[caption id="attachment_79" align="alignright" width="300"]Local government regulation of immigration through housing ordinances has divided the courts. Local government regulation of immigration through housing ordinances has divided the courts.[/caption] Can a local government prohibit the leasing of housing to persons who entered the United States illegally? Since June, three federal courts of appeals have tackled that difficult question—and reached different results. The decisions present a range of perspectives on whether local housing ordinances “conflict” with federal law or intrude upon a “field” reserved to the federal government. They highlight the uncertain contours of the preemption doctrine—and demonstrate the risk facing any local government that regulates in this space.

[caption id="attachment_72" align="alignright" width="300"]Federal preemption provisions must be read sensibly Federal preemption provisions must be read sensibly[/caption] [This is the second in a series of posts reviewing unheralded but noteworthy decisions for State and local governments from the Supreme Court’s last term. See Koontz here.] State and local-government attorneys often battle federal preemption—including against broad readings that strain common sense. The case of Dan’s City Uses Cars, Inc., v . Pelkey reminds you why it’s worth it. It’s the story of Robert Pelkey.

[caption id="attachment_48" align="alignright" width="300"]If you condition a land-use permit on mitigation or other responsibilities, you may have to defend the condition under Koontz. If you condition a land-use permit on mitigation or other responsibilities, you may have to defend the condition under Koontz.[/caption] With the Supreme Court recently concluding its 2012 term, now is a good time to look back. You have likely heard plenty about the Court’s high-profile holdings, including that: But it’s often the decisions that slip by quietly that impact you most. We’ll be publishing a series of posts about decisions that didn’t get a lot of press, but that are worth revisiting.

Some fun items about the Supreme Court. (1) The Supreme Court’s Best Writer Legal-writing guru Ross Guberman recently guest blogged at the Volokh Conspiracy. He’s the author of Point Made, which dissects appellate briefs from leading attorneys. He turned his attention to the Supreme Court’s best writers. Here’s his case for Chief Justice Roberts. And here’s his case for Justice Kagan. They’re both great picks.

8122523_ab151ea98b_zSample briefs written by experienced attorneys can be an excellent source of information and guidance in drafting briefs, both as to style and substance.  No matter how experienced a writer may be, there are things to learn from the ways other writers approach a problem. The Internet makes available a variety of appellate briefs worthy of review.

[caption id="attachment_39" align="alignright" width="300"]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.[/caption] 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?

[caption id="attachment_33" align="alignright" width="300"]The Supreme Court will evaluate local-government prayer practices this term. The Supreme Court will evaluate local-government prayer practices this term.[/caption] 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.”

[caption id="attachment_26" align="alignright" width="224"]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.[/caption] 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.