Opening Day at the Supreme Court

The first Monday in October (today) is Supreme Court opening day! Two other traditions coincide with this tradition. First is State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) Supreme Court Preview webinar. Second is the results of the Supreme Court’s “long” conference.

The SLLC Supreme Court Preview webinar is scheduled for October 13 at noon eastern time. The webinar is free; it will cover the cases of interest to state and local government, accepted so far, to be decided during its 2016-2017 term. Speakers include Misha Tseytlin, Wisconsin Solicitor General, who will argue a takings case this term, Deepak Gupta, Gupta Wessler, who will write an amicus brief for the SLLC in a fair housing case, and Amy Howe, reporter, SCOTUSblog.

Petitions pile up over the summer. Right before the term begins the Justices meet for their “long” conference and typically accept about 10 cases. This year they accepted eight. None of them directly involve local governments.

  • All First Amendment free speech cases are of interest to local governments as local governments often sued for attempting to regulate speech. The Court accepted two First Amendment speech cases—neither involve a local ordinance.

o   The issue in Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman is whether state statutes prohibiting vendors from charging more to credit-card customers violate the First Amendment. Ten states and Puerto Rico prohibit credit-card surcharges.

o   The issue in Lee v. Tam is whether the Lanham Act’s bar on registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks violates the First Amendment. The Federal Circuit’s opinion is far reaching discussing viewpoint discrimination, government speech, and government subsidized speech.

  • The question in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District is whether student with disabilities must receive a “meaningful” education benefit versus “some” education benefit from their individualized education program, per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This case is particularly relevant to local governments that fund school districts.
  • McLane Co. v. EEOC is a very narrow employment case. The issue is whether an appeals court should review a lower court’s decision to grant or deny an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s request to subpoena an employer de novo (“from the new”) or more deferentially to the lower court.

The Court will continue accepting cases through the middle of January 2017 to be decided this term (ending June 30, 2017).