The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) provides assistance to state and local governments in connection with Supreme Court litigation by drafting amicus briefs to the Supreme Court to represent the state and local government perspective. SLLC is operated and maintained by a Staff Advisory Council, which is chaired by the National Conference of State Legislatures. ICMA and other Big 7 organizations review the briefs and provide signatory support.
A number of environmental cases affecting state and local government and a number of interesting Fourth Amendment “search” cases will be heard by the US Supreme Court during its October 2012 session.
Since 1983 the SLLC has filed over 300 amicus briefs in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Big 7. Amicus briefs that ICMA has recently signed onto include:
Pending Supreme Court Cases
Recent Supreme Court cases that have been decided in which ICMA has signed onto an Amicus brief:
- City of Arlington & Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee v. FCC: Whether courts should defer to a federal agency's determination that it has authority to interpret a statute. The Court held that Courts must apply the Chevron USA Inc. v. NRDC, Inc., framework to an agency's interpretation of a statutory ambiguity that concerns the scope of the agency's jurisdicion. The Court reasoned that "the distinction between 'jurisdictional' and 'nonjursidictional' interpretations is a mirage" and that "the question" - whether framed as an incorrect application of agency authority or an assertion of authority not conferred - is always whether the agency has gone beyond what Congress has permitted it to do."
- McBurney v. Young: Whether a state statute violates the U.S. Constitution's Privileges and Immunities Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause when it requires that only state citizens have access to public records. The Court ruled in McBurney v. Young that Virginia could keep public records access limited to residents of Virginia, agreeing with amicus brief signed by ICMA.
- Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center & Georgia-Pacific West v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center: Whether National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits have to be obtained for channeled stormwater runoff from logging roads. The Court held that discharges of stormwater that ran off logging roads into ditches, culverts and channels did not require a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. The Court held that the old version of the EPA Industrial Stormwater Rule governed past discharges and might be a basis for imposing penalties, even if those types of discharges would not require a permit going forward.
- Delia v. E.M.A: Whether Medicaid preempts a state statute allowing the state to recover one-third of a Medicaid recipient’s tort settlement. The Supreme Court rejected North Carolina’s fixed one-third rule, indicating that the state must set up a process which separates medical expenses (which the state can receive a share of) and money for pain and suffering (which the claimant gets to keep).
- Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council: The flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the very same waterway does not qualify as a discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act.
- Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States: Whether government actions that cause recurring flooding must continue permanently to take property within the meaning of the Takings Clause. The Court held unanimously that recurrent flooding that is induced by the government and temporary in nature is not automatically exempt from liability under the Takings Clause.
- Armour v. Indianapolis: Whether the Constitution allows a city to refuse to refund taxes that some taxpayers paid up front, even though it forgave the remaining taxes of other taxpayers who paid on an installment plan. The Court held 6-3 that the City of Indianapolis didn't violate the Equal Protection Clause when it forgave the assessments of homeowners who paid for sewer improvements in multi-year installments but issued no refunds to homeowners who paid for the same improvements in a lump sum. The Court sited the SLLC's brief in its opinion.
- Reichle v. Howards: Whether the existence of probable cause to make an arrest bars a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim; and (2) whether the court below erred by denying qualified and absolute immunity to petitioners where probable cause existed for respondent's arrest, the arrest comported with the Fourth Amendment, and the denial of immunity threatens to interfere with the split-second, life-or-death decisions of Secret Service agents protecting the President and Vice President. In a unanimous decision the Court granted qualified immunity to two Secret Service agents, who allegedly arrested a suspect for his political speech, but had probable cause to arrest the suspect for committing a federal crime.
- Filarsky v. Delia: When the government hires an outside lawyer to work with its employees on an investigation, can that lawyer be sued for allegedly violating someone’s constitutional rights, even if he could not be sued for the same actions if he worked directly for the government? In a unanimous decision the Court held that contract attorneys and other individuals working for the government on a part-time basis are eligible for qualified immunity.
To learn more about significant cases affecting local governments check out the SLLC's website.