Legal Wrap: Another Grand Jury Fails to Indict, Supreme Court Ponders Online Harassment

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Legal Wrap: Another Grand Jury Fails to Indict, Supreme Court Ponders Online Harassment

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A New York grand jury failed to indict the officers involved in Eric Garner's death, while the Roberts Court heard arguments in two big cases for equality advocates.

Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.

Another grand jury failed to indict a police officer in the murder of an unarmed Black person, this time in New York City in the case of Eric Garner. U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch will oversee the federal investigation into Garner’s death.

In the latest episode of RJ Court Watch, Imani Gandy, Zerlina Maxwell, and I talk about Lynch’s record on police brutality claims and why her background makes her an excellent choice to lead the Department of Justice at this moment in our nation’s history.

The failure of the grand jury process in Garner’s case is remarkably, inexcusably similar to the Michael Brown case in Ferguson.

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A new study shows that more than 60 percent of low-income Tennesseans face significant civil legal issues with little to no ability to access help.

Tope Fadiran Charlton has this excellent piece on media coverage of the rape allegations against Bill Cosby.

The number of reported sexual assaults in the military is up nearly 8 percent to almost 6,000 cases for the year. Pentagon officials want us to know that the increase is actually good news and the result of a better reporting system, and not because more service members were actually assaulted.

Even so, Emily Crockett reports on calls by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for executive action by President Obama to address sexual assaults in the military since Republicans continue to obstruct the Military Justice Improvement Act, a federal law that would revamp the way the military handles assault claims.

President Obama’s immigration order could open the way for thousands of California immigrants to access health insurance.

Naturally conservatives hate it.

The FDA announced plans to change the way it labels prescription drugs to include clearer information about whether or not a drug is safe to use during pregnancy.

An appeals court ruled Florida’s mandatory drug testing for food-assistance applicants is an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment. Meanwhile, a program in Kansas designed to drug test welfare applicants is facing scrutiny for not testing enough applicants.

In other Kansas-related news, Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus will go back before the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts next week to try and regain her medical license after successfully challenging a 2012 decision that she conducted substandard mental health exams in 2003 for 11 patients, ages 10 to 18. Dr. Neuhaus conducted the exams for minor patients of the late Dr. George Tiller who needed to terminate pregnancies.

Here’s a nightmare story about a mother whose decision to check her newborn out of the hospital early prompted a visit from social services and her newborn being taken away from her.

Nina Liss-Schultz reports on Virginia’s initial steps to reverse a 2012 TRAP law that threatens to close the state’s 18 abortion clinics.

Meanwhile, a federal court declared unconstitutional a TRAP law designed to close the only abortion clinic in Lafayette, Indiana.

A group of anti-choice protesters in Mississippi have asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the Jackson, Mississippi, police department from harassing them by enforcing local protest ordinances that interrupt their plans to keep a 24-hour vigil outside the state’s only abortion clinic.

Bloomberg calls the pill one of the top ten “most disruptive” ideas in our history.

The Roberts Court heard arguments in UPS v. Young, a case that questions what if any obligations employers have to make workplace accommodations for pregnant employees. The argument didn’t go as bad as I expected, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that by the end of the arguments it wasn’t at all clear if the justices intended to do anything about employers pushing pregnant workers off the job.

Also in related news, a lawsuit filed in federal court in Colorado alleges a salon owner fired one of his employees after she asked to pump breast milk at work.

Just in case you missed it: Chief Justice John Roberts read Eminem lyrics into the record during arguments in Elonis v. United States, a case that looks at when violent online messages constitute criminal threats and whose outcome could have wide-reaching implications for equality advocates.

With the midterm elections well behind us, it’s time to see how your state scores in disclosing dark money in its elections.

In other government transparency news, SCOTUSBlog reports on the latest efforts by Congress to bring cameras to the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Illinois bucks the voter-restriction trend and looks to make voting easier for the next election.

And Chicago is setting an example for other municipalities by raising the city’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by the middle of 2019.

A New Jersey bill shows attitudes toward “death with dignity” measures may be shifting.

Good news! A Maine court awarded the family of a transgender girl $75,000 in a settlement of her discrimination lawsuit against a school district where administrators made her use a staff, not student, bathroom. In January, the Maine Supreme Court ruled the school district had violated the Maine Human Rights Act by refusing the student’s request to use the girls’ room. It was the first time a state high court in the country ruled that a transgender person should use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. The award comes as the Department of Education releases a memo outlining the ways schools are to protect transgender students. Hooray!