The state-action immunity doctrine may be obscure but that doesn’t stop the Supreme Court for accepting a steady diet of cases involving the issue. State-action immunity provides states and, in some instances, local governments immunity from federal antitrust liability. In Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District v. SolarCity the Supreme Court will decide whether a lower court’s refusal to rule state-action immunity applies to a particular entity may be appealed immediately or only after the case is fully litigated.

Congress created the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) in 2005 to provide “flexible” funding for state and local police departments. In April 2017 the Department of Justice (DOJ) required Philadelphia (and eight other jurisdictions) to provide documentation that it complies with 8 U.S.C. 1373, which prohibits states and local governments from restricting employees from sharing immigration status information with federal immigration officials. Philadelphia sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions arguing that the City complies with 8 U.S.C. 1373. A federal district court in Philadelphia agreed and issued a preliminary injunction preventing Sessions from denying the City Byrne JAG grant funding.

Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach is a double redux. The Supreme Court ruled on this case in 2013 on a maritime issue. The Court agreed to decide the issue this case presents in 2011, but ultimately failed to rule on it then. What if a police officer arrests someone in retaliation for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment but the officer also had probable cause to arrest that person for a different, legitimate reason? In Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach the Supreme Court will decide whether that person may sue the police officer for violating his or her First Amendment rights.

If Attorney General Jeff Sessions has his way the answer will be yes he told the Senate Judiciary Committee shortly after two federal district courts temporarily prevented the third travel ban from going into effect. The president’s March 6 executive order (the second travel ban) prevented people from six predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days. In June, the Supreme Court temporarily prevented the ban from going into effect against those with a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United State” until the Court could hear the case on the merits in early October. The second travel ban was set to expire on September 24. That day the President issued a presidential proclamation (the third travel ban) indefinitely banning immigration from six countries:  Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Yemen. Persons from some of these countries and Venezuela also may not receive particular non-immigrant visas. Following the presidential proclamation, the Supreme Court dismissed the case challenging the second travel ban. Shortly before the third travel ban was supposed to go into effect federal district courts in Hawaii and Maryland issued temporary injunctions blocking it.

South Dakota has filed a petition in South Dakota v. Wayfair asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to its law requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax. In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), the Supreme Court held that states cannot require retailers with no in-state physical presence to collect sales tax. In March 2015, Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion stating that the “legal system should find an appropriate case for this Court to reexamine Quill.” Justice Kennedy criticized Quill in Direct Marketing Association v. Brohl for many of the same reasons the State and Local Legal Center stated in its amicus brief. Specifically, internet sales have risen astronomically since 1992 and states and local governments are unable to collect most taxes due on sales from out-of-state vendors. Following the Kennedy opinion a number of state legislatures passed legislation requiring remote vendors to collect sales tax. South Dakota’s law is the first to be ready for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. In September the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the South Dakota law is unconstitutional because it clearly violates Quill and it is up to the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule it. 

At the Supreme Court’s “long conference,” where it decides which petitions—that have been piling up all summer—to accept, the Court agreed to hear two unrelated cases involving car searches. Per the Fourth Amendment police officers generally need a warrant to search a car. However,  the automobile exception allows officers to search a car that is “readily mobile” without a warrant if officers have probable cause to believe they will find contraband or a crime has been committed.  Collins v. Virginia raises the question of whether the automobile exception applies to a car that is parked on private property.

In 2016, the Supreme Court was expected 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. Justice Scalia died shortly after the Court heard oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The Court ultimately issued a 4-4 decision which, practically speaking, kept Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) on the books. With a ninth Justice now on the bench the Supreme Court has agreed to try again to decide whether to overturn Abood in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. More than 20 states authorize fair share for public sector employees. In Abood the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment does not prevent “agency shop” arrangements where public employees who do not join the union are still required to pay their “fair share” of union dues for collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment. The rationale for an agency fee is that the union may not discriminate between members and nonmembers in performing these functions. So, no free-riders are allowed.

A federal district judge in Texas has invalidated Obama overtime regulations which would have made it more likely states and local governments would have had to pay more employees overtime.

Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), executive, administrative, and professional "white collar" employees do not have to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Per Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, adopted shortly after the FLSA was adopted in 1938, employees must perform specific duties and earn a certain salary to be exempt from overtime as white collar employees.

On May 23, 2016, DOL issued final rules nearly doubling the previous salary level test for white collar employees from $455 per week, or $23,660 per year, to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year. The rules also automatically updates the salary level every three years for white collar employees.

According to the Judge Mazzant, DOL does not have the authority to adopt a salary test that effectively eliminates the duties test, which is what the final rule does. The text of the final rule explicitly says that those earning less than $913 will be eligible for overtime "irrespective of their job duties and responsibilities." The court likewise concluded that the automatic updating mechanism is unlawful. 

In an unusual move, the Supreme Court accepted a case during its summer recess.  Like most of its docket, this case will affect states and local governments. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that when an inmate recovers money damages in a confinement conditions case “a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent)” shall be applied to his or her attorney’s fees award. The question the Supreme Court will decide in Murphy v. Smith is whether “not to exceed 25 percent” means up to 25 percent or exactly 25 percent. A jury awarded inmate Charles Murphy about $300,000 in damages relating to an officer crushing his eye socket and leaving him unconscious in a cell without checking his condition. The trial judge awarded Murphy’s attorney about $100,000 in fees and allocated 10 percent of Murphy’s damages award to attorney’s fees (about $30,000).

Federalism cases raise legal issues big and small, pedestrian and esoteric. The very simple question in Artis v. District of Columbia is what does it mean for a statute of limitations to “toll” under 28 U.S.C 1367(d)? The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed a Supreme Court amicus brief agreeing with the District of Columbia’s interpretation of “toll.” A year after the fact, Stephanie Artis sued the District of Columbia in federal court bringing a number of federal and state law claims related to her termination as a code inspector. It took the federal district court over two and a half years to rule on her claims. It dismissed her sole federal claim as “facially deficient” and no longer had jurisdiction to decide the state law claims. 28 U.S.C 1367(d) states that statutes of limitations for state law claims pending in federal court shall be “tolled” for a period of 30 days after they are dismissed (unless state law provides a longer tolling period). While Artis was waiting for the federal district court to rule, the three-year statutes of limitations on all her state law claims passed. She waited 59 days to re-file her claims in state court after the federal district court dismissed her case. Was her claim timely? The District of Columbia Court of Appeals held no.