Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Trump’s Transgender Military Ban Hits a Roadblock

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

In other news, courts in Iowa and Missouri are split on whether 72-hour waiting periods pose an undue burden on people seeking abortion care.

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

Today, a federal district judge blocked part of President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people in the armed services. But this is just a temporary injunction, so it’s not the last we’ll hear about the ban, which Trump announced by tweet this summer. But, in the meantime, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has halted the provisions that, beginning in March, would have prohibited recruitment of transgender people or allowed the dismissal of those already serving. 

Alec Scott writes in the Guardian about an immigration-focused law clinic staffed by Yale Law students and headed by their “Dumbledore,” Yale Law School Professor Mike Wishnie. These students descended on JFK Airport in New York to help immigrants who were stuck in limbo in January when Trump announced his first Muslim ban. And they haven’t stopped working against Trump since.

Public employee unions across the country are bracing for the impact of an anticipated 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME banning mandatory union dues. Critics claim that it’s not right that an employee should be able to pay nothing to the union like the federation AFSCME for representation but still receive all the benefits from the collective bargaining process.

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A former photographer for the New York Times, Robert Stolarik, has slapped “The Gray Lady” and its photography director, Michele McNally, with an age discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims that he was misclassified as a full-time freelancer for almost ten years, a status he says cost him benefits including health insurance.

Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch—who’s not exactly charming his fellow judges, we hear—has expressed concern that “civility” is getting in the way of free speech on college campuses.

A Pennsylvania judge threw out felony charges of child abuse against a pregnant person who overdosed on heroin while pregnant. He tossed the charge because, in Pennsylvania state law, pregnant people cannot be charged with aggravated assault against their own developing pregnancies.

The New Jersey Supreme Court is considering a case about whether churches can fix up their facilities at taxpayers’ expense.

Members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, as well as the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, have filed a lawsuit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, claiming that the Oregon Department of Transportation destroyed a spiritual site by expanding a highway and in so doing, violated their religious freedom.

Also in Oregon, a transgender inmate there settled her lawsuit against the state prison system and will receive hormone therapy, bras, and women’s underwear. The corrections department will also consider transferring her to the state’s only all-women prison. 

Trump’s shady voter disenfranchisement commission has apparently been put on hold —at least temporarily—while it navigates a bunch of lawsuits challenging its existence and lack of transparency. 

The administrative war against Obamacare continues as a federal judge ruled the Trump administration does not have to continue to make subsidy payments to insurers, which helps stabilize costs for consumers. 

The Department of Justice announced it has settled lawsuits over the tax-exempt status of some Tea Party groups. The ruling means the administration can treat these groups just like religious institutions, which I’m sure isn’t at all designed to help concentrate power within the far right of the Republican Party.

The Iowa Supreme Court agreed to extend a temporary injunction blocking the state’s anti-abortion 72-hour waiting period law, which poses an undue burden on abortion rights.

A Missouri court, however, decided that state’s 72-hour waiting period was no such burden, setting the stage for yet another national fight over abortion rights with dueling opinions on the same damn restriction.

In a win for LGBTQ people and a loss for bigots, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled the state’s human rights act covers sex stereotyping discrimination claims for LBGTQ people. The case involves a gay state employee who contends he was treated unfairly because his behavior didn’t conform to common ideas of how men “should” behave. That decision won’t stop the Alliance Defending Freedom from continuing to argue in courts across the country that the freedom of religion means the freedom to discriminate.

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