credit against Maryland’s “state” tax but not its “county” tax. Maryland also taxes nonresident income earned in the state. Nonresidents pay Maryland “state” tax and a “special nonresident tax” equivalent to Maryland’s lowest “county” tax.

The Wynne’s of Howard County, Maryland, received S-corporation income that was earned and taxed in numerous other states. They challenged Maryland’s failure to allow them to claim a credit against their Maryland county taxes as violating the dormant Commerce Clause, which prevents states from discriminating against or excessively burdening interstate commerce. Continue reading

 

SLLC Files Tenth Circuit Amicus Brief Supporting Colorado’s Effort to Collect Use Tax on Remote Sales

If you know anything about the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) you know that it files amicus briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases affecting state and local government. The SLLC made an exception and filed an amicus brief in a federal circuit court of appeals case because of the importance of the issue to SLLC members.

In Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl the Tenth Circuit will decide whether Colorado’s law requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue is unconstitutional. At least three other states have similar notice and reporting requirements (Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Vermont).    Continue reading

 

SLLC Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Pretrial Detainee Excessive Force Case

Imagine having to operate two jails:  one for pretrial detainees and one for post-conviction detainees.  This could be the practical effect of Kingsley v. Hendrickson, depending on how the Supreme Court rules.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case, which IMLA joined, arguing that the same or similar standard should apply to excessive force claims brought by pretrial detainees and post-conviction detainees to avoid this result. Continue reading

 

SCOTUS Rules No Notice and Comment for Interpretive Rules No Matter What

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 2006 opinion letter in this case.  The Court overturned a nearly 20 year-old precedent from the D.C. Circuit, Paralyzed Veterans of America v. D.C. Arena, which the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argued in an amicus brief that the Court should affirm.  Paralyzed Veterans held that an agency must use APA notice-and-comment when significantly altering an interpretive rule that interprets a legislative rule.  Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Ruling in Railroad 4-R Act Case Mixed for State and Local Government

In Alabama Department of Revenue v. CSX Transportation the Supreme Court held 7-2 that railroads can be compared to their competitors when determining whether a tax is discriminatory in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4-R Act).  Different taxes paid by railroads and their competitors must be compared with determining whether a tax railroads pay is discriminatory.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case disagreeing with the Court’s first holding and agreeing with its second holding.

The 4-R Act prohibits state and local governments from imposing taxes that discriminate against rail carriers (railroads).  Railroads in Alabama pay a four percent sales tax on diesel fuel as do other commercial and industrial purchasers.  Motor carriers (trucks) pay an excise tax of 19-cents per gallon and no sales tax.  Water carriers pay no sales or excise tax on diesel fuel.  Continue reading

 

Justice Kennedy: SCOTUS Should “Reexamine” Quill Decision

There is no way to know for sure why Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.”  But even if you don’t read the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief’s criticism of Quill and merely scan its table of authorities, you will notice that two of the three non-case related citations in Justice Kennedy’s opinion come from the SLLC’s brief. 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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Is Terminating an Employee for His Job-Performance-Related Testimony a Constitutional Violation?

That question arises in Lane v. Franks, No. 13-483, a Supreme Court case in which IMLA and the International Public Management Association have now filed a brief.Supreme Court

The Eleventh Circuit ruled that the termination did not trigger First-Amendment scrutiny:

No one disputes that Lane was acting pursuant to his official duties as CITY’S Director when he investigated Schmitz’s work activities, spoke with Schmitz and other CACC officials about Schmitz’s employment, and ultimately terminated Schmitz’s employment. That Lane testified about his official activities pursuant to a subpoena and in the litigation context, in and of itself, does not bring Lane’s speech within the protection of the First Amendment. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Calls for Further Analysis of Tax Case

This morning, the Supreme Court called for the views of the United States Solicitor General (“CVSG”)SupremeCourt2 on whether the Court should grant cert in Comptroller of the Treasury of Md v. Wynne, No. 13-485. The case concerns how the dormant commerce clause limits local taxation.

The Court uses the CVSG procedure with respect to only about 10 petitions a year. It indicates at least some degree of interest: the chances of a cert-grant increase significantly in such cases.

IMLA and its partners filed the only amicus brief in the case, which we discussed here.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr by Mark Fischer, creative-commons license, no changes made)

 

Can State and Local Governments Establish Buffer Zones? SCOTUS To Decide.

Local governments often establish fixed buffer zones to eliminate congestion and to ensure public safety. Does the First Amendment require a significant change in current local practices?Barricade

Next Wednesday, January 15th, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could address that question. McCullen v. Coakley, No. 12-1168 concerns whether a Massachusetts law that bars entering or remaining within a 35-foot radius of a reproductive-health-care facility violates the First Amendment. The First Circuit upheld the law as a reasonable, content-neutral limit.

Local governments have filed two important amicus curiae briefs in the case.

First, IMLA joined the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a brief urging the Court to respect state and local governments’ need to establish buffer zones to protect public safety. The brief offers a number of examples Continue reading

 

Does the Dormant Commerce Clause Prohibit a State from Taxing All of Its Residents’ Income?

A recent cert petition raises an important question about how the federal Constitution limits State and local taxing authority.

In Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Wynne, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that the dormant Commerce Clause requires every state and subdivision to give its residents a full tax credit for all income taxes that they pay in another state or subdivision. The U.S. Supreme Court has never applied the dormant Commerce Clause to reach that result, and it appears to conflict with cases in other states. Not surprisngly then, the Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury has asked the Supreme Court to take the case.

This week, IMLA joined the United States Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, and the Maryland Association of Counties in filing an amicus brief supporting the petition. The brief argues that the decision violates basic principles of federalism, and is inconsistent with the State’s sovereign powers to tax its residents.

We’ll continue to monitor the case and will bring you any updates.

 

IMLA Joins State Partners To Address Abstention Issue Before Supreme Court

When is it appropriate for a federal court to decide a case that is pending in state court?Supreme Court

On the Supreme Court’s docket is a case that addresses this very issue, giving the Court the chance to once again ponder the limits of the Younger abstention doctrine.

That case, on appeal from the Eighth Circuit, is Sprint Communs. Co., L.P. v. Jacobs, Case No. 12-815.

At issue is whether Younger abstention applies only when the underlying state proceeding is “coercive” or whether it is sometimes appropriate for federal courts to abstain from hearing cases that are “remedial” in nature.  Many cases dealing with Younger abstention have turned on that distinction. But the difference between “coercive” and “remedial” proceedings, and the way courts classify cases as one or the other, is anything but clear-cut.  Indeed, the distinction could turn on whether the government or a private party initiated the action, as “coercive” proceedings are typically described as those that are criminal or quasi-criminal in nature.

Continue reading