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SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—CONSTITUTIONAL LAW
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest, return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
State Scheme Regulating Wine Sales Not Discriminatory
Briefed Case

Federal appeals court upheld Arizona's alcohol regulation scheme, including an exception that applied to small-volume wine producers. The scheme was neutral in impact, as it did not favor Arizona wine producers or retailers over non-Arizona producers and sellers.
(Updated June 2010)

State May Require Businesses to Allow Employees to Store Firearms in Their Vehicles
Briefed Case

Federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law that prohibits employers from prohibiting their employees from keeping firearms stored in their locked vehicles on company property. The law regulates company property but is not a taking that requires compensation, nor a violation of due process.
(Updated June 2010)

Ordinance Restricting Immediate Solicitation of Money at L.A. Airport Upheld
Briefed Case

California Supreme Court held that an ordinance issued by the City of Los Angeles for the L.A. Airport that prohibits people from soliciting for donations at the airport is valid.
(Updated June 2010)

Proposed State Constitutional Amendment Likely Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

The Alabama high court was asked by the Alabama legislature to give an opinion about the likely constitutionality of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require certain construction projects to be performed only by Alabama companies or companies that only hired Alabama residents. The court opined that the Commerce Clause would be violated.
(Updated April 2010)

Colorado Restrictions on Campaign Spending by Corporations and Unions Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Colorado high court held that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, provisions in the Colorado Constitution that prohibited spending by corporations and labor organizations on behalf of political candidates and issues are in violation of the First Amendment.
(Updated April 2010)

Court Cannot Issue a Search Warrant to Be Executed Beyond Court Jurisdiction
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that evidence gathered by California police, based on a warrant issued by an Ohio state judge, violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court had no right to issue a warrant that would be enforced outside of the jurisdiction of the court.
(Updated February 2010)

Hate Speech at Demonstration and on Website Protected by First Amendment
Briefed Case

A church group that claims that God hates homosexuality was within its First Amendment rights to picket the funeral of a Marine killed in Iraq and publish hateful statements about him and his family on its website.
(Updated November 2009)

City Ordinance Requiring Approval of Commercial Signs in Advance Is Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Colorado appeals court held that a city ordinance that required businesses to obtain permission of the city manager, and a permit, before posting signs violated the First Amendment. While a city may have some regulations regarding signs, such rules must be clear and have a specific purpose, not serve as a restriction on protected speech.
(Updated November 2009)

Hiring Age Limit for Fire Fighters Held Violation of Equal Protection
Briefed Case

Montana supreme court struck down a state law that held that a person could not be over age 34 when hired as a fire fighter. The law had no rational basis in protecting the public or the fire fighters, so was a violation of equal protection rights under the state constitution.
(Updated November 2009)

No First Amendment Right to Inspect Wiretap Documents
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a newspaper did not have a First Amendment right of access to see materials related to wiretaps used by investigators in a criminal matter. The courts must balance the public right of access to such materials against the government’s need to protect them.
(Updated September 2009)

City May Ban Dangerous Dog Breeds
Briefed Case

Federal court held that a city could prohibit the ownership of certain breeds of dogs in the city. There was a rational basis for the regulation, so it does not violate constitutional rights.
(Updated September 2009)

Congress May Regulate the Use of Bullet-Proof Vests
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute making it a crime for a convicted felon to possess body armor, such as a bullet-proof vest. The vests are sold in interstate commerce, so under the Commerce Clause, Congress may regulate their usage and impose criminal penalties for violations of the law.
(Updated September 2009)

State Law Regulating Dealers That Participate in Interstate Sales Can Be Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a Tennessee law designed to regulate the business practices of scrap metal dealers to help limit sale of stolen metal. The law does not violate the Commerce Clause as it did not favor in-state firms. The law did not impose an uncompensated taking; it was a regulation evenly applied to all businesses.
(Updated August 2009)

Government Not Liable for Taking of Property that Burned Due to Fire Suppression Policy
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that homeowners who claimed their homes were destroyed by a forest fire because of the Forest Service policy to let forest fires run their natural course rather than suppress fires, had no claim against the government for an uncompensated taking of property.
(Updated August 2009)

Local Ordinance Against Chain Restaurants May Violate Commerce Clause
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the district court must accept a challenge to a local ordinance that prohibits the operation of chain restaurants in a town. Since the ordinance discriminates against interstate commerce, an elevated scrutiny of the ordinance is in order.
(Updated May 2009)

Different Tax Treatment of Properties Does Not Violate Equal Protection Clause
Briefed Case

Iowa high court held that to subject rental apartment buildings to higher commercial tax rates than apply to owner-occupied condos does not violate equal protection because while the property may be similar, the ownership is different.
(Updated May 2009)

Prohibition on One Medium of Speech Too Sweeping
Briefed Case

New Jersey high court held that a town ordinance prohibiting inflatable signs except in one category violated the First Amendment. By allowing one category of speech, the rule favored certain content, which is prohibited. By banning such signs otherwise, there was a sweeping restriction on a medium of expression that went too far.
(Updated April 2009)

State Law Protecting Farm Operations Against Nuisance Suits Is Constitutional
Briefed Case

