Gavel Drop: Supreme Court’s Term Opens Without Ninth Justice

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Gavel Drop: Supreme Court’s Term Opens Without Ninth Justice

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

The Supreme Court began its term on Monday without a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia—though President Obama made a nomination for the seat in March.

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

It is the start of another Supreme Court term and a reminder that Senate Republicans failed to do their job and at least hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland. President Obama selected Garland in March to fill the seat left vacant after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments by attorneys representing the State of Arkansas, which is seeking to overturn a lower court’s decision forbidding the state from cutting off Planned Parenthood affiliates from its Medicaid program.

In Wisconsin, a federal judge ruled that a transgender student can proceed with their lawsuit alleging the Kenosha Unified School District is violating Title IX by mandating students use bathrooms consistent with their biological sex rather than their gender identity.

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A federal court in Wisconsin told officials to investigate whether the state was violating a previous court order to stop suppressing the vote and start issuing the IDs necessary for Wisconsinites to participate in the November election.

The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of an anonymous student challenging the nondiscrimination policy of the Fairfax County School Board. According to the lawsuit, the student claims to be “distressed” and “terrified” as a result of the school board’s decision to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld privacy protections for rape victims in a challenge to the state’s rape shield law, which prevents victims’ prior sexual histories from being used to rebut their assault claims.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Black men may have a legitimate reason to run from police when stopped, relying on data about overpolicing of Black communities to support that ruling.

The White House took an initial step toward expanding LGBTQ rights in federal corrections facilities by meeting with formerly incarcerated LGBTQ people and those living with HIV in the criminal justice system to address issues including the “conditions of confinement” for those populations.

The Obama administration is so tired of Congress holding up funds to help insurance companies absorb some of the costs of implementing portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that it may use an obscure fund to pay the companies.

Fusion published this piece on the history of the activists who took the fight against the Hyde Amendment all the way to the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump’s videotaped deposition where he discusses the speech where he called some Mexican immigrants “rapists” is here if you want to watch it for yourself. The deposition occurred in a lawsuit related to one of Trump’s stalled real estate ventures.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach finally agreed to comply with a federal court order to add about 18,000 voters to the rolls and notify them of the change, instead of facing contempt of court for his effort to disenfranchise as many Kansans as possible.

Finally, some good news. The Michigan Court of Appeals threw out a plea agreement for a woman accused of child abuse for taking meth while pregnant, ruling the statute’s definition of a “child” did not include a fetus and prosecutors should not have charged the woman under the statute to begin with.

And more good news! Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended for the rest of his term for violating the judicial code of ethics by instructing Alabama courts to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision recognizing the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry.