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Supreme Court Rules Trademarks Aren’t Government Speech

Local governments don’t particularly care that trademarks aren’t government speech. But they do care about the breadth of the government speech doctrine because government speech is not protected by the First Amendment (meaning governments can say what they want and exclude messages they disagree with).

In Matal v. Tam Justice Alito, writing for the majority, noted that Walker v. Texas (2005) “likely marks the outer bounds of the government-speech doctrine.” In Walker the Court held that messages on specialty license plates are government speech.

Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act bars the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering marks that disparage persons and institutions. Simon Tam named his band The Slants to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of Asian stereotypes. The PTO refused to register the band name concluding a “substantial composite of people” would find it offensive. Tam sued the PTO arguing that Section 2(a) violates the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.

Among other arguments, the Supreme Court rejected the federal government’s claim that trademarks are government speech or a form of government subsidy.

In rejecting the argument that trademarks are government speech, the Court noted that none of the factors present in Walker are present in this case. Specifically, license plates have long been used to convey state messages; are closely identified with the state as they are manufactured, owned, and generally designed by the state; and Texas directly controlled the messages conveyed on specialty plates.

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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

 

Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Partisan Gerrymandering

In Gill v. Whitford the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether and when it is possible to bring a claim that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.

While the Court has repeatedly struck down district maps that rely on racial gerrymandering, it has never ruled that maps drawn to secure partisan advantage are unconstitutional. In 2004, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy – who may be the deciding vote in Whitford – wrote a concurring opinion indicating that partisan gerrymandering could be unconstitutional.

In 2011, Wisconsin legislators redrew state assembly districts to reflect population changes recorded in the 2010 census. Map makers used a model designed to predict the likelihood that various proposed districts would elect a Republican. In the 2015 election, Republican candidates received less than 49% of the statewide vote and won seats in more than 60% of the state’s assembly districts; and, in 2014, 52 percent of the vote yielded 63 seats for Republicans.

The challengers propose a standard for determining the influence of partisan gerrymandering in the district-drawing process. Drawn from a 2015 article written by a University of Chicago law professor and a lawyer for the challengers, the standard is based on “wasted votes”–votes in each district cast for a non-winning party’s candidate. By dividing the difference between the sums of each party’s wasted votes by the total number of votes cast, the proposed standard yields an efficiency gap. Continue reading

 

Travel Ban Headed to the Supreme Court?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to review the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision temporarily preventing the President’s revised travel ban from going into effect. Numerous states supported both side as amici in the litigation. Numerous local governments supported the challengers.

 The President’s first executive order prevented people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The Ninth Circuit temporarily struck it down concluding it likely violated the due process rights of lawful permanent residents, non-immigrant visa holders, and refugees.

 The President’s second executive order prevents people from six predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days but only applies to new visa applicants and allows for case-by-case waivers.  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

 

What Might Justice Gorsuch Mean for States and Local Governments?

The authors of Searching for Scalia evaluated who on President Trump’s list of potential nominees to replace Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court would be most like Justice Scalia—the originalist, the textualist, and, most importantly, the conservative. The winner:  Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch!

While just one case is too few to judge any Supreme Court nominee, one case in particular gives states and local governments a reason to be excited about this nomination. Last year Judge Gorsuch (strongly) implied that given the opportunity the U.S. Supreme Court should overrule Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992). In Quill, the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax.

While Judge Gorsuch hasn’t ruled on abortion (an issue states care about) his most prominent rulings involve a related issue (the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate), which is not of particular interest to states and local governments.

Interestingly, in the one area of the law where the views of Judge Gorsuch and Justice Scalia differ—agency deference—the views of states and local governments are generally more in-line with Judge Gorsuch’s view.

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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.

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May Sex Offenders Be Banned From Using Social Networking Sites Like Facebook?

