Scotus Tag

BarricadeA local government can create a 35-foot buffer zone to restrict speech on a public street only if it has first made a serious effort to address the issue in other ways. That's the lesson of McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme-Court decision today that strikes down a Massachusetts statute that makes it a crime to knowingly stand on a public way or sidewalk within 35 feet of a location where abortions are performed. Although the Court found that the law is content-neutral—and therefore not subject to strict scrutiny—the Court ruled that the Commonwealth had "too readily foregone options" that would not substantially burden speech. What are those options?

Supreme Court watchers love technology cases.Supreme Court Technology is for the young, so the cliché goes, and the youngest Justices are middle age.  Court watchers speculate, will the Justices even understand the technology they are ruling? Justice Robert’s 28-page opinion in Riley v. California, discussing encryption, apps, and cloud computing, reads like a primer on how cell phones work. The Court held unanimously that generally police must first obtain a warrant before searching an arrested person’s cellphone.

The Supreme Court held unanimously that the First Amendment protects a public employee who provides truthful sworn testimony, compelled by a subpoena, outside the course of his or her ordinary responsibilities.5554035521_f6b59ccafa_n The good:  The Court was clear that if employees admit to wrongdoing while testifying they can still be disciplined and that false or erroneous testimony or testimony that unnecessarily discloses sensitive, confidential, or privileged information may balance the Pickering scale in the employer’s favor. The bad:  The Court read “official job duties” narrowly to exclude speech about information merely learned at the job. The ugly:  The Court doesn’t decide the obvious next question:  is an employee’s truthful sworn testimony, which is part of an employee’s ordinary responsibilities, protected by the First Amendment?

This morning, the Supreme Court decided Lane v. Franks, a case that this blog previously covered here. The Court ruled unanimously that the First Amendment protects a public employee who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities. Image courtesy of Flickr by Mark Fischer (creative-commons license, no changes made)....

If preemption is your passion, this Supreme Court term has been a disappointment.Supreme Court3 CTS Corp. v. Waldburger is one of just two preemption cases this term. To the extent local governments benefit from decisions finding no preemption, this case is a victory. But practically speaking, it is probably a Pyrrhic one. In CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, the Supreme Court held 7-2 that the federal Superfund statute, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), does not preempt state statutes of repose.

Imagine yourself going through a security screening. Annoying, right?  securityNow imagine yourself getting paid to go through a security screening.  Better, right?  But what if you are a city with a security screening process that as a result of a court decision must now pay employees to go through security screenings?  Sometime in the next year, the Supreme Court will affirm or reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision to this effect in Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk. In this case the Supreme Court will decide whether hourly employees must be paid for time spent in security screenings under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Taxpayers X and Y live in the same state and have the same income but Taxpayer X earns all of her income in-state while Taxpayer Y earns all of her income out-of-state.Supreme Court  Taxpayer Y pays more in taxes because she pays income taxes out-of-state and pays a county income tax in her home state.  Unfair?  (Not necessarily.  After all, Taxpayer Y receives government services in the county where she resides.)  Unconstitutional?  The Supreme Court will decide. The Supreme Court hasn’t decided a state and local government tax case since Armour v. Indianapolis, during the Court’s 2011 term.  In Comptroller v. Wynne it will decide an issue of first impression:  whether a state must offer a credit to its residents for all income taxes paid to another jurisdiction.  A decision against Maryland’s Comptroller would limit state and local taxing authority nationwide.

Justice Kennedy is better known for his rhetorical flair than his practical guidance.church-state  But his majority opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway provides a roadmap local governments can follow to stay out of trouble when beginning city council meetings with a prayer. Town of Greece resolves two issues:  whether prayers must be nonsectarian and whether prayers before city council meetings are coercive. The Court concludes that sectarian prayers that overtly refer to a specific faith are okay—to a point.  Sectarian prayers can go too far

In our earlier post, we reported the Supreme Court’s decision in Greece v. Galloway, 8468059167_e8ebfeedbf_zruling that the Town’s prayer practice is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion. This post tracks some commentary on the case: SCOTUSblog has been providing analysis of the divided decision:
The stark difference between the majority opinion in the Allegheny County case and the Court’s new opinion in the Town of Greece case illustrated the progress made by Justice Kennedy toward the Court’s full embrace — although for differing reasons among five Justices who determined the outcome – of the “coercion” test in determining whether a government practice amounted to an “establishment of religion” in violation of the First Amendment.
Eugene Volokh of UCLA School of Law provides his reactions:

In addition to addressing local-government prayer this morning,CellTower the Supreme Court also decided to hear and answer another question impacting local governments: when a city denies a request to place a cell tower, how formally must it act? The Court granted cert in T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell, No. 13-975, which specifically asks what a local government must do to satisfy the Communications Act's "in writing" requirement at 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii):
Any decision by a State or local government or instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record
As the Eleventh Circuit explained in its decision, some circuit courts have ruled