Indiana appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the state’s Right to Farm Act that limits the right to sue farm operators for nuisance. The act does not inflict a taking that must be compensated.
(Updated February 2009)

Two Requirements Must Be Met to Bring Substantive Due Process Claim
Briefed Case

Illinois appeals court held that to bring a substantive due process claim under the 14th Amendment, a plaintiff must plead both the violation of a substantive liberty interest and an action by a government official that shocks the conscience.
(Updated February 2009)

Part of Interstate Wine Sale Restriction Constitutional, Part Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the portion of an Indiana law regulating out-of-state shipment of wine that requires proof of age of the buyer is constitutional as it is minimal burden; the part of the law that effectively prohibits out-of-state buyers from buying directly from a winery is an unconstitutional burden on commerce.
(Updated January 2009)

Ban on “Secret Compartment” in Cars Unconstitutional Violation of Due Process
Briefed Case

Illinois high court struck down a state law that made it a felony to own or operate a vehicle with a secret or hidden compartment in it. The law violated due process as citizens could be convicted regardless of the use of the compartment.
(Updated October 2008)

Landlord May Sue to Help Protect Constitutional Rights of Tenants
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the owner of an apartment building that mostly rented to Hispanic immigrant workers, could sue a city on their behalf, to protect their right to equal protection and due process, by raising a challenge to the constitutionality of an ordinance that was claimed to have been designed to discriminate against the tenants.
(Updated October 2008)

Federal Control of Interstate Carriers of Tobacco Preempts State Law in the Area
Briefed Case

Supreme Court held that Maine could not adopt a comprehensive regulatory scheme over the delivery of tobacco products that imposed strict requirements on delivery companies. Federal law specifically preempted state regulation of such carriers.
(Updated September 2008)

Large Areas May Be Condemned for Private Development with Public Assistance
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that New York City and state had authority to condemn a large area for a mix of public and private development. Even though some condemned property was not blighted, it was needed to make the development a success.
(Updated July 2008)

Local Ordinance Controlling Scrap Yard Does Not Violate Federal or State Law
Briefed Case

Maine high court held that a new city ordinance imposing greater controls on a scrap metal facility was not preempted by a state law regulating scrap yards, and the ordinance did not violate any federal constitutional guarantees.
(Updated June 2008)

No Privacy Right for Criminal Suspects for Certain Public Disclosures
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the wife of a police officer had no claim for a violation of her constitutional right to privacy when her photograph and other information was released after her conviction of a traffic offense.
(Updated April 2008)

Tort and Statutory Remedies for Environmental Harm Precede Constitutional Remedy
Briefed Case

Montana high court held that a state constitutional right to a clean environment did not create a cause of action against a mining operation alleged to have caused environmental damage. Unless tort and statutory remedies are shown to be inadequate to address a problem, the constitutional right need not come into play.
(Updated March 2008)

Ban on Horse Meat Production by State Does Not Violate Commerce Clause
Briefed Case

Federal appeals court held that a ban by the state of Illinois on the slaughter of horses to produce horse meat does not violate the Commerce Clause, nor is it preempted by federal regulation of meat production.
(Updated March 2008)

No Compensation for Loss of Business Value Due to Eminent Domain Taking
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that in the District of Columbia there is no recovery for the loss of business value that occurs when property is taken by eminent domain. The business owner receives the value of the property taken, but not damages for the loss of business.
(Updated March 2008)

States May Not Regulate Interstate Airlines
Briefed Case

Court held that Congress preempted state regulation of airlines, including regulation of deceptive advertising, by the Airline Deregulation Act. Since Congress barred state control, attempts by a state to regulate airline activity violates the Commerce Clause.
(Updated February 2008)

States May Not Regulate Prices of Patented Drugs
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that the states violate the Supremacy Clause when they place restrictions on the prices of patented drugs. Congress intended for patents to provide special privilege for the inventors and the states may not interfere with that.
(Updated December 2007)

No Right to Damages from Change in View Due to Highway Construction
Briefed Case

Colorado high court held that a property owner, whose property was blocked from view by new construction along a highway, had no right to change in property value due to the change in visibility. The only compensation due is for property taken for construction purposes.
(Updated November 2007)

City Ordinance Restricting Billboards Valid
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a city did not violate commercial free speech rights by restricting billboards. The regulation was content neutral, it simply restricted the location in which some commercial speech may appear.
(Updated October 2007)

Law Prohibiting Many “For Sale” Signs on Parked Vehicles Violates First Amendment
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that a town ordinance that no vehicles with for sale signs on them could be parked on the streets of the town was unconstitutional as it was too sweeping of a restriction on commercial speech.
(Updated October 2007)

Property Owners May Not Be Forced into Redevelopment
Briefed Case

New Jersey high court held that a town violated the state constitution by planning to force property owners to sell their land for redevelopment. The owners had clear title and preferred the land be left vacant; as such it did not contribute blight, so could not be forced into development.
(Updated September 2007)

Government Speech Not Subject to First Amendment Protections
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the state of California could force members of an industry to contribute to a common fund to subsidize industry advertising. Since the practice was overseen by the state, it was not subject to First Amendment claims against forced contribution to speech.
(Updated September 2007)

