Supreme Court Midterm for the Local Governments

Supreme Court Midterm for the Local Governments

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s midterm has come and gone. The Court will only hear argument in 10 more cases and the term will end June 30. But the Court has issued decisions in less than half of the cases of the term so far. So now might be just the time to take stock of the Supreme Court’s term as it relates to the states.

The Court has already decided two big cases and has four more left to go. Two of the six big cases (involving abortion and the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate) will have no direct impact on the local governments.

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association the Court issued a 4-4 opinion which affirmed the lower court’s decision to not overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), holding that public sector “fair share” arrangements where non-union members must pay union dues are constitutional.

In Evenwel v. Abbott the Court held 8-0 that to meet the requirements of “one-person, one-vote” states and local governments may apportion state and local legislative districts using total population.  

Justice Scalia’s vote would have been decisive in Freidrichs and would have made no difference in Evenwel. Only time will tell how his absence will affect the rest of the cases to be decided this term.

In United States v. Texas the Court will decide whether the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program violates federal law or is unconstitutional.

For the second time the Court has agreed to decide whether the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy is unconstitutional in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

Beyond the “big” cases, the Court will only decide one case where a local government is a named party. 

In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, New Jersey Officer Heffernan was assigned to a detail in the police chief’s office. He was demoted after he was seen picking up a campaign sign for the current police chief’s opponent. The sign wasn’t for himself; it was for his bedridden mother. Officer Heffernan sought to bring a lawsuit claiming that he was retaliated against based on the City’s perception he was exercising his First Amendment free association rights.

The Court has only decided one qualified immunity case. Mullenix v. Luna involved a police officer shooting at a car during a high speed chase to disable it and accidentally shooting and killing the driver; the Court granted the officer qualified immunity.

This term the Court will decide just two Fourth Amendment search cases. This issue in a trio of drunk driving cases is whether state implied consent statutes criminalizing a person’s refusal to take a warrantless chemical blood alcohol test upon suspicion of drunk driving are constitutional.

The issue in Utah v. Strieff is whether evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest on an outstanding warrant should be suppressed because the warrant was discovered during an investigatory stop later found to be unlawful.

 Read about all these cases and more in the State and Local Legal Center Midterm for the Local Governments 2016 article.