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State & Local Legal Center

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) provides assistance to state and local governments in connection with Supreme Court litigation by drafting amicus briefs representing 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. Since 1983 the SLLC has filed over 300 amicus briefs in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Big 7.


2016 CASES that impact local government

In Direct Marketing Association v. BrohlSLLC filed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court to not hear a case arguing that a Colorado law requiring remote sellers to inform Colorado purchasers annually of their purchases and send the same information to the Colorado Department of Revenue is unconstitutional.

In Bank of America v. City of Miami, the City of Miami claims that Wells Fargo and Bank of America targeted black and Latino customers in the City for predatory loans that carried more risk, steeper fees, and higher costs than those offered to identically situated white customers. The City further claims the banks’ lending policies caused minority-owned property to fall into unnecessary or premature foreclosure.

The SLLC’s amicus brief argues local governments should have standing to sue bank for two reasons. First, discriminatory lending diminishes a local government’s tax base. Specifically, foreclosures deprive local governments of revenue. When foreclosed properties sell, their prices are discounted by about 30 percent, reducing a local government’s tax base. Foreclosed properties also diminish the value of neighboring properties. Second, foreclosed properties are expensive. Local governments “must provide substantially more public services—and expend far more public funds—to maintain these abandoned homes.”

At least 12 other cities and counties have brought similar lawsuits against banks. 

 

In Ivy v. Morath, the Supreme Court will decide when state and local governments are responsible for ensuring that a private actor complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) argues they should be responsible when the private actor may fairly be said to be implementing a service, program, or activity of the public entity itself.

The SLLC amicus brief was filed on the side of neither party. It argues that the test shouldn’t be whether the state or local government is providing the service but instead whether a private actor may fairly be said to be implementing a service, program, or activity of the public entity. Agreeing with the majority opinion (and disagreeing with the dissenting opinion) in this case, the SLLC brief also argues that no amount of regulation or licensing of a private actor requires a state or local government to enforce the ADA against a private actor. 

 

In Manuel v. City of Joliet, the question the Supreme Court will decide is whether malicious prosecution claims can be brought under the Fourth Amendment in the first place. The Supreme Court left this question open in Albright v. Oliver (1994).

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief argues that plaintiffs should not be able to bring “malicious prosecution” claims under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures, not unwarranted or malicious prosecutions. More practically speaking, if the City of Joliet loses this case it may be possible for very stale Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claims to be brought against state and local governments. An argument could be made that people who were maliciously prosecuted and served time didn’t “prevail” until they got out of jail or prison, in some instances years after they were arrested.  

 

In Murr v. Wisconsin, the Supreme Court will decide whether merger provisions in state law and local ordinances, where nonconforming, adjacent lots under common ownership are combined for zoning purposes, may result in the unconstitutional taking of property.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that these very common provisions are constitutional.The SLLC brief argues that mergers provisions have been common for over half a century and their constitutionality has never been in doubt. The brief points out that minimum lot size requirements are a common way of avoiding congestion. When a lot is nonconforming (too small now that a minimum lot size has been adopted) merger (where the owner of a nonconforming lot also owns another contiguous lot the two lots are viewed as one for zoning purposes) is the solution.

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