City Rule Eliminating Most of City for Adult Business Upheld
Briefed Case

A city has the right to limit the location in which adult-oriented businesses are located. Eliminating 96% of the land in a city from consideration is not an improper restriction on free speech under the First Amendment since options are still available for business operator.
(Updated June 2007)

Intrastate Bans on Garbage Movement Violates Commerce Clause
Briefed Case

The Georgia high court held that it violated the Commerce Clause for a county in Georgia to refuse all trash not generated within the county to be transported across or disposed of within the county.
(Updated May 2007)

Punitive Damages May Not Punish Defendant for Harm to Nonparties
Briefed Case

Supreme Court held it a violation of due process for a jury to impose a large punitive damage award in a suit against a cigarette maker held responsible for the death of a smoker. Applying punitive damages for injuries suffered by persons not a party to the suit is improper.
(Updated March 2007)

City May Restrict Face-to-Face Solicitations
Briefed Case

Alaska high court held that a city had an interest in protecting the character of its historic district by an ordinance that prohibited person-to-person solicitations on the street. The regulation did not violate the First Amendment, as other avenues of solicitation were possible.
(Updated February 2007)

Ban on Most Outdoor Portable Commercial Signs Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Appeals court affirmed that a near blanket restriction on portable commercial advertising signs was unconstitutional. The city has a legitimate interest in traffic safety and aesthetics, but regulations of advertising must be reasonable in achieving such interests.
(Updated January 2007)

Federal Authority over Airspace Does Not Preclude State Regulation of Aerial Ads
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that just because Congress, through the Federal Aviation Administration, controls use of the airspace by aircraft, there is no evidence that Congress intended to prohibit state and local governments from putting limits on aerial advertising, such as towing signs behind airplanes.
(Updated December 2006)

Landlords Have No Privacy Interest in Inspections of Rental Units
Briefed Case

Indiana high court held that a city housing code did not violate the Fourth Amendment by not including a warrant procedure for city inspections of rental units. Landlords do not occupy the rental units. Consequently, they have no privacy interest to be protected and therefore have no right to insist on warrants.
(Updated August 2006)

Public Utilities Have Strong Powers of Eminent Domain to Fulfill Public Purpose
Briefed Case

Minnesota high court held that a public utility had the power of eminent domain to use a quick-take process to get title to land previously leased from the property holder. A dispute over the lease threatened the ability of the company to reliably distribute electric power.
(Updated August 2006)

State Law Taking Half of Punitive Damage Awards Held Unconstitutional
Briefed Case

Utah high court held that a state statute that gives the state a claim on half of punitive damage awards is an unconstitutional taking of private property without compensation.
(Updated August 2006)

Property Owners Must Have Opportunity to Challenge Decisions to Remove Nuisances
Briefed Case

Iowa high court held that it violated due process for a city ordinance to allow city officials to decide when vehicles where junk and would be taken with no opportunity for the property owners to contest the decision.
(Updated August 2006)

Restrictions on Newsracks at Highway Rest Stops Upheld as Content Neutral
Briefed Case

Appeals court held that the state of Iowa could prohibit the placement of newspaper vending machines at highway rest stops in the interest of public safety. The restriction was not aimed at publications of any particular content or viewpoint.
(Updated July 2006)

Oregon Voters May Require Compensation for Damage to Land Value Due to Regulations
Briefed Case

Oregon high court upheld a measure that was passed in an election by the voters. The measure requires the state and local governments to compensate landowners if land use controls are imposed that cause significant damage to land value. Voters did not violate the federal or state constitution by imposing this requirement.
(Updated July 2006)

State May Not Use Eminent Domain Power for Private Benefit
Briefed Case

Oklahoma supreme court held that it is a violation of the state constitution for governments in Oklahoma to use their power of eminent domain to take private property that will be used for private purposes. Claims of benefits from economic development are not sufficient justification.
(Updated July 2006)

Limits on Fund Raising Phone Calls by Non-Profits Does Not Violate Free Speech
Briefed Case

Appeals court upheld a regulation by the Federal Trade Commission that imposes limits on fund raising calls made to residences by professional telefunders working for non-profit organizations.
(Updated February 2006)

Different Statutes of Repose for Similarly Situated Parties Violates Due Process
Briefed Case

Minnesota appeals court held a state statute unconstitutional for setting different length of times in statutes of repose for parties likely to be in the same litigation. Such differential treatment violates due process.
(Updated November 2005)

Eminent Domain Power May Be Used for Private Development Purposes
Briefed Case

Supreme Court held that a city has the right to use its powers of eminent domain to take property to be used for private economic development. So long as the city has participated in the planning and believes that it is in the public good for creating jobs and tax revenues, the action is constitutional.
(Updated August 2005)

