Stories about Louisiana

State legislative special elections scheduled in Louisiana, Washington

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 54 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives on July 11, 2020. There is no primary, and the filing deadline was on May 22.

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 38 seat in the Washington State Senate on November 3, 2020. The primary is on August 4, and the filing deadline was on May 15.

Louisiana to lift stay-at-home order, reopen select businesses on May 15

Yesterday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) unveiled the “Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana” reopening plan, the first phase of which is set to take effect on May 15, 2020. Under the plan, the following businesses will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity at that time: gyms and fitness centers; barber shops and hair/nail salons; gaming establishments; theaters; racetracks (no spectators); museums, zoos, and aquariums (no tactile exhibits); and bars and breweries with food permits.

Edwards also announced that he would not renew the stay-at-home order, which expires May 15. Individuals, particularly those belonging to high-risk groups, will still be encouraged to stay home. Individuals who do go out in public will be encouraged to wear facial coverings, practice good hygiene, and maintain six feet of distance from others. For businesses, employees who interact with the public must wear facial coverings and enforce social distancing guidelines. Gaming establishments must register and obtain approval before reopening. No other business owners will be required to do so.

SCOTUS issues opinions in three cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in three cases on April 20 during its October 2019 term.

1. Ramos v. Louisiana originated from the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and was argued on October 7, 2019. It concerned the right to a unanimous verdict in a jury trial.

  • The issue: “Whether the Fourteenth Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict?”
  • The outcome: The court reversed the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in a 6-3 ruling, holding “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.” In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a 1972 SCOTUS case, Apodaca v. Oregon.

2. Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian originated from the Montana Supreme Court and was argued on December 3, 2019. It concerned the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980.

  • The issues:
    • “Whether a common-law claim for restoration seeking cleanup remedies that conflict with EPA-ordered remedies is a “challenge” to EPA’s cleanup jurisdictionally barred by § 113 of CERCLA.
    • Whether a landowner at a Superfund site is a “potentially responsible party” that must seek EPA’s approval under CERCLA § 122(e)(6) before engaging in remedial action, even if EPA has never ordered the landowner to pay for a cleanup.
    • Whether CERCLA preempts state common-law claims for restoration that seek cleanup remedies that conflict with EPA-ordered remedies.”
  • The outcome: The court affirmed in part and vacated in part the Montana Supreme Court’s decision and remanded the case. In a 7-2 ruling, the court held the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to rule that “the landowners were not potentially responsible parties under the Act and thus did not need EPA approval to take remedial action.”

3. Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, LP originated in the Federal Circuit and was argued before the court on December 9, 2019. It concerned judicial review of agency decisions.

  • The issue: “Whether 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) permits appeal of the [Patent Trial and Appeal Board]’s decision to institute an inter partes review upon finding that § 315(b)’s time bar did not apply.”
  • The outcome: The court vacated and remanded the Federal Circuit’s decision in a 7-2 ruling. The court held that the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) prevents courts from reviewing certain agency processes related to patents. It held that courts may not review the interpretation of a law governing time limits for certain patent reviews made by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Oregon ballot measure from 1932 that enacted non-unanimous jury verdicts

On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon ballot measure from 1932 in its ruling on Ramos v. Louisiana. In 2016, Evangelisto Ramos was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on a 10 to 12 jury verdict. He appealed his conviction to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, arguing his conviction by a non-unanimous jury violated his federal constitutional rights. The court of appeal affirmed Ramos’ conviction and sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and in a 6-3 decision, the Court held that “if the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial requires a unanimous verdict to support a conviction in federal court, it requires no less in state court.”

In 1932, Oregon voters passed Measure 2, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, with 58 percent of the vote. The measure allowed non-unanimous verdicts in all criminal trials, except first-degree murder trials. It also provided that in criminal trials any accused person, with the consent of the trial judge, may waive trial by a jury and consent in writing to be tried by the judge alone. In the published voting guide, state legislators in favor of the amendment argued that it would “prevent one or two jurors from controlling the verdict.”

Oregon and Louisiana were the last two states to allow non-unanimous verdicts. Between 1812 and 1898, the state of Louisiana required unanimous juries to convict persons for felonies in state criminal trials. In 1898, Louisiana held a state constitutional convention, which resulted in an amendment to allow 9-3 verdicts for serious felonies. In 1973, Louisiana held another state constitutional convention, which increased the requirement for non-unanimous verdicts from 9-3 to 10-2. In 2018, Louisiana voters approved Amendment 2 with 64 percent of the vote. It was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that required the unanimous agreement of the jurors to convict people charged with felonies.

In its decision, the Supreme Court explained that the enactment of non-unanimous jury verdicts in Oregon and Louisiana was a product of racism. Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “Courts in both Louisiana and Oregon have frankly acknowledged that race was a motivating factor in the adoption of their States’ respective nonunanimity rules.”

Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Elena Kagan dissented. In his dissenting opinion, Alito argued against overturning precedent established by Apodaca v. Oregon (1972), which ruled that the Sixth Amendment required unanimous juries to convict persons in federal criminal trials but that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend the requirement of unanimous juries to state criminal trials. He argued that overruling Apodaca would cause “a potential tsunami of litigation.” The Court’s majority acknowledged the potential number of cases challenging non-unanimous jury verdicts but determined that it did not justify withholding the Sixth Amendment’s protections to state criminal trials.

Additional reading: