Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Republicans Can’t Seem to Stop Themselves From Purging Voter Rolls

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

Indiana's in trouble over removing voters. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas leaps to Neil Gorsuch's defense. And more shenanigans about the First Amendment.

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

A lawsuit has been filed against Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, alleging that she has unlawfully purged voters from the state rolls. In the lawsuit, Common Cause Indiana is challenging the state’s Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck system, a program intended to detect fraud by preventing voters from casting a ballot in more than one state. An investigative report in Rolling Stone found that the system, developed by Voter Suppression King Kris Kobach, was flawed. No surprise there.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the lawsuit regarding Wisconsin’s so-called “Cocaine Mom Law,” which allows pregnant people suspected of drug or alcohol abuse to be arrested. Tamara Loertscher was jailed for 18 days in 2014 after she sought medical treatment for a thyroid problem. During the visit, she admitted to previously using methamphetamines and marijuana—and ended up in jail. A federal judge struck down the law as vague, and the Seventh Circuit is set to issue its decision on Wisconsin’s appeal in upcoming months.

Sara Pedro, a Catholic ER nurse is suing Duke University Hospital, claiming that the hospital refused to accommodate her religious and moral objection to abortion, birth control, and vaccinations. She refused to perform abortions, give patients contraceptives or vaccines, and also refused to get vaccinated herself. She’s claiming that the hospital violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it refused to give her a reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs. 

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Elie Mystal writes about a truly absurd case in Above the Law: The Louisiana Supreme Court denied Warren Demesme’s appeal arguing that he had been denied legal representation. The court maintained that police had ignored his request for a lawyer because according to ridiculous reasoning, when Demesme asked for a “lawyer, dog” he might have actually been asking for a “lawyer dog.” Apparently in the transcript, there was a comma missing between “lawyer” and “dog,” which made the judges forget all sense and assume that Mr. Demesme was asking for a dog who could practice law. That’s messed up, dawg.

A car dealership in Texas says the First Amendment grants it the right to out an employee’s transgender status to its workforce because it’s “free speech on a matter of public concern.” It also fired the worker.

In other broad-and-ridiculous-readings-of-the-First-Amendment news, Donald Trump is arguing in Summer Zervos’ defamation case against him that his many denials of the sexual assault charges during the campaign were political speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Zervos, who was a contestant on Trump’s reality show The Apprentice, sued him for defamation after he basically called her a liar when she accused him of sexual assault.

Domestic terrorists vandalized a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbus, Indiana, splattering red paint across the sign and a wall.

In a rare media interview with his former law clerk Laura Ingraham on Fox News, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called fellow judge Neil Gorsuch a good man, pushing back on recent claims that Gorsuch is kind of a dick. In other news, Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of harassment decades ago and was publicly skewered in a congressional hearing, told a Texas audience that it’s time to stop sexual harassment and that women must to continue to tell their stories.

And in other Gorsuch news, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called for the U.S. Supreme Court to establish an ethical code, referencing Gorsuch’s shady speaking gig at a luncheon at Trump International Hotel and that gig’s connection to the Koch Brothers.

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