Unrecorded Defective City Sewer Line Not a Taking
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a sewer line that a city had failed to properly record, which overflowed during storms onto private property, did not constitute a taking under the Texas constitution.
(Updated July 2005)
Blanket Prohibition on Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Georgia high court held that a city ordinance that prohibited any advertising of alcoholic beverages was unconstitutional. The product was legal to sell, and the advertising was truthful. The city could not show that the restriction promoted temperance as it claimed.
(Updated June 2005)
City May Strictly Regulate Smoking on Business Property
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that it was not an unconstitutional regulatory taking for a city to enact an ordinance that strictly limited smoking in bars and restaurants. The businesses were still allowed to operate but would have to spend money if they wished to allow smokers on their premises.
(Updated June 2005)
Some Private Sidewalks May Be Public Forum for Free Speech Purposes
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the private sidewalks around private stadiums could be a proper location for the exercise of free speech, as they blend into the surrounding streets and public sidewalks. The common areas closer to the stadiums are not open for speech purposes.
(Updated February 2005)
Regulation That Prevents Economic Use of Property Is Compensable Taking
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a city regulation that prohibiting continuation of a legal business was a taking of property that required compensation for the property owner.
(Updated December 2004)
City May Limit Right of Employees to Romantic Relationship with Other Employees
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a police department policy that employees could not be involved in a personal relationship with other employees of different ranks was rationally related to the governmental interest of limiting sexual harassment suits. As such, there was no violation of the employees' First Amendment rights.
(Updated November 2004)
State Restriction on Out-of-State Wine Shipments Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Federal appeals court held that a Michigan statute that prohibited out-of-state wine sellers from shipping wine to customers in Michigan but allowed in-state wine sellers to ship wine, was a violation of the Commerce Clause.
(Updated March 2004)
No Compensation for Accidental Destruction of Private Property by Government
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that there was no compensation due when the police accidentally burned down a residence during a lawful arrest. Any right to compensation would have to come under the Tort Claims Act, if that applied.
(Updated February 2004)
Use of Eminent Domain Power to Take Private Property for Private Use Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Illinois supreme court held that the use of eminent domain by a state economic development agency, by which it would force the sale of property to the agency by an unwilling seller, so that the agency could then sell the property to another private party that wanted the property was an unconstitutional abuse of the notion of taking for public purpose.
(Updated January 2004)
Producers Cannot Be Compelled to Pay for Advertising Campaign
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the provision of a federal statute that required beef growers to contribute to a national advertising campaign was a violation of free speech and free association rights. Parties cannot be compelled to pay for commercial speech with which they disagree.
(Updated January 2004)
Booze Restrictions Do Not Violate Equal Protection
Briefed Case
Georgia high court held that state laws restricting alcohol sales to only certain businesses on Sunday did not violate the equal protection rights of businesses not allowed to sell alcohol on that day because the state had a rational basis for the regulations.
(Updated January 2004)
State Constitution May Not Restrict Out-of-State Land Ownership
Briefed Case
Federal appeals court held that a new amendment to the South Dakota constitution that prohibited corporations from buying farmland in the state was discriminatory and in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
(Updated November 2003)
Police Officer Fired for Refusing Duty That Conflicted with His Religion Had No Constitutional Claim
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a state police officer, who was fired for refusing to report to duty to serve at a state-run gambling casino, could not claim violation of his constitutional right to religious freedom. The officer failed to take reasonable steps to avoid such duty, which did not impose a significant cost on him.
(Updated November 2003)
States May Impose Certain Controls on Drug Prices
Briefed Case
Supreme Court upheld a program by the state of Maine that would require drug companies to bargain with the state regarding prices to be charged for their drugs if they wished to be included in public health programs that would be made available to all citizens of the state.
(Updated July 2003)
Grooming Policy Must Meet State Interest And Be Applied Consistently
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that where a state employee’s Rastafarian dreadlocks were in violation of the state’s grooming policy, the employee could contend that the grooming policy violated his right to freedom of religion if he could show that the policy was applied in an inconsistent manner not related to its legitimate purpose.
(Updated June 2003)
State May Not Impede Interstate Transportation of Plutonium
Briefed Case
Federal court held that the governor of South Carolina could not obtain an injunction to prevent the transportation of plutonium into the state by the Department of Energy and that an executive order issued by the governor to block such shipments into the state was unconstitutional under the Supremacy and Commerce Clauses.
(Updated May 2003)
Excessive Punitive Damages Violate Due Process
Briefed Case
The Supreme Court held that to award punitive damages that are 145 times higher than compensatory damages, in the absence of special factors that might justify such a high award, violates due process as an excessive or arbitrary punishment.
(Updated May 2003)
State Liquor Regulations Must Treat In-State and Out-of-State Firms the Same
Briefed Case
Washington high court struck down a state statute as in violation of the Commerce Clause. The law imposed greater regulatory controls on out-of-state wine producers than were imposed on in-state wine producers. Such differential standards are economic favoritism that are prohibited by the Constitution.
(Updated April 2003)
City Employee Has Free Speech and Due Process Rights
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a judgment against a city mayor in a suit brought by an employee who was punished by the mayor for making critical remarks about city administration. The employee has a right to speak on matters of public concern and has due process rights in case of discipline from such actions.
(Updated April 2003)
