Case Notes

The day before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court issued a per curiam (unsigned) 5-4 opinion enjoining New York from imposing its 10 and 25-person occupancy limits on religious institutions.  Specifically, New York imposed restrictions on attendance at religious services in areas classified as “red” or “orange” zones in the State. In red zones, no more than 10 persons may attend each religious service, and in orange zones, attendance is capped at 25.  Religious entities in the state challenged the order claiming...

Today, in a great victory for the City of Nashville and IMLA, the Sixth Circuit decided that Nashville did not violate the First Amendment when it fired a 9-11 dispatcher who used a racially offensive slur in the context of the 2016 election in a public Facebook post that identified her as an employee of the City.  The parties all agreed that her post was on a matter of public concern given the broader context of the election even though...

On Friday night, the Supreme Court denied a request for an injunction by a church in Nevada seeking to hold in person services on the same terms as other facilities in the State, including casinos.  The order limits religious gatherings to 50 people while allowing restaurants and casinos to operate as 50% capacity. The majority that denied the injunction offered no written opinion accompanying its decision (which is not unusual for this type of request), but Justice Alito (joined by Justices...

Education: Third Circuit Adopts New Standard, Holding that Tinker Does Not Proscribe “Off-Campus” Student Speech B.L. v. Mahanoy Area School District, No. 19-1842 (3d Cir. June 30, 2020). In a decision likely to create greater uncertainty about regulation of student posts to non-school social media, the Third Circuit adopts a rule that off-campus communication is not subject to Tinker’s prohibition against creating disruption within schools and holds that a student’s profane snapchat post cannot result in discipline against her. B.L., a junior varsity...

Today, in a 5-4 decision, in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court held that a large swath of eastern Oklahoma, including most of the city of Tulsa, is “Indian country” for the purposes of the Major Crimes Act (MCA).  In a decision that was as much a history lesson as a debate over statutory text and interpretation, the majority concluded that Congress never disestablished the Creek Nation reservation in Oklahoma and therefore, the state of Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to criminally...

South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, no. 19A1044, 590 US ___ 2020 (U.S. May 29, 2020). A 5-4 Supreme Court majority has declined to enjoin Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order restricting in-person religious gatherings. In an apparent response to Justice Kavanaugh’s dissent, Justice Roberts wrote a late-night  individual concurrence, deferring to elected officials responsible for protecting the health of their constituents and citing the fact that California’s limits on the size of in-person activities affect not only worship services but...

Burnstown Farms Cannabis Company v. Township of Beckwith, 2019 CanLII 57318 Click here to view. Burnstown Farms Cannabis Company (Applicant) applied for a federal license under the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018, Chapter 16 (Cannabis Act) to cultivate and produce cannabis on a farm in the Township of Beckwith (Township). The Township has a bylaw that restricts operations on agricultural land to "normal farm practices" as defined in the Farming and Food Protection Act, 1998 (FFPPA). Normal farm practice means that it is "(a) conducted in...

Maryville Baptist Church, Inc. v. Beshear, no. 20-cv-5427 (6th Cir. May 2, 2020). The Sixth Circuit reverses in part a lower court refusal to grant a church's motion for restraining order against the Kentucky Governor's orders which did not include churches as "essential services," enjoining the state from taking action against drive-in church services.  On March 19, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (Beshear) issued an order prohibiting "[a]ll mass gatherings," "including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based, or sporting...

Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., No. 18-1150, 590 U.S. ___ (Apr. 27, 2020). Affirming the Eleventh Circuit-which had reversed the lower court, the Supreme Court holds that annotations to the Georgia Code are effectively produced by lawmakers, who cannot be "authors" for purposes of the Copyright Act, meaning that Lexis, which contracts with the State to license and distribute the annotated code, cannot prevent the annotated version from being placed in the public domain. The Copyright Act grants monopoly protection for "original...

Research has shown that the more partisan gerrymandered a state legislature is, the more likely it is to preempt local ordinances. This case is important to local governments and to our democracy more generally. In Rucho v. Common Cause the Supreme Court held 5-4 that partisan gerrymandering claims are non-justiciable—meaning that a federal court cannot decide them. Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing legislative districts to benefit one political party. In Davis v. Bandemer (1986) a majority of the Supreme Court...