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Supreme Court Preview: Cities at the Supreme Court

August 13, 2013

Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

The Supreme Court’s October Term 2013 is shaping up to be a big one for cities, even though the Court has 30 or so more cases to accept. Here is a brief overview of a few of the cases the Court has agreed to hear so far that could affect cities.

Town of Greece v. Galloway involves the question of whether a town board’s practice of beginning board meetings with a prayer violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause
because Christians almost always led the prayers.

In Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action v. Township of Mount Holly, the Court will decide whether disparate impact claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Cities across the country have been sued under the FHA where redevelopment plans and other housing-related decisions have disproportionately affected minorities.

A Massachusetts statute created a 35-foot “buffer zone” around reproductive healthcare facilities that demonstrators are not allowed to enter. In McCullen v. Coalkey, the constitutionality of this statute is challenged. Many cities have adopted similar ordinances around funerals, political events, schools, and other venues that may be affected by the Court’s ruling in this case.

In Madigan v. Levin, the Supreme Court will decide whether employees with age discrimination claims can go directly to court by suing under the Fourteenth Amendment instead of suing under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which requires employees to first try to informally resolve their claim, saving cities and other government employers time and money.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) will file an amicus curiae brief in McCullen v. Coalkey, which NLC is likely to sign onto. For more information about these cases read the SLLC’s article, Supreme Court Term Preview: Local Government at the High Court.

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