District Court Upholds California Refinery Safety Law

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld California’s refinery safety law, Senate Bill 54, which allows refineries to use outside construction contractors to perform onsite work only if those contractors use a skilled and trained workforce. The Legislature found that the use of unskilled workers at the refineries is a threat to public health and safety and to the environment.

Two contractors sought to overturn the law, arguing that it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and that SB 54 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The District Court entered summary judgment for the Defendants, holding that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their constitutional Equal Protection claim, and that their preemption claims lacked merit. The Court explained that the Legislature has the power to pass laws to protect public health and safety, including SB 54, which was passed in the wake of the 2012 explosion at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California.

Altshuler Berzon LLP represented the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which intervened on the side of the State to defend the law.

Federal Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Restoring Voting Rights to Thousands of North Carolinians in Advance of the November 8 Election

The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina today issued a preliminary injunction requiring the State Board of Elections and three North Carolina counties to restore the voter registrations of approximately 4,000 individuals whose registrations had been cancelled in the final weeks and months before the election based on an alleged change in residence. These voters were purged as a result of mass challenges filed by private parties based solely on a single piece of mail sent to the voters that had been returned as undeliverable, even though in many cases the voters had not changed their residence or had simply moved to a different residence within the same county and thus remained eligible to vote. County boards of elections purged many challenged voters unless they appeared at a hearing in person or submitted affidavits to defend their eligibility to vote. The court ruled that these cancellations of voter registrations were likely unlawful under two provisions of the National Voter Registration Act, one that prohibits “systematic[]” purges of voter rolls within the 90 days prior to a federal election and one that establishes a strict process, involving statutorily prescribed notice and a waiting period of at least two years, for cancelling a voter’s registration based on a change of residence.

Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with co-counsel, represents the plaintiffs, which include the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Moore County Branch of the NAACP, and individuals whose eligibility to vote had been challenged.