The NCSL Blog

03

By Lisa Soronen

The U.S. Supreme Court “long conference” did not disappoint.

The court granted a total of 11 petitions. A number of these cases have some impact on the states but none are as significant for state legislatures as Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In this case, legislative congressional redistricting authority is on the line.

In a provision added by citizen initiative, the Arizona Constitution removes congressional redistricting authority from the Arizona Legislature and places it in an unelected commission. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the court will decide whether this violates the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause, which requires that the time, place, and manner of congressional elections be prescribed in each state by the “Legislature thereof.” 

The Arizona district court ruled against the Arizona Legislature, reasoning that the U.S. Supreme Court previously held in two cases that a state may allow state bodies other than the legislature to redistrict. A dissenting judge didn’t disagree with this, but pointed out that in those cases the state legislature still participated in the redistricting process “in some very significant and meaningful capacity.” 

While the use of redistricting commissions is popular for drawing state legislative district lines, only Arizona and California have mandated them for congressional redistricting. 

A brief summary of the other cases the court accepted during the long conference relevant to states:

  • Judicial campaigning rules. In Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Barthe court will decide whether a judicial conduct rule prohibiting candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds violates the First Amendment. Thirty-nine states have some form of popular election for judges. Thirty of those states prohibit judges from personally seeking campaign contributions. The Florida Supreme Court upheld Florida’s prohibition noting that the state “has a compelling interest in protecting the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary.”
  • Fourth Amendment search. In its second Fourth Amendment case of the term, Rodriguez v. United States, the court will decide whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by extending (for just a few minutes) an already-completed traffic stop for a dog sniff.   
  • Employment discrimination. The issue in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores is whether an employer can violate Title VII for failing to hire someone because of a “religious observance and practice” that the employer knows about—but wasn’t told about directly by the applicant. The applicant in this case wore a hajib to her interview with Abercrombie & Fitch. When Abercrombie didn’t hire her because her hajib violated their “no caps” policy she sued. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Abercrombie because the applicant did not inform Abercrombie she needed a religious accommodation.  
  • Confrontation Clause. In Ohio v. Clark, the Supreme Court will decide whether testimony of Head Start teachers about what a 3-year-old boy told them when they asked him who hurt him was admissible in his father’s assault trial. The Ohio Supreme Court held that admitting their testimony, when the boy did not testify because of his young age, violated the Confrontation Clause because the boy’s statements were “testimonial.” The court reasoned that the teachers were acting as law enforcement agents when they questioned him because they have mandatory child abuse reporting obligations and the boy was not in the midst of an ongoing emergency when he was questioned. 

For more information about these cases and other Supreme Court case relevant to states and local government previously accepted please attend the SLLC’s FREE Supreme Court Preview webinar on Oct. 16. 

Lisa Soronen is the executive director of the State and Local Legal Center and writes frequently for the NCSL blog about the U.S. Supreme Court.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.