State Restriction on Funeral Casket Sales Held Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court held a Tennessee law restricting the sale of funeral caskets to licensed graduates of mortuary school to be unconstitutional in violation of the due process clause and equal protection clauses. The law has no rational relationship to the state's interest in protecting public health and safety.
(Updated March 2003)
Ordinance Prohibiting Continued Use of Existing Commercial Signs Not a Taking
Briefed Case
Mississippi high court upheld the constitutionality of a city ordinance that requires business signs to meet certain specifications within five years or be removed. The regulation was reasonable and did not constitute a taking.
(Updated February 2003)
Regulations Controlling Billboard Size and Location Are Not Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a state regulation that requires parties wishing to erect billboards along roadways to obtain permission from the state prior to construction. Such regulation advances a significant state interest and is content neutral.
(Updated February 2003)
Churches Not Immune from Neutral Civil Laws
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the member of a church could sue the church in tort based on her claim that the pastor of the church cheated her out of $286,000 and induced her to have sex with him. The legal issues are based on civil laws that do not interfere with religious matters protected by the First Amendment.
(Updated January 2003)
State May Compel Firm to Publish Names of Competitors
Briefed Case
Tennessee high court held that under state law, in the interest of enhancing telephone competition, the state could require local telephone service providers to publish the names and logos of all telephone competitors in particular markets without violating the commercial speech rights of the publisher.
(Updated December 2002)
Blanket Restriction on Advertising Specialty Drugs Held Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Supreme Court upheld a Chicago rule that requires users of public parks to apply for a permit for large gatherings. Permits may be denied to users who fail to qualify on specific grounds, such a lack of financial resources to cover possible damage. The regulation does not deny free speech since it is content neutral in its application.
(Updated July 2002)
Authorities May Deny Permits for Gatherings That Do Not Meet Neutral Criteria
Briefed Case
Supreme Court upheld a Chicago rule that requires users of public parks to apply for a permit for large gatherings. Permits may be denied to users who fail to qualify on specific grounds, such a lack of financial resources to cover possible damage. The regulation does not deny free speech since it is content neutral in its application.
(Updated March 2002)
Product Liability Statute of Repose Unconstitutional When Applied to Earlier Causes of Action
Briefed Case
Court of appeals declared the Indiana Product Liability Act's ten-year statute of repose to be unconstitutional in its application to cases that date their inception to before the Act was passed. Such limits on the right of access to the courts cannot be applied in a retroactive manner.
(Updated March 2002)
State May Regulate Spam
Briefed Case
California appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a California statute that regulates the structure and content of unsolicited commercial e-mails sent within the state. The statute protects commerce by eliminating deceit and is not an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.
(Updated February 2002)
Sovereign Immunity Shields State Agency from Antitrust Claim
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that the Eleventh Amendment protects a state agency carrying out its delegated duties from suit by firms that contended that the actions of the agency served to violate the antitrust law. The sovereign may not be sued without permission and, unlike tort responsibility, the state does not accept liability in this instance.
(Updated January 1, 2002)
Injunction Against Certain Actions by Prostitutes Does not Violate Constitutional Rights
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the essence of an injunction the City of Milwaukee obtained against more then 100 women who had been arrested multiple times for prostitution activities. The women were restricted from the kind of activities usually involved in soliciting clients. These restrictions were not in violation of their rights to freedom of speech and association.
(Updated December 1, 2001)
Native Americans May Sue for Violation of Equal Protection Due to Failure to Protect
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a lawsuit brought by Native Americans who were denied police protection when they demonstrated against gambling on their reservation, despite evidence of violence against them, could proceed with their suit against state officials for failing to provide police protection.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Policy of Limiting Health Benefits to Only Certain Domestic Partners Constitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a school board policy offering health benefits to the spouse in a marriage and to domestic partners of the same sex. The policy denies health benefits to domestic partners of the opposite sex. The policy is rational since there is a sound basis for providing benefits for same-sex partners and to promote the institution of marriage.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Public Taking for Private Purpose Violates Takings Clause
Briefed Case
Trial court issued an injunction against a city in California that was going to use its powers of eminent domain to condemn a successful private store so that another private store could expand its operations into the space occupied by the other store. That is not a taking for public use, even if compensated, and so violates the Takings Clause.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
State Law Prohibiting Price Discrimination Does Not Burden Interstate Commerce
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a Missouri law that prohibits price discrimination in the sale of livestock sold in Missouri. Since the law applies equally to all, and the industry is highly competitive, it does not unduly burden interstate commerce.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Courts Must Review Punitive Damages Awarded by Juries
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that courts have a constitutional duty to review punitive damage awards made by juries to ensure that the rule against excessive fines is not abused. This review is a de novo review by the courts applying specific factors to prevent abuse of due process.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Affirmative Action Program Does Not Violate Equal Protection Clause
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld continuance of an affirmative action plan by the Chicago Fire Department to help overcome past practices of intentional discrimination against racial minorities. The plan stands the test of strict scrutiny of imposing minimal costs on white firefighters and is narrowly tailored to achieve the goals of the plan.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Illegally Taped Cell Phone Calls May Be Disclosed by Media
