The Supreme Court heard oral argument—yet again—in two cases arguing it should adopt a standard for when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Before argument court watchers were focused on Chief Justice Roberts, but during argument Justice Kavanaugh stole the show. In 1986 in Davis v. Bandemer six Supreme Court Justices agreed that some amount of partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. But the Court has never laid out a test for making the determination. Most recently, last term, with Justice Kennedy still on the bench, the Supreme Court again failed to articulate a standard for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The two cases before the Court today came from North Carolina and Maryland favoring Republicans and Democrats, respectively. By almost any measure the gerrymanders were unapologetic and extreme. Now that the Court has five solidly conservative members many have speculated that these Justices will rule that partisan gerrymandering claims raise non-justiciable political questions, effectively ending litigation over this question. In oral argument last term Chief Justice Roberts, now the Court’s likely swing Justice, used the term “sociological gobbledygook” when expressing his skepticism about the Court being able to agree to a satisfactory test. Today, as is typical, the Chief asked questions of both side. For example, he questioned the merits of a test that assumes how people will vote based on past voting noting how often predictions of how people will vote are wrong. On the other hand, he acknowledged that the Maryland gerrymander “seems to be retaliation” and noted that the Supreme Court has an “established analysis” to deal with First Amendment retaliation claims.

If a state or local government discharges a pollutant from a point source to a navigable water it must obtain a permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). But what if that pollutant is conveyed in something—say groundwater—between the point source and the navigable water? Must the state or local government still obtain a permit? That is the question the Supreme Court will decide next term in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. Maui County injects treated wastewater from wells into the groundwater. Some of the treated wastewater reaches the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaii Wildlife Fund sued the County arguing it was required to obtain a permit under the CWA for these discharges.

In its first opinion of the term in Mt. Lemmon Fire District v. Guido the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to state and local government employers with less than 20 employees. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that it should not apply. State and local governments often rely on small special districts to provide services they don’t provide. John Guido was 46 and Dennis Rankin was 54 when they were laid off by the Mount Lemmon Fire District. They claim they were terminated because of their age in violation of the ADEA. They were the oldest of the district’s 11 employees. The fire district argued that the ADEA does not apply to it because it employs fewer than 20 people. The Ninth Circuit disagreed. The term “employer” is defined in the ADEA as a “person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 20 or more employees.” The definition goes on to say “[t]he term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State.”

Herrera v. Wyoming is a case of dueling Supreme Court precedent. Clayvin Herrera, a member of the Crow tribe, shot an elk in Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming. He was charged with hunting without a license during a closed season. Herrera claims that an 1868 treaty giving the Crow the right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States” allowed him to hunt on this land. In Herrera v. Wyoming the Supreme Court will decide whether Wyoming's admission to the Union or the establishment of the Big Horn National Forest abrogated the Crow’s treaty right to hunt in Big Horn National Forest. To decide this case the lower court applied a 1995 Tenth Circuit decision Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis, which raised the same question. In Repsis, the Tenth Circuit held that the “Tribe’s right to hunt . . .  was repealed by the act admitting Wyoming into the Union” and that “the creation of the Big Horn National Forest resulted in the ‘occupation’ of the land.”

Last week, in a 7-2 decision in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, the Supreme Court struck down Minnesota’s law barring “political apparel” from a polling place on Election Day because even in a nonpublic forum, “the State must be able to articulate some sensible basis for distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.” Although Minnesota lost the case, the Court affirmed that States (and local governments) may validly exclude certain forms of advocacy, including passive advocacy like...

In a 5-4 decision which resulted in 4 separate dissents, today, the Supreme Court held in Carpenter v. United States that the government conducts a search for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment when it obtains a cell phone user’s cell-site location information (CSLI) from a third party wireless provider. Although the Court explained the Orwellian implications of allowing the government to have “near perfect” retrospective surveillance of a user, “as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the...

It is estimated that states and local governments lose between $8 and $33 billion dollars each year as a result of the Supreme Court’s “physical presence” requirement. In a huge win for state and local governments, today, the Supreme Court announced in a 5-4 opinion that the “physical presence rule” for the purpose of requiring out of state sellers to collect and remit sales tax is “unsound and incorrect,” has limited States’ and local governments’ “ability to seek long-term prosperity,”...

In South Dakota v. Wayfair the Supreme Court ruled that states and local governments can require vendors with no physical presence in the state to collect sales tax. According to the Court, in a 5-4 decision, “economic and virtual contacts” are enough to create a “substantial nexus” with the state allowing the state to require collection. In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, states and local governments cannot require businesses to collect sales tax unless the business has a physical presence in the state. Twenty-five years later in Quill v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the physical presence requirement but admitted that “contemporary Commerce Clause jurisprudence might not dictate the same result” as the Court had reached in Bellas Hess. Customers buying from remote sellers still owe sales tax but they rarely pay it when the remote seller does not collect it. Congress had the authority to overrule Bellas Hess and Quill, but never did so.

Today, in narrow 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in favor of the cakemaker, concluding that in adjudicating whether his religion “must yield to an otherwise valid exercise of state power,” (here the anti-discrimination provision of the state’s public accommodation law), the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to consider the case “with the religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.” This cases presented, as Justice Kennedy put it, “difficult questions as to the proper...

In South Dakota v. Wayfair South Dakota is asking the Supreme Court to overrule precedent and hold that state and local governments may require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. The National Conference of State Legislatures estimated that states lost $23.3 billion in 2012 from being prohibited from collecting sales tax from online and catalog purchases. In 1967 in National Bellas Hess  v. Department of Revenue of Illinois, the Supreme Court held that per its Commerce Clause...