Case Notes

On June 30th, in 303 Creative v. Elenis, in a significant decision that will impact antidiscrimination laws around the country, the Supreme Court held that Colorado’s public accommodation law violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause by compelling the speech of a business owner engaged in expressive activity.  This case was a fight between whether the creation and sale of a wedding website to the public is considered speech, which would be protected under the First Amendment, or commercial activity...

Today, in an important employment law case, a unanimous Supreme Court “clarified” Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison’s “more than . . . de minimis” language, concluding that it does not suffice to establish an “undue hardship” under Title VII.  Instead, the Court held that to demonstrate an “undue hardship,” an employer must show “a burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business.”  While the Court did not overrule Hardison, this clarification of its meaning will likely...

Today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Moore v. Harper, the long-anticipated case involving the so-called Independent State Legislature Theory (ISLT) advanced by the North Carolina legislature.  The Court rejected the ISLT and held that the Federal Elections Clause “does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review.”  Though the foregoing statement sounds ordinary, the ramifications for local governments had the ISLT been adopted would have been anything but. Following the 2020 census the North Carolina...

On June 23rd, in United States v. Hansen, the Supreme Court interpreted the terms “encourages” and “induces” in 8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) narrowly and upheld the statute’s constitutionality.  While the decision was technically a loss for the position advocated by IMLA, by narrowly interpreting the scope of the statute, many (though not all) of the concerns that local governments had regarding the case are likely mitigated. At issue in this case was an overbreadth challenge to 8 U.S.C. §1324(a)(1)(A)(iv), which prohibits “encourage[ing]...

On May 25, 2023, the Supreme Court released its highly anticipated decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, a case again construing the meaning of “waters of the United States.” The decision in favor of the petitioners was unanimous, but the underlying analyses varied widely. The case arose when Michael and Chantell Sackett began backfilling a housing lot near Priest Lake, Idaho. According to the EPA, this violated the Clean Water Act, which prohibits discharging pollutants including gravel into “navigable waters,”...

Today, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court concluded that Hennepin County violated the Takings Clause by keeping the surplus equity in a condominium that it sold after the homeowner failed to pay her property taxes (and failed to regain title to that property pursuant to state law).  The Taking occurred not with the sale of the property for failure to pay property taxes or when the County kept the tax debt (including interest and penalties), but rather, the County...

Do states have the authority to regulate how long trains can stop at grade crossings?  That, in essence, is the question being presented in a recent petition for Supreme Court certiorari by the State of Ohio in its action against railroad behemoth CSX. Filed in November 2022, the petition  arises after the Ohio Supreme Court, in a divided opinion in State of Ohio v. CSX Transportation, Inc., no. 2020-6038 (Ohio Aug. 17, 2022), held that federal law preempts such action...

Last week, in a win for local governments, the Supreme Court rejected an overly expansive view of the dormant Commerce Clause in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross.  Justice Gorsuch, writing for the majority, declined the pork producers’ arguments which would have “fashion[ed] two new and more aggressive constitutional restrictions on the ability of States [and local governments] to regulate goods sold within their borders.” As he pithily put it, “[w]hile the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of...

Tyler v. Hennepin County, no. 22-166 (US 2023) Background: This case involves a challenge to Minnesota’s statutory property foreclosure scheme. The Plaintiff stopped paying taxes on her Hennepin County condominium in 2010 and for three years thereafter failed to respond to delinquency notices. Subsequently, she did not take advantage of any of the multiple additional avenues that Minnesota law provides to redeem her property or to protect her equity interest. She even apparently went so far as to tell the County...

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held that the Quiet Title Act’s 12-year statute of limitations period is a claims processing rule, rather than a jurisdictional bar to suit. Because local governments are involved in property disputes with the federal government and the Quiet Title Act is the exclusive mechanism for resolving such disputes, this ruling will benefit local governments. The Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. §2409a provides a waiver of sovereign immunity for the United States, stating: “The United States may be...