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that for a radio station to play a tape received from a person who illegally intercepted a cell phone call between two union leaders about negotiations did not violate the federal law generally prohibiting wiretaps since the radio station did not commit the illegal intercept and the conversation was about a matter of public concern.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Mandatory Advertising Contributions by Members of an Industry Violated First Amendment
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that a federal law that required all mushroom dealers to contribute funds to a general advertising campaign promoting mushrooms violated the First Amendment by making firms subsidize commercial speech they opposed. Such a requirement is legal if part of a more detailed regulatory scheme.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
City Did Not Violate Landlord's Due Process by Branding Him as a "Slumlord"
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit brought by a landlord who claimed he was subject to violation of his right to equal protection when the city placed a sign in front of his rental property identifying him as a "slumlord." Since the city did the same thing to similar property owners, he was not subject to differential treatment.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Injunction Against Publishing Book Is Gone With the Wind
Briefed Case
Appeals court vacated the imposition of a preliminary injunction of the publication of a new book by a district court. The publisher of "Gone With the Wind" claimed the new book would infringe on its copyright. The appeals court held that the restraint violated the First Amendment.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Police Officer Does Not Have Right to Wear Religious Symbol on Uniform
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld dismissal of suit brought by a police officer who was fired for refusing to remove a small gold cross from his uniform. His contention that he had a First Amendment right to wear a symbol of his commitment to Christianity failed as the government has an interest in conveying neutrality on such personal beliefs.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Regulation Banning Solicitation of Clients by Chiropractor Was Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
The Arkansas high court held that the state board that regulates chiropractors could not enforce a regulation prohibiting most contact with potential clients, such as by telemarketing solicitation. This restriction on commercial speech did not address a specifically identified problem, nor was there a regulation narrowly tailored to address the problem.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
State Statute Prohibiting Hiring Out-of-State Replacement Workers During Strike Is Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a Washington state statute that made it a criminal offense to hire out-of-state workers to replace workers out on strike is unconstitutional. That area of law was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employers the right to hire replacement workers.
(Updated February 1, 2001)
Five-Hour a Night Closing Requirement for Strip Joint Is Constitutional
Briefed Case
Court refused to issue an injunction against a city ordinance that prohibited a nude-dancing nightclub from being open between 1 am and 6 am. While nude-dancing is protected expression by the First Amendment, the ordinance is narrowly tailored to serve the city interest of reducing problems from late-night drinking.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
States May Not Tax Foreign Income of Corporations Located in State
Briefed Case
Ohio high court struck down a state franchise tax as unconstitutional because it allowed Ohio firms to deduct only 85 percent of their foreign operation dividends rather than 100 percent of such earnings. That clearly violates the Foreign Commerce Clause, which forbids states from interfering with foreign commerce.
(Updated January 1, 2001)
Ohio Law Governing Out-of-State Truck Builders Stricken
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an Ohio law requiring out-of-state builders of specialty trucks, such as garbage trucks, to have binding service agreements with local dealers, is a violation of the Commerce Clause because it restricts interstate commerce without providing a clear benefit to Ohio consumers.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
City Ordinance Limiting Political Signs to Days Before an Election Too Restrictive
Briefed Case
Ohio high court struck a city ordinance that prohibited people from posting political signs on private property except for the 17-day period before an election. Such speech is due strong First Amendment protection and this ordinance is too restrictive.
(Updated November 1, 2000)
State Law Giving Preference to Minority Bidders on Contracts Violates Equal Protection Clause
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that an Ohio statute granting preference to bidders on public construction contracts based on race or ethnicity, serves no compelling state interest and fails the strict construction test that such preferences not violate the equal protection cause of the Constitution.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Development Impact Fee Not a Taking If It Meets "Rational Nexus Test"
Briefed Case
Ohio high court upheld an impact fee a city imposed on real estate developers to help cover the cost of expanded roads. The fee met the rational nexus test by showing that the fee was related to the costs of serving the expanded population in new developments.
(Updated August 1, 2000)
States May Not Interfere with Foreign Trade Law
Briefed Case
The Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law restricting purchases by the state from companies that do business with Burma. This violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution that gives the federal government control of foreign affairs.
(Updated August 1, 2000)
Class of One May Claim Violation of Equal Protection Clause
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that one person, as a "class of one," could sue a government for violation of the equal protection clause. A governmental unit treated plaintiff differently from others similarly situated, and there was no rational basis for the treatment.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
California State Tax Scheme Stricken as Tax on Business Income Generated Outside the State
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that portions of California's tax rules violated the Due Process and Commerce Clauses because the state did not allow multistate firms to deduct legitimate business expenses for income generated in other states.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Book That Advertised How to "Beat the Market" Was Protected Noncommercial Speech
Briefed Case
A book that relates the story of an investment group that claimed to have consistently earned above-normal rates of return on investments was held to be noncommercial speech due strong First Amendment protection. Hence, the publisher could not be subject to suit for deceptive advertising.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Regulation Requiring Detailed Explanations of Truthful Advertisement Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that regulations of the Florida Bar that prohibit attorneys from making truthful statements in their advertisements about their reputation, unless the ad contains detailed descriptions of the basis for the statements, violates First Amendment protection for truthful commercial speech.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