The Supreme Court keeps on accepting First Amendment cases—perhaps because among the current Court there is much agreement on the First Amendment, so being down a Justice doesn’t matter. This does not bode well for state and local governments, like North Carolina in this case. For better or worse, this case like Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, accepted in September, gives the Supreme Court a chance to refine its holding in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (2015).

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How Broad is the Government Speech Doctrine?

Is Lee v. Tam a stretch, or perhaps a slant, for state and local governments to be interested in?

The issue in Lee v. Tam is whether Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, which bars the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks, violates the First Amendment.

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Pregnancy-Related Clinics May Be Required To Provide Notice About Family Planning

In an opinion published this morning in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris (“NIFL“), the Ninth Circuit has held that California may require licensed pregnancy-related clinics to provide patients with notice about the existence of publicly-funded family-planning services without violating the First Amendment. California may also require unlicensed clinics to provide notice stating that they are not licensed.

This case may be of interest to IMLA members, particularly as the opinion notes that a city attorney may be a proper defendant in an action challenging a state-wide statute that gives a city attorney power to enforce the statute. 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

 

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

 

Bye, Bye Abood?

Stare decisis may be tossed out the window next Supreme Court term in what promises to be one of the most closely followed cases. The stakes for unionized public employees couldn’t be higher.

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether to overrule a nearly 40-year old precedent requiring public sector employees who don’t join the union to pay their “fair share” of collective bargaining costs. More than 20 States have enacted statutes authorizing fair share. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Decides Significant Government Speech Case

In Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans the Supreme Court held 5-4 that Texas may deny a proposed specialty license plate design featuring the Confederate flag because specialty license plate designs are government speech. Walker is of particular significance to state and local government because the Court did not narrow the 2009 landmark government speech case Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum.

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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

 

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

 

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

Second 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

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

 

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)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.

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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

 

Do Buffer Zones Survive After McCullen?

In a unanimous opinion in McCullen v. Coakley,Supreme Court3 the Supreme Court held that a Massachusetts statute making it a crime to stand on a public road or sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion clinic violates the First Amendment.

Massachusetts adopted this statute because protesters routinely violated a previous statute.  Petitioners were “sidewalk counselors” who claimed the buffer zones prevented them from having personal interactions with those entering the clinics which they viewed as essential to their “sidewalk counseling.”

The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief points out that cities frequently use buffer zones in numerous contextsFor example, prior to McCullen, lower courts upheld buffer zones to prevent congestion at special events and places that regularly draw crowds and near funerals to protect vulnerable mourners. 

McCullen begs an obvious question:  will any buffer zone statutes and ordinances survive constitutional scrutiny now? Continue reading

 

Supreme Court To Hear Sign-Ordinance Case

This morning, the Supreme Court granted cert in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, a case in which the Ninth Circuit upheld the Town of Gilbert’s sign ordinance against a First-Amendment challenge.SupremeCourt2 The case could directly impact local governments nationwide, particularly those that have adopted sign ordinances with exemptions.

The Court could use this case to clarify when a local ordinance is “content-based” or “content-neutral,” a key inquiry under the First-Amendment analysis. A number of law professors filed an amicus brief authored by Professor Eugene Volokh arguing that the Ninth Circuit erred by treating the Town’s ordinance as content-neutral. In their view, the ordinance is content-based because it expressly distinguishes the following classes of signs: Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

Snyder v. Gaudet, No. 12-1422 (June 25, 2014) (In 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging violation of equal protection because city applied zoning restriction differently to Snyder than to prior owner, granting qualified immunity to defendants because right was not clearly established): Continue reading

 

The Supreme Court Strikes Down Buffer Zone Law

BarricadeA local government can create a 35-foot buffer zone to restrict speech on a public street only if it has first made a serious effort to address the issue in other ways.

That’s the lesson of McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme-Court decision today that strikes down a Massachusetts statute that makes it a crime to knowingly stand on a public way or sidewalk within 35 feet of a location where abortions are performed.

Although the Court found that the law is content-neutral—and therefore not subject to strict scrutiny—the Court ruled that the Commonwealth had “too readily foregone options” that would not substantially burden speech.

