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James W. Semple joins Leaders in Law as the exclusive Dispute Resolution Law member in Delaware, USA

Leaders in Law, the leading platform in its field, is delighted to welcome James W. Semple as our exclusively recommended & endorsed Dispute Resolution Law expert in Delaware, USA. James’ office is located in Wilmington.

Mr.Semple has more than 45 years of experience assessing and resolving complex business disputes in a broad range of contexts.  As a charter member of the Delaware Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and an ABA-trained mediator for the Delaware Superior Court, Jim has tried, mediated, arbitrated, and advocated in hundreds of legal and alternative dispute resolution proceedings.

He has represented clients in jury and bench trials in virtually every type of business dispute before the Federal District Court, the Delaware Superior Court, the Delaware Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery.  He represents clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 50 corporations in major complex commercial litigation cases, contract disputes, advancement disputes, employment and non-compete agreement disputes, complex tort cases, and complex insurance coverage actions.

If you require any assistance in this area, please use the contact details provided in James’ profile below or contact us at info@leaders-in-law.com & we will put you in touch.

Supreme Court: Philadelphia Ordinance Unconstitutionally Burdened Religious Exercise

The U.S. Supreme Court has found that Philadelphia’s ordinance requiring a private foster care agency to certify same-sex couples as foster parents burdened the agency’s religious exercise in violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Fulton et al. v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania et al., No. 19-123 (June 17, 2021).

Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court, found that Philadelphia unconstitutionally burdened the religious exercise of Catholic Social Services (CSS) — a private foster care agency in Philadelphia — by “forcing it to either curtail its mission or to certify same-sex couples as foster parents in violation of its religious beliefs.”

The Court’s decision primarily focused on whether Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance was both neutral and generally applicable and, therefore, constitutional, even if it incidentally burdened religion. For employers, however, the Court’s decision that CSS’s actions were not subject to the public accommodation provisions of Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance presents significant implications in cases alleging discrimination in places of public accommodation. The scope of this decision is limited in its application to the private sector.

Supreme Court Decision

The Court ruled that the contractual terms in contracts offered to private foster care agencies by Philadelphia forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were not neutral and generally applicable. This ruling was based on a key exception in Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance granting the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services the authority to make individual exceptions to its general prohibition on discrimination based upon sexual orientation — “in his/her sole discretion.” Justice Roberts reasoned, “No matter the level of deference we extend to the City, the inclusion of a formal system of entirely discretionary exceptions in section 3.21 renders the contractual nondiscrimination requirement not generally applicable.”

The Court also ruled that CSS’s refusal to certify same-sex couples did not constitute an “Unlawful Public Accommodations Practice[]” in violation of Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits “deny[ing] or interfer[ing] with the public accommodation opportunities of an individual or otherwise discriminat[ing] based on his or her race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation,” among other protected categories. The Court explained that the decision whether or not to certify foster parents for adoptions was not a service “made available to the public” because it “involves a customized and selective assessment that bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.” Justice Roberts noted, “[T]he ‘common theme’ is that a public accommodation must ‘provide a benefit to the general public allowing individual members of the general public to avail themselves of that benefit if they so desire.’” Therefore, because of the personalized nature of evaluating and selecting foster parents for adoption, CSS’s certification process was not the type of public service that Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance was intended to cover, the Court said.

Finally, the Court rejected Philadelphia’s various justifications for its non-discrimination requirements in its contracts with foster care agencies. This included the City’s stated interest in “the equal treatment of prospective foster parents and foster children.” The Court acknowledged that “this interest is a weighty one,” but could not justify denying CSS an exception for its religious exercise in this case, while making such exceptions available to others in the Commissioner’s “sole discretion” under the Fair Practices Ordinance.

Concurring Opinions

In three separate concurring opinions, the justices questioned the scope and impact of the majority’s decision, though endorsing its holding. Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s concurrence (joined all or in part by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Stephen Breyer) questioned what standard would apply if the Court were, in a future case, to overrule Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), which set the standard that neutral and generally applicable laws do not violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. However, Justice Barrett noted the Court need not find a replacement for Smith now, as Smith did not apply in the present dispute, because the contract at issue was neither neutral nor generally applicable. As the CSS contract gave the government the right to make discretionary exemptions from its non-discrimination rule, the law was subject to strict scrutiny, instead of the Smith standard.

In another concurrence, Justice Alito (joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch) reasoned that the majority should have ruled on the constitutionality of Smith, and strongly suggested that Smith should be overruled, because of its perceived failure to sufficiently protect the free exercise of religion, as well as failing to provide a clear-cut standard.

In a separate concurrence, Justice Gorsuch (joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Thomas) agreed that the Court should have ruled on the constitutionality of Smith, and recounted the past cases in which the Court’s decision not to address Smith’s constitutionality led to a perceived lack of predictability and prolonged lower court litigation.