State Regulations Preempted by Comprehensive Federal Regulatory Scheme
Briefed Case
The Supreme Court held unanimously that the State of Washington could not add regulatory requirements to oil tankers operating in Washington waters. Congress imposed a comprehensive federal regulatory scheme for oil tankers that preempted state regulations.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Government May Not Force Mushroom Growers to Pay for Mushroom Advertising
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the 1990 Mushroom Act, which allows the Department of Agriculture to force mushroom growers to contribute funds for advertisements for mushrooms, is unconstitutional. Since there is no comprehensive regulatory scheme over mushrooms, the government has no compelling interest to force such payments.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Guarantee of No Self-Incrimination Applies to Former Corporate Employee
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that former employees of a corporation, who were asserted to have company records in their possession relevant to a criminal investigation about the company, could claim Fifth Amendment protection and not be compelled to produce the documents.
(Updated December 1, 1999)
Federal Ban on Ads by Legal, Private Gambling Casinos Stricken
Briefed Case
Supreme Court reversed lower courts and struck down a federal law that prohibited the broadcasting of advertisements for legal casino gambling. Such a restriction violates the First Amendment and no substantial interest by the government was shown to justify the regulation.
(Updated October 1, 1999)
Federal Regulation of Gambling Does Not Violate Commerce Clause Powers of Congress
Briefed Case
Circuit court upheld the constitutionality of a federal statute regulating gambling. A person convicted under the federal statute contended that it violated the Commerce Clause, but the court held that it did not as there was a rational relationship between the regulation and commercial activity.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Restrictions on Selling T-shirts on Public Sidewalks Does Not Violate First Amendment
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the constitutionality of a Miami Beach regulation prohibiting the sale of any goods from tables set up on public streets and sidewalks. The non-profit group promoting spiritual ecology had other ways to promote its message than by engaging in that activity at that location.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Ban on All Free Printed Materials Tossed on Driveways Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Georgia high court struck down a city ordinance prohibiting the distribution of free printed matter in front of homes as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. The rationale, to reduce litter, is fine, but the restriction is too sweeping to stand.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
Georgia Law Holding It Illegal to Drive with Any Drug Residue in the Body Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Georgia high court struck down a state statute that allowed a driver to be guilty of driving under the influence based on blood or urine tests that reveal any drug residue in the body, which does not necessarily mean driving while under the influence. The law violates the equal protection clause.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
State May Not Tax Out-of-State Firms at Higher Rate Than In-State Firms
Briefed Case
Supreme Court held that an Alabama tax on corporations violated the Commerce Clause by disciminating against interstate commerce. The tax rate was the same on in-state and foreign firms, but foreign firms generally had to us a higher valuation basis for tax calculation purposes.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
Protesting Fur Coats Inside Shopping Mall Is Not Protected Free Speech
Briefed Case
Minnesota high court upheld trial court decision not to drop trespassing charges against protestors who demonstrated peacefully inside of a shopping mall against the sale of fur coats. Such speech, on private property, is not protected by the First Amendment.
(Updated June 1, 1999)
State Law Restricting Distribution of Accident Reports Violates First Amendment
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a Kentucky statute that limited access to accident reports to only the media and insurance companies was unconstitutional. The restriction on speech did not support the alleged government interest in protecting the privacy of accident victims.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
No First Amendment Protection for Prison Guard Fired for Klan Activities
Briefed Case
Appeals court rejected the free speech rights claim of a prison guard fired for involvement in Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacist activities. Interest of the state in maintaining prison safety outweighed guard's interest in participating in such activities.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
Home Used For Commercial Purposes Loses Much of Its Fourth Amendment Protection
Briefed Case
Supreme Court reversed decision of Minnesota high court, holding that evidence that arose from a police officer looking in the window of a residence used for drug dealing could be used. Since the home was used for commercial purposes, the expectation of privacy was lost.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Missouri Tax Law Concerning Consolidated Returns Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Missouri allowed affiliated firms to file consolidated tax returns only if the firms earned at least half their income in the state. The Missouri high court struck down the rule as in violation of the Commerce Clause, as it favors affiliated firms that do the majority of their business in state.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
First Amendment Does Not Allow Stooges in the Courthouse
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld lower court decision that federal courthouse could bar placement of satirical statue. Courthouse keepers may impose time, place and manner restrictions on what appears within the courthouse without imposing viewpoint discrimination.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Ordinance Aimed at Limiting Student Rentals Not a Takings
Briefed Case
Indiana high court upheld a Bloomington ordinance restricting the number of unrelated adults that could rent property together. Landlords who lost income contested the provision as a takings, but the challenge was rejected as properly within the zoning powers of the city.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Federal Control of Airlines Does Not Preempt State Tort Suits
Briefed Case
Ninth Circuit en banc reversed previous decisions that held that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted state court suits against airlines for tort suits against airlines. Act was intended to control competition in the industry, not prohibit suits for luggage dropped on passengers' heads.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Total Restriction on Putting Handbills on Windshields Is Overbroad
Briefed Case
City ordinances in Arkansas prohibited placing handbills of any sort on the windshield of parked cars. Appeals court struck down the ordinances as in violation of the First Amendment for not being narrowly tailored to assist in the public interest to reduce littering.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Statute Favoring Blaring Ads Violates First Amendment
Briefed Case
An Illinois statute restricted sound from vehicles except for emergency or for advertising. Appeals court held the statute unconstitutional as a content-based regulation that does not meet strict scrutiny.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Total Ban on Ads for "Adult Entertainment" Too Broad
Briefed Case
Georgia high court struck down a state statute that banned any outdoor advertising of establishments where nudity is exhibited. While the state has an interest in limiting displays that might divert drivers' attention, a ban on all informative advertising violates the First Amendment.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Kentucky Legislature Cannot Limit Common Law Right to Punitive Damages
Briefed Case
Kentucky supreme court held invalid a state statute imposing a more restricted basis for the imposition of punitive damages. The statute violates the intent of the state constitution to protect the common-law of action to recover punitive damages.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Ohio's Motto, Which Mentions God, Does Not Violate Establishment Clause
Briefed Case
Court rejected ACLU request to enjoin Ohio state motto, "With God, All Things Are Possible", as a generic statement that was not adopted with reference to the New Testament and is consistent with the beliefs of many religions.
(Updated November 17, 1998)
Beatle's Statement to Media About Being Raped Is Protected Hyperbole
Briefed Case
George Harrison's statement to newspaper about opponents in property litigation raping him was not basis for defamation action. Such a statement was rhetoric protected by First Amendment.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Congressional Mandates Over State Motor Vehicle Records Held Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Federal law controlling what information states may distribute from their motor vehicle records held unconstitutional as exceeding the Commerce Clause and Fourteenth Amendment powers of Congress in violation of the Tenth Amendment.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Fights Over Long Distance Rates Restricted to Federal Suits
Briefed Case
Bulk rate buyer of long-distance service sued AT&T in state court for breach of contract. Supreme Court reversed lower courts holding that, under the Communication Act, AT&T must follow rate filings with the FCC and that any suit regarding rates must be brought under Communication Act provisions.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Local Ordinance Banning Distribution of Leaflets Advertising Erotic Dancing Enjoined
Briefed Case
Company barred from distributing leaflets "off premises" to advertise erotic dancing services in Las Vegas. Appeals court enjoined enforcement of the injunction because it appears to be too broad in its restriction on commercial speech.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Narc May Be Liable for Inviting TV Crew to Film Warranted Search
Briefed Case
DEA agent who invited TV crews to accompany two warranted searches of methadone clinics held to have violated property owner's right once she allowed crews to enter private property. Immunity for government agents does not apply when authority exceeded.
(Updated October 19, 1998)
Federal Action on Cell Phone Radiation Preempts Claims Under State Law
Briefed Case
Suit against cellular phone maker, alleging health risks from radiation, dismissed due to federal supremacy. Congress gave exclusive power to the FDA to regulate radiation levels; although the FDA has not acted, the federal act preempts claims under various state laws.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Forcing Landlord to Rebuild Rent-Controlled Building Is Taking
Briefed Case
Appeals court reversed lower court's decisions to force rent-controlled building owner in New York to rebuild building ruined by fire. Cost of rebuilding was millions more than the market value of the building once rebuilt. Forcing rebuilding to benefit citizens eligible for rent control is unconstitutional taking without compensation.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Tight Restrictions on Religious Solicitations at Airport Held Constitutional
Briefed Case
Regulations at Miami International Airport imposing tight limits on solicitations by religious and charitable organizations, which included public areas such as sidewalks and parking lots, survives strict scrutiny test of First Amendment rights.
(Updated October 5, 1998)
Employer May Discipline Employee for Racial Slur
Briefed Case
Off-duty city firefighter utter racial slur against city police officer. Incident resulted in suspension without pay. Speech was not protected by First Amendment. Employer followed proper procedure.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
Warrantless Searches of Massage Parlors Constitutional
Briefed Case
Michigan high court upheld the constitutionality of a city ordinance that provided for extensive regulation of massage parlors and allowed warrantless searches. Closely regulated enterprises are subject to warrantless administrative searches to insure compliance with the ordinance.
(Updated May 29, 1998)
New York Harassment Statute Unconstitutional as Applied to Actions of Skinhead
Briefed Case
Skinhead placed racist stickers on private property and on the back of a person. He was prosecuted under a New York criminal statute for communication that is "likely to cause annoyance or alarm." The statute was stricken for vagueness and as in violation of the First Amendment.
(Updated 3-11-98)
Louisiana Law Favoring In-State Purchases Unconstitutional
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a decision striking down a Louisiana law as in violation of the commerce clause. The law, which has provided billions of dollars worth of tax reduction for firms that agree to give preference to in-state workers and suppliers, "affirmatively discriminates against interstate commerce."
(Updated 2-3-98)
City Cannot Control Commerce in Trash
Briefed Case
Nashville ordinance that required all private residential waste collectors to dispose of trash at high fees at a city-owned facility stricken as in violation of Commerce Clause.
(Updated 12-29-97)
State Official Subject to Private Suit for Violation of Federal Act
Briefed Case
Washington state official is not exempt from suit under the Eleventh Amendment when the claim is for violation of a federal statute, the Lanham Act.
(Updated 11-14-97)
California Minority Set-Aside Requirements Set Aside
Briefed Case
California requires state contractors to set aside specified percentages of the value of state contracts for certain groups. Contractor who failed to obtain a state contract, despite being the low bidder, challenged the statute. Ninth Circuit struck down the statute as in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
(Updated 10-15-97)

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