Catching Up with State Courts

State courts have had a busy summer, with key rulings on abortion, guns, and environmental rights.


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It’s vacation time for many Americans, but the state courts aren’t resting. The State Court Report team has been building a database of notable state supreme court rulings across the country (more on that in a minute), and we’ve noticed some interesting patterns: June has been the busiest month for rulings on significant state constitutional issues, while October and November have been the sleepiest.

State courts have been busy this August. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld a state law banning assault-style weapons, finding that it didn’t violate equal protection or constitute “special legislation” under the state constitution. (Plaintiffs had waived a Second Amendment argument.) The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the state’s six-month abortion ban, reversing a prior decision that struck down a similar law. The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to a proposed abortion rights amendment, clearing the path for it to appear on the ballot in November. The Texas Supreme Court declined to temporarily halt a new law that eliminates the Harris County election administrator’s office, scheduling the case for oral argument in November. The Michigan Supreme Court relied heavily on adolescent brain research in ruling, under the totality of the circumstances, that an 18-year-old’s confession was involuntary. (Okay, technically that last one came out on July 31.)

But the biggest state court headline came from the trial courts, when a Montana judge ruled this month that a state law barring officials from considering climate change when conducting environmental impact assessments violates “the right to a clean and healthful environment” under the Montana Constitution. That case is now heading to the Montana Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the State Court Report team has been buckling down this August as we prepare to launch some exciting new content and features this fall. Keep your eyes out for a new database of notable cases, an events series, lots of new essays and explainers . . . and a brand-new website!

Alicia Bannon is editor in chief for State Court Report. She is also director of the Judiciary Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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