The ACLU has filed suit challenging Nevada's new school voucher program, claiming it violates the state constitution's prohibition against using public money for religious purposes. Defenders of the law, including the Institute for Justice, argue that the law merely provides parents with options rather than requiring the state to fund religious activities. Read more at the Washington Post.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down the city of Lynn's ordinance preventing certain categories of sex offenders from living near parks and schools. The court stated that the ordinance was inconsistent with the state's existing tracking rules for sex offenders and was reminiscent of historical efforts to expel Native Americans or Japanese-American internment camps. Read more at the Boston Globe.
The Massachusetts Court of Appeals has ruled that the city of Springfield violated the state's civil service law by making temporary appointments of firefighters rather than hiring permanent replacements. The ruling affirmed an arbitration agreement that also sided with the firefighters union. Read more at MassLive.com.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled on interlocutory appeal that claims under the state's Public Protection Act, which insulates employees from termination for declining to take part in illegal activities, do not include a right to a jury trial. Read more at the Chattanoogan.
A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision suppressing evidence in a drunken-driving case. At issue was the police officer's use of his cruiser's emergency lights before having reasonable suspicion that the defendant--who had pulled over and turned off her vehicle--was engaged in criminal activity. Pointed dissenting opinions argued that use of the emergency lights was required to alert the defendant and to ensure the officer's safety. Read more at PennLive.com.
A panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has once again held that New Jersey's sports betting law is invalid for conflicting with federal gaming law, which restricts sports betting to Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. The state has pledged to ask for rehearing en banc. Read more at Philly.com.
From July 30th to August 4th, the American Bar Association met in Chicago for its annual meeting. The gathering featured the usual mix of ceremony, continuing legal education panels, and internal ABA business. As part of the Federalist Society’s ABA Watch coverage, this post will cover programmatic offerings of interest at the annual meeting.
State Courts & AGs
Photo Credit: Ed Schipul - Flickr: Austin Texas. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons (link)
The city of Austin has filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Texas' property appraisal system. The suit claims that the treatment of commercial property compared to other property results in "arbitrary and unreasonable" valuations. Read more at the San Antonio Express News.
A unit of Planned Parenthood has sued Louisiana to prevent the announced termination of the group's Medicaid provider contract with the state. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously overturned an appellate decision, which held that the state Department of Children and Families could automatically place a parent on a registry of child abusers if he or she left a child in an unattended car for any amount of time. The Supreme Court instead held that the Department must consider a number of factors before placing parents on the abuse registry, including distance, visibility, and ambient conditions. Read more at NorthJersey.com.
The State Bar of Wisconsin covered several trends in the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision making, including a decline in 4-3 decisions and corresponding increase in unanimous decisions. Read more here.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that several red-light camera programs in the state were unconstitutional. The cities treated the fines like parking tickets, which are tied to the vehicle, but should have treated the fines like moving violations, which are tied to the driver. Since the cameras failed to capture a photo of the driver, shifting the burden of persuasion to the driver to prove he or she was not in the vehicle was unconstitutional. Read more at St. Louis Public Radio.
The Virginia House of Delegates is locked in a dispute with the Virginia Senate and Governor regarding whether a special session of the state General Assembly has been adjourned. At stake is a temporary appointment made by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the state supreme court. The Republicans in the legislature wish to replace this pick with their own selection, but senate Democrats joined by one Republican claim they adjourned the session before the matter was taken up. Read more at the Washington Post.
The Alaska Legislature has retained counsel to sue Governor Bill Walker over his unilateral decision to accept Medicare expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act. Legislative leaders claim the governor exceeded his power under the state constitution by acting unilaterally. Read more at Alaska Dispatch News.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed a district court opinion that had found a fundamental liberty interest for terminal patients to seek "aid in dying" from physicians. The Court of Appeals rejected that interpretation of the New Mexico Constitution, setting the case up for an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Read more at the Albuquerque Journal.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state's criminal record expungement law only applies to crimes committed during a single, uninterrupted event. The court declined to apply the law to those who had committed a crime over the course of multiple days or who happened to be convicted of multiple crimes during the same court proceeding. The court noted that the legislature could expand the statute to cover those situations if it so desired. Read more at NorthJersey.com.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson is contemplating whether to appeal the final federal district court ruling dismissing her suit to regain the title of chief justice. Abrahamson lost the title in the wake of a voter referendum changing the selection method for the chief justice earlier this year. Abrahamson is the most senior justice on the court, but the constitutional amendment moved the chief justice from a seniority position to one elected by the membership of the court. Read more at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A federal judge has ruled that an Oklahoma law restricting off-label dosages of abortion drugs is unconstitutional due to the law's singling out of abortion medication. Read more at ABC News.
New York City's law requiring banks holding deposits in the city to disclose their efforts to meet the needs of low-income neighborhoods has been stricken down for conflicting with state and federal efforts to regulate the banking industry. Read more at Reuters.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court sided with the legislature over Governor Paul LePage in a dispute about the mechanics of the pocket veto included in the state's constitution. LePage had argued that temporary adjournments of the legislature should be treated in the same way as longer adjournments, allowing the governor to pocket veto. The court instead agreed with the legislature's position that the governor was not prevented from returning the bills in time due to the temporary adjournment. Read more at the Maine Wire.