What are those options? Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

Second Circuit Continue reading

 

Lane v. Franks: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The Supreme Court held unanimously that the First Amendment protects a public employee who provides truthful sworn testimony, compelled by a subpoena, outside the course of his or her ordinary responsibilities.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n

The good:  The Court was clear that if employees admit to wrongdoing while testifying they can still be disciplined and that false or erroneous testimony or testimony that unnecessarily discloses sensitive, confidential, or privileged information may balance the Pickering scale in the employer’s favor.

The bad:  The Court read “official job duties” narrowly to exclude speech about information merely learned at the job.

The ugly:  The Court doesn’t decide the obvious next question:  is an employee’s truthful sworn testimony, which is part of an employee’s ordinary responsibilities, protected by the First Amendment? Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Decides Employee-Speech Case

This morning, the Supreme Court decided Lane v. Franks, a case that this blog previously covered here.7432008582_3c5d6429f6_n The Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment protects a public employee who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities.

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

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

Third Circuit

  • Rosano v. Township of Teaneck, No. 13-1263 (June 10, 2014) (in action by current and former police officers against Township alleging violation of Fair Labor Standards Act because it did not pay proper overtime and provide compensation for attending daily roll calls and putting on and taking off uniforms, affirming grant of summary judgment for Township).

Seventh Circuit

Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

Fifth 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

Sixth Circuit

  • Robertson v. Lucas, No. 12-3877 (May 28, 2014) (in case arising out of corrupted drug-trade investigation, affirming award of qualified immunity on malicious prosecution and false arrest claims, and affirming dismissal of Monell claim against Richland County and City of Cleveland).

Continue reading

 

Tuesday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

  • Gericke v. Begin, No. 12-2326 (May 23, 2014) (affirming denial of qualified immunity for police officers on First-Amendment retaliatory prosecution claim where plaintiff was arrested after she attempted to film a traffic stop).

Eighth Circuit

  • Walton v. Dawson, No. 12-4000 (May 20, 2014) (affirming in part and reversing in part denial of qualified immunity in failure-to-train claims against officers arising out of jail-cell attack that occurred after officers did not lock cell doors).

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

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

Second Circuit

Fourth Circuit

 

Supreme Court Campaign Finance Case Likely to Affect State Laws in about a Dozen States

7432008582_3c5d6429f6_nBy Lisa Soronen [We are thrilled to have a guest post from Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center.]

Last week, the Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees.

McCutcheon v. FEC will likely impact the dozen or so states that place aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions to candidates for state office. A cursory glance at state campaign finance laws regulating local elections indicates that states generally have not adopted aggregate caps meaning this decision will not affect contributions to local elections.

Federal law allows Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:No-Loitering

Third Circuit

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:SCT pillars

Second Circuit

Third Circuit

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

Sixth Circuit

  • Rorrer v. City of Stow, No. 13-3272 (Feb. 26, 2014) (reversing grant of summary judgment to City and against plaintiff, a terminated firefighter with a non-work-related injury, on ADA claim; affirming grant of summary judgment for City on First Amendment and ADA retaliation claims).

Seventh Circuit

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

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

First Circuit

Fourth Circuit

Fifth 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

Second Circuit

  • McColley v. County of Rensselaer, No. 12-2220 (Jan. 21, 2014) (affirming that whether officer and County were entitled to qualified immunity for alleged Fourth-Amendment violation arising out of search-warrant-application omissions turned on genuine issues of material fact, and concluding therefore that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction).

Fourth Circuit

  • Corr v. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, No. 13-1076 (Jan. 21, 2014) (finding that tolls paid by drivers on the Dulles Toll Road are user fees not taxes, and that their collection by airport authority does not violate Virginia Constitution and motorists’ due-process rights).

Seventh Circuit Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments. NYcourt

Second Circuit

Sixth Circuit

(January 13, 2014, through January 17, 2014)

Credit: Image courtesy of Flickr by Tracy Collins (creative common license, no changes made)

 

Ninth Circuit: Officer Removed After Raising Safety Issues Does Not Have First Amendment Claim.

