B|Ecourts: 'Independent State Legislature' in SCOTUS; Abortion Ban in IN; New Self-Defense in King County
Unpacking what's happening in federal, state & local court cases of interest - because those decisions could affect you, too
Supreme Court (from SCOTUSblog …)
Moore v. Harper - Whether a state’s judicial branch may nullify the regulations governing the “Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives ... prescribed ... by the Legislature thereof,” and replace them with regulations of the state courts’ own devising, based on vague state constitutional provisions purportedly vesting the state judiciary with power to prescribe whatever rules it deems appropriate to ensure a “fair” or “free” election.
Merrill v. Milligan - Whether the state of Alabama’s 2021 redistricting plan for its seven seats in the United States House of Representatives violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency - Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1362(7).
Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College - Whether the Supreme Court should overrule Grutter v. Bollinger and hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions; and (2) whether Harvard College is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.
4th Circuit (8 Democratic Appointed Judges. 6 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 3 are Trump appointees. )
Federal Circuit Court Holds that Gender Dysphoria is a Protected Disability Under the Americans with Disabilities Act - The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland) held that gender dysphoria, a condition experienced by some transgender individuals, is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. See Williams v. Kincaid, No. 21-2030 (4th Cir. Aug. 16, 2022). This ruling extends the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), such as the right to a reasonable accommodation, to individuals with gender dysphoria.
5th Circuit (12 Republican Appointed Judges. Of these, 6 were Trump Appointees. 4 Democratic Appointed Judges)
Federal appeals court upholds controversial Texas social media law restricting content moderation - A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a controversial Texas law that restricts the ability of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to moderate content on their platforms, setting up a potential Supreme Court showdown while also renewing uncertainties about how tech platforms may operate in the state in the future. The Texas law, known as HB 20, does not violate the First Amendment rights of tech platforms by requiring them to host speech they find objectionable, according to the decision by a three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
11th Circuit (7 Republican judges. 6 Trump Appointed. 4 Democrats)
Justice Department’s filing with a federal appeals court in Mar-a-Lago case - The Justice Department asked the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals to block parts of a judge’s order requiring a special master to review classified documents from Mar-a-Lago.
Court hears first case against state abortion ban - The ban, SEA 1 (ss), outlaws abortions with three limited exceptions. Abortions are allowed when the life or serious health of the pregnant person is at risk. The procedures are also allowed for lethal fetal anomalies, when the fetus can’t survive outside of the womb – but only up to 20 weeks. And in cases of rape or incest, abortion is legal – but only up to 10 weeks. The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky; Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, Women's Med Group Professional Corporation, and All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, the state's primary providers of abortion care before the ban. The suit seeks to strike down the ban, returning the law to what it was before the ban took effect.
Gubernatorial candidate petitions Florida Supreme Court over migrant flights - Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Hector Roos on Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to rule that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his authority when he used state money to fly about 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Michigan Court of Appeals vacates cleanup order in Ann Arbor pollution case - The Michigan Court of Appeals has issued a ruling in an Ann Arbor pollution case, vacating a Washtenaw County judge’s June 2021 cleanup order. The opinion to reinstate a previous consent judgment and remand the case to trial court is a disappointment and highlights the need for a stronger polluter-pay law in Michigan, Mayor Christopher Taylor said of the Sept. 15 decision in the city’s case against dioxane polluter Gelman Sciences Inc.
Yellowstone County, Montana
DPHHS complying with court order after judge chides for violation - The state health department said Monday it would comply with an order from a District Court judge to allow Montanans to change the gender marker on their birth certificate — after issuing a statement last week in apparent defiance of the judge. Monday, Yellowstone County Judge Michael Moses reiterated in a written order that the department had to revert to a 2017 rule for birth certificate changes. The judge said the department tried to use “legal gymnastics” to circumvent the same order from the bench last week.
King County, Washington
King County court brings self defense to new level in downtown-shooting judgment - In January 2020, Tolbert and a friend – packing guns – had gone to Seattle’s most notorious intersection – 3rd and Pine – to target a rival gang member. This guy also had a gun and threatened them with it. So Tolbert and Tolliver decided to run. And as their pursuer fired at them, they fired back over their shoulders. And yesterday, the jury decided that, because Tolbert was firing in self-defense, he was not criminally responsible for the death of the woman crossing the street, or any of the other injuries.
Montgomery County, MD
Montgomery County court hears petition from BOE on counting of mail-in ballots early - The Montgomery County Circuit Court is set to hear an emergency petition from the Montgomery County's Board of Elections. The board wants to be able to start counting mail-in ballots on Oct. 1, ahead of election day. That is 40 days earlier than state law currently allows.