News Law and Policy

Contraception Challenges Dismissed in Nashville, Pittsburgh

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Two more lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate were dismissed by federal judges with over 30 left on the docket.

The contraception mandate decisions just keep coming. On Thursday a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of Catholic nonprofits in Nashville while a federal judge in Pittsburgh dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

An identical case, brought by the Catholic Diocese in Erie is still pending but after the dismissal in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh a dismissal in that suit is likely as well.

In the dismissals of the Catholic Diocese suits both the judges in Nashville and Pittsburgh held the because the mandate was not yet in effect, and since the administration was in the process of further working to address concerns from religious organizations, the Dioceses had suffered no injury yet.

There are approximately 40 federal suits challenging the contraception mandate on the docket nationwide, including 12 suits brought by various Catholic dioceses nationwide. Of those cases pending, district judges have dismissed seven of the cases, including these most recent decisions, granted injunctions in two, denied an injunction in another and issued a split decision. The others are all still pending in federal courts across the country.

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Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Admitted Colorado Planned Parenthood Shooter in Court Again

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Robert Lewis Dear Jr. faces more than 100 criminal charges related to the November siege of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, which left three dead. Now his attorneys are asking the court to ban Dear from contacting the media.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

Attorneys for the admitted Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. have asked the court to order their client to stop talking to the media. Dear, who was arrested after a November rampage left three dead, is awaiting another court-ordered competency hearing to determine if and when he will stand trial for the 179 counts he faces. That hearing is currently scheduled for August 11.

The California criminal justice system is in shambles, and nobody seems to know what to do about it, not even the California Supreme Court.

Scott Lemieux has this really smart piece on how we may be closer than we think to eliminating the death penalty once and for all.

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The State of Texas has launched more than 40 lawsuits against the Obama administration. Here’s how they all stack up in terms of cost and success.

Nope. The birth control benefit lawsuits are never going to end.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times writes that Republican Missouri state Rep. Paul Wieland’s lawsuit challenging the birth control benefit is more about family control than strictly religious beliefs.

Wisconsin is the latest state to see provisions of its voter ID law fall.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the State of Virginia say they will appeal a ruling blocking an order restoring voting rights to thousands of people convicted of felonies.

Attorneys for the State of Kentucky really want to close down a Louisville Planned Parenthood, despite no evidence of wrongdoing at the reproductive health-care center.

In Ohio, the state appellate court ruled that regulations mandating abortion clinics to enter into transfer agreements with hospitals within 30 miles are unconstitutional.

Cornell Law School Professor Sherry F. Colb explains why “Mike Pence’s abortion law” in Indianawhich, among other restrictions, prohibits pregnancy terminations based upon the fetus’ Down syndrome status—is a violation of women’s bodily integrity.

News Law and Policy

Another Acquittal Handed Down in Freddie Gray Case

Michelle D. Anderson

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on "presumptions or assumptions.”

A Baltimore judge on Monday acquitted another police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams cleared Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore Police Department officer charged by Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct.

The judge heard closing arguments last week.

Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died of a spinal injury he suffered after being taken into police custody in April 2015. His death sparked widespread protests and helped inspire a number of reforms, including an effort by local grassroots activists to allow citizens on police trial boards. The boards, introduced in the 1990s, make decisions about disciplining officers that can be affirmed or reversed by the police commissioner.

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Mosby sought to hold Rice responsible for failing to secure Gray in a seat belt while riding in a police transport van following his arrest.

But Williams, according to a Baltimore Sun report, said prosecutors failed to prove the elements of the crimes and wanted him to rely on “presumptions or assumptions.”

Williams had dismissed a second-degree assault charge midway through the trial, while the state had dropped a misconduct charge after recognizing Rice was not directly involved in Gray’s arrest, according to the Sun.

Rice, who is white, is the fourth officer out of six charged by Mosby to go to trial. His trial represents the third acquittal in connection to Gray’s death. Williams cleared officers Edward Nero and Caesar R. Goodson Jr. in May and June, respectively.

The first trial, concerning Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury, or mistrial, in December. Porter’s second trial is scheduled to begin on September 6. The trial of Officer Garrett E. Miller is slated to begin July 27; Sgt. Alicia D. White, October 13.

All officers charged by Mosby pleaded not guilty.

Closing arguments in Rice’s bench trial came on Thursday, the same day officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs (CJSJ) announced they had filed friend-of-the-court briefs on July 14 in an effort to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Baltimore’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3.

The union had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the police department from providing internal affairs police records to Baltimore’s civilian review board.

The CJSJ, which is a coalition of grassroots groups and national organizations like Baltimore United for Change, the Baltimore Algebra Project, and Amnesty International, said the union lawsuit is an effort to block “institutional changes leading to police accountability and transparency.” The coalition’s leadership argued that the suit would disable the “civilian review board from carrying out its responsibility in bringing much-needed transparency to Baltimore policing.”

The union had opposed the reform efforts because the proposed changes would allow citizens who lacked “specialized knowledge” about policing to review internal matters, according to the Sun.

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