Supreme Court cases we’re waiting for

June 03, 2013 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

It’s June, and that means Supreme Court season. Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking for decisions in some crucial cases involving constitutional protections for property rights, racial equality, and other matters central to PLF’s mission. Here’s what we’re waiting for:

First up, of course, is Koontz v. St. Johns Water Management District, in which we represent the Koontz family. That case is about what the government can force you to give up in exchange for a building permit. A quarter century ago, PLF won the seminal case of Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, in which the Court said that the government can’t use your permit application as an excuse to force you to give up money or property. Yet local governments have often ignored or tried to evade that decision, and in the Koontz case, the Florida Supreme Court declared that it doesn’t apply at all when the government demands cash in exchange for a permit. PLF principal attorney Paul Beard argued that case in January. You can listen to the argument here, read all the briefs here, and learn more about the case at our case page.

Then there’s Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the constitutionality of racial preferences in university admissions. PLF’s been at the forefront of opposing government policies that give people special favors and punish other people for the color of their skins, and we filed this brief in Fisher opposing the University’s race preferences. You can learn more at our case page here.

Another case involving race and the Constitution is Shelby County v. Holder, which challenges the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That law requires states to get “pre-clearance” from the federal Department of Justice before they can change any of their voting rules. Maybe that made sense in the 1960s when southern states were still discriminating against black voters, but things have changed a lot in a half-century, and today the law is dangerously outdated. In fact, as we point out in our brief, in some places this pre-clearance burden is actually a barrier to fair voting because states can’t get approval for new voting practices that would make the right to vote more efficient. We’ve been blogging a lot about that case, and you can read all about it here.

In Hollingsworth v. Perry—one of the marriage cases that’s sure to be the blockbuster this year—we filed a brief focusing only on the standing issue: that is, can the people who supported a ballot initiative go to court to defend that initiative if the government refuses to do so? This is important because otherwise, government officials can shrug at defending laws they don’t like, which can help deprive those laws of their effect.

Finally, Oxford Health Plans v. Sutter, the Court is the latest in a string of important Supreme Court cases about arbitration. PLF has long defended the right of businesses and customers to agree to resolve their disputes in arbitration instead of in court—but we’ve also argued against imposing arbitration on people against their will. In Oxford Health, we filed this brief arguing that when a contract is silent about “class” arbitration, that silence cannot be interpreted as an agreement to submit to class arbitration. In particular, we point out that there are serious due process concerns with class arbitration.

The Court will be announcing its decisions each Monday until the end of June, and possibly some additional days. The PLF Liberty Blog will be monitoring to get you the quickest information about the High Court.