Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Jeff Sessions Mum on Russia, But Loves Quoting Martin Luther King

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

The U.S. attorney general submitted a nearly blank form about his contacts with Russian officials. But he wasn't so silent when he talked to a group of right-wing lawyers and used words from the slain civil rights leader.

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

A court ordered U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to disclose the part of his security clearance form describing his contacts with officials from the Russian government. In response, Sessions produced a mostly blank piece of paper, citing invasion of personal privacy for not disclosing his meetings with Russians. That’s not suspicious at all.

In a July 11 speech to the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ extremist group of lawyers, Sessions thanked them for working to uphold and protect religious liberty and had the temerity to use the words of Martin Luther King Jr., in his remarks. Sessions also said the freedom to practice faith is being attacked, but what he really means is that the freedom to discriminate against gay people is under attack. Someone should tell Sessions that the arc of history bends toward justice, not away from gay people.

Team Legal’s own Jessica Mason Pieklo appeared on Democracy Now to discuss Rewire’s new documentary, Care in Chaos, and to talk about the endless harassment that abortion providers and clinic workers face.

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Four days after giving birth, a Pittsburgh woman was charged with aggravated assault of an unborn child, stemming from a heroin overdose, even though a state law specifies that such charges are not to be used against pregnant women.

Barronelle Stutzman, a wedding florist who refused to sell flowers to gay couples, filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices to review the Washington state Supreme Court ruling that her refusal violates the state’s anti-discrimination law. Stutzman claims that the creation and sale of floral arrangements is expression under the First Amendment and that requiring her to serve same-sex couples violates the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause.

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ, an international order of Catholic nuns, filed a lawsuit to block a pipeline from running through their property in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They allege that forcing them to use their land for a pipeline violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they believe the pipeline will be harmful to the earth and therefore violates their religious liberty.

A group of activists have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department and the state of Maryland, alleging that protesters at a July 2016 #AFROMATION protest were targeted because they were exercising their right of free speech to highlight the city police’s mistreatment of protesters. The purpose of the lawsuit, the activists say, is to get the Baltimore PD to change its policies.

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