by Lisa Soronen, Executive Director, State & Local Legal Center
Since 1983 the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has filed amicus curiae briefs to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the “Big Seven” national organizations representing the interests of state and local government. The Big Seven groups include: the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the International City/County Management Association. The International Municipal Lawyers Association and the Government Finance Officers Association also belong to the SLLC.
State leagues participate in the SLLC through the National League of Cities. Many state leagues contribute financially on an annual basis to support the SLLC.
In 2014 the Arkansas Municipal League defended a high speech police chase case before the Supreme Court. The SLLC filed an amicus brief supporting the league.
The SLLC files an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case where three of the seven members of the SLLC want a brief written and two organizations do not veto participation. Each SLLC member decides whether to sign onto an SLLC brief after reviewing its contents.
To date, the SLLC has filed over 300 Supreme Court briefs. The SLLC generally files briefs in cases involving federalism and preemption and in other cases where the interests of state and local government are at stake.
It is not unusual for the Court to cite or quote an SLLC brief in an opinion or discuss a SLLC brief at oral argument.
Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the SLLC. She is a resource to the Big Seven on the Supreme Court. The SLLC also offers moot courts to attorneys arguing state and local government cases before the Supreme Court. Each year the SLLC offers Supreme Court Review, Preview, and Mid-Term webinars and articles focusing on cases from the term affecting state and local government.
Lisa also writes about Supreme Court cases affecting cities on the NLC blog, the Weekly, and the Federal Advocacy Update.
To learn more about the SLLC and to read the briefs the SLLC has recently filed, visit the SLLC’s website at http://www.statelocallc.org/. Follow the SLLC on Twitter for up-to-date information on Supreme Court grants and decisions affecting state government: www.twitter.com/sllcscotus .
IN PRAISE OF OUR COMMUNITIES
by Steve Roth
A speaker at a conference I attended recently challenged the crowd to, in so many words, be positive. We undervalue the things we have, she said, and overvalue those things we don’t. We compare ourselves to others and, in the municipal government arena, we can end up envying the resources those other cities have, the big salaries they must be making, their robust sales taxes and gleaming new streets, their fun-loving mayors, and downtowns full of tourists.
Meanwhile, we look at our own towns and see only the streets that need fixing, the derelict buildings that need demolishing and the employee(s) who need an attitude adjustment. We cuss our critics and naysayers while taking for granted the friendly neighbor down the street. We brood over our town’s problems while the strong points get filed away and forgotten.
The conference speaker hit a nerve with me and I returned to my town on a recent Friday afternoon determined to see it with new eyes. While I did have a few minor fires to put out upon returning, I also had the pleasure of seeing some of our town’s best strengths in action.
I was greeted at City Hall by the very cheerful and competent staff. I drove out to a street project in progress and was amazed at the work that had gotten done in the few days since I was gone. The crew was still working on it, finishing up; a couple of them were putting in overtime to make sure the construction area was safe for the weekend.
Then I saw the mayor, who was complimenting the street crews as well. After hearing a few tales of rogue mayors at the conference, how nice it was to see ours in action – one who makes his rounds with the best interests of the community at heart.
Later, I visited a local business owner who was literally making a special “Key to the City.”
“Are you here about the key?” he asked when I came in. I just grinned and nodded. He invited me back to his workspace and together with his associates we worked out the plan. “We’ll get it done!” he assured me, and I had no doubt that he would.
Then I walked down our beautiful historic main street, a place of pretty shops and galleries and the best grain alcohol money can buy (Pinckney Bend Distillery). I took a glance at the Missouri River, our constant companion (friend and sometimes foe), its muddy water ever rolling. It was good to be home, walking our quiet streets and feeling positive again about all the good things we have going on here.
It is easy in municipal government to dwell on the bad. Our town is small and of course we have our problems, but we also have attributes we should never forget. We have police officers who literally put their lives on the line for the safety and betterment of our community. We have streets and utilities workers who take seriously their duty to the public and the taxpayers. We have a wonderful city staff who take the best care of our customers, our citizens and taxpayers, as we can.
We have excellent people working hard every day to provide for their families and to help strengthen their community. We have city officials and staff who have made a true commitment to public service, and do their best at it. We have the beauty and charms of living in a small town that most of us wouldn’t trade for anything.
In municipal government, we truly do work in a noble profession. It is an honor to serve our fellow citizens, to work with our staffs and colleagues for the betterment of our communities. Often, in the day-to-day grind, we can forget this. We should remember why we got in this business in the first place, for the love of our communities, and never take for granted all the good we have in them.
Steve Roth is the city administrator for the city of New Haven.