Implications

For organizations with a religious-based mission, the Court’s ruling represents an expansion of their ability to dictate the terms on which they offer their services to the public. State and federal government agencies may want to re-evaluate and re-consider their current contracts with private entities. Employers who contract with state or federal government should examine closely the existing terms and conditions of their arrangements, as well as understand what exceptions, if any, are available under relevant state or federal law.

The implications of the Court’s interpretation of the public accommodation provision under Philadelphia’s ordinance on future public accommodation disputes remains to be seen.

(Summer law clerk Nicholas Bonelli contributed significantly to this article.)

 

Avisen Legal Partner Kimberly Lowe Reappointed to the Commission on Uniform State Laws

Avisen Legal Partner Kimberly Lowe Reappointed to the Commission on Uniform State Laws

Prestigious appointment made by Governor Tim Walz, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, and Attorney General Keith Ellison

As of June 1, 2021, Avisen Legal partner Kimberly Lowe has been reappointed for a fourth term to the Commission on Uniform State Laws (ULC). The reappointment was initiated by Minnesota Governor, Tim Walz, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, and Minnesota Attorney general, Keith Ellison. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Kim about her work on this important Commission.

Q.  How many two-year terms have you served on the Commission on Uniform State Laws?

A.  I was first appointed in 2016, so I have served 3 terms and this is my 4th appointment. I am very pleased to continue the important work of our Commission and am honored to have been reappointed.

Q.  What are some of the projects you worked on over the past couple of years?

A.  You can visit our website to see the different projects I have been involved in through my work on the Commission on Uniform State Laws.

Q.  What do you enjoy most about your Commission work?

A.  The ULC provides states with non-partisan, carefully conceived uniform laws. The ULC’s work simplifies life for people who live, work, or travel in multiple states and improves local economies by facilitating interstate commerce. Each uniform act is drafted in an open and deliberative process that draws on the expertise of state-appointed commissioners, legal advisors and observers.  As a commissioner, I work with lawyers from around the country on drafting laws and then I come back to Minnesota and work with our law makers to enact these laws.  Clear and practical laws benefit all citizens and I am fortunate to be part of that process.

For more information please read the news release distributed by the ULC.

Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr joins Leaders in Law as the exclusive Corporate Law member in Florida, USA

Leaders in Law, the leading platform in its field, is delighted to welcome Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr as our exclusively recommended & endorsed Corporate Law expert in the USA. Roland’s office is located in Florida.

Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr. is a partner who focuses his practice in the areas of corporate and securities law, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate structuring/restructuring, board governance, domestic and international commercial transactions, commercial and residential real estate transactions, tax and estate planning, and other general transactional services.

Prior to forming the Firm, Mr. Sanchez-Medina was a partner at the national law firm of McDermott, Will & Emery, where he was a member of the Corporate Department, and was a senior associate at the national law firm of Holland & Knight.

If you require any assistance in this area, please use the contact details provided in Roland’s profile below or contact us at info@leaders-in-law.com & we will put you in touch.

American Tower in €2 Billion and $2.2 Billion Offerings

Cleary Gottlieb represented American Tower in an SEC-registered offering of €750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.45% senior notes due 2027, €750 million aggregate principal amount of 0.875% senior notes due 2029, and €500 million aggregate principal amount of 1.25% senior notes due 2033.

The notes are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The offering was underwritten by a syndicate of investment banks led by Merrill Lynch International, J.P. Morgan Securities plc, Mizuho International plc, Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc, and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. The transaction priced on May 18, 2021, and closed on May 21, 2021.

Cleary also represented American Tower in an SEC-registered offering of 9.9 million shares of common stock. The offering was underwritten by a syndicate of investment banks led by BofA Securities Inc., Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, and RBC Capital Markets LLC. The transaction priced on May 5, 2021, and closed on May 10, 2021. The underwriters exercised their over-allotment option to purchase an additional 900,000 shares of common stock in full on May 5, 2021.

American Tower owns, manages, develops, and leases communication and broadcast tower sites in the United States and around the globe. American Tower began operating as a real estate investment trust (REIT) for federal income tax purposes effective January 1, 2012.

William McKinley joins Leaders in Law as the exclusive Healthcare Law member in Wisconsin, USA

Leaders in Law, the leading platform in its field, is delighted to welcome William McKinley as our exclusively recommended & endorsed Healthcare Law expert in the USA. William’s office is located in Wisconsin.

Will devotes a large portion of his legal practice towards serving his business and corporate clients, especially those in the medical and dental fields, dealing with contract, real estate, corporate, employment, and sale/acquisition issues.

Will also has significant commercial litigation experience, dealing with a wide variety of cases in small-claims, state circuit, and federal district court, along with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.  Will has also appeared before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Will has routinely served as local counsel for large corporations dealing with litigation in courts throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

If you require any assistance in this area, please use the contact details provided in William’s profile below or contact us at info@leaders-in-law.com & we will put you in touch.