If a public employee reports departmental-safety concerns to his supervisor, and the employee is removed from duty for raising those concerns, does the employee have a viable First Amendment retaliation claim?Policecar

In Hagen v. City of Eugene, No. 12-35492 (Dec. 3, 2013), the Ninth Circuit ruled that a public employee did not have a viable First Amendment claim under the particular circumstances there. The court ruled that, viewing all the evidence in the light most favorable to the employee, he was speaking as a public employee, not a private citizen.

The case involved a City police officer, Brian Hagen, who noticed that members of his SWAT team were often firing their weapons accidentally and negigently. Hagen tried to make his concerns about the team “as public as possible” by sending e-mails and raising the issue  in meetings. Eventually, Hagen was removed from the K-9 team.

Hagen claimed that the City and senior officers had retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. Continue reading

 

Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Courts of Appeals

Here’s how local governments fared in the federal courts of appeals during the past week.

Eighth Circuit

Ninth Circuit

 

 

Eighth Circuit: Restricting Bible Distribution During Festival Likely Violates First Amendment

8th Circuit: Park did not adequately justify the need to limit literature distribution

8th Circuit: Park did not adequately justify the need to limit literature distribution

An evangelical Christian, Brian Johnson, sought to distribute Bibles at a gay-pride festival in a public park.

The park board would not allow it.

It had adopted a policy limiting literature distribution to confined areas, due to security concerns and the festival’s size.

Johnson claimed the policy violated the First Amendment, and sought an injunction barring its enforcement. In a 2-1 decision released Wednesday, Johnson v. Minneapolis Park and Recreation Bd., the Eighth Circuit ruled that Johnson would likely prevail on his claim.

Continue reading

 

Regulating Adult-Oriented Businesses: Demonstrating Your Regulations Are Effective.

Build a record to justify your regulations, but resist claims that the evidence has to be beyond dispute.

Build a record to justify your regulations, but resist claims that the evidence has to be beyond dispute.

Crime. Disease. Decreased property values.

Adult-oriented businesses are disrupting your community.

But you have a plan.

You have fashioned a licensing scheme that prohibits nudity and the sale of alcohol at these establishments.

You know that courts have allowed zoning regulations that address the “secondary effects” of these businesses. You also know that regulating these businesses can violate the First Amendment.

But how closely will a court examine whether your regulations effectively eliminate these adverse effects?

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Legislative Prayer and Local Governments: Do You Begin Every Meeting by Violating the Constitution?

The Supreme Court will evaluate local-government prayer practices this term.

The Supreme Court will evaluate local-government prayer practices this term.

If your community starts its government meetings with a prayer, it might be violating the Constitution.

In a case that the Supreme Court will consider in the coming term, Town of Greece v. Galloway, 12-696, the Court will decide whether a local government’s legislative prayer practice runs afoul of the Establishment Clause.

The Second Circuit held that the Town of Greece’s prayer practice is unconstitutional because “an objective, reasonable person would believe [it] had the effect of affiliating the town with Christianity.”

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How To Close a First Amendment Public Forum: Does a Local Government’s Intent Matter?

Fourth Circuit: a local government can “close” a public forum with a neutral policy, regardless of its intent.

Fourth Circuit: a local government can “close” a public forum with a neutral policy, regardless of its intent.

Your City has flag standards on light poles. They line the City streets.

For over 15 years, you have allowed private parties to use this property to place their own flags.

Now you have a problem.

A group wants to use this City property to fly the Confederate flag during a City parade. The public is fiercely opposed.

After your City council first approved the request, it changed course. Its new policy restricts flag-standard use to three flags: the American, State, and City flags.

The group sued. It claimed that the City’s change violates its First Amendment rights.

Can you successfully defend the City’s policy?

In a similar case, the Fourth Circuit recently said yes.

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