Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Under Texas Law, a Fetus Is Counted Among Shooting Deaths

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

In other news, a California woman's case puts the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to the test, and an appeals court is reviewing Indiana's mandatory ultrasound law.

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

Crystal Holcombe, one of the victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas, was pregnant. So, according to a Texas feticide law passed in 2003, the fetus she was carrying must be counted among the fatalities just like the other victims.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from practices like forcing pregnant employees to take unpaid leave to accommodate their condition, but that apparently didn’t stop one California business from allegedly forcing a pregnant employee to do just that.

Conservatives love to cry foul over “academic freedom” and “free speech” when faced with the consequences of such actions like spewing racist garbage in public. Good thing the Indiana Court of Appeals isn’t buying it in the case of a Purdue University Northwest at Calumet professor who was censured for comments about Muslims and Black Americans in his classes.

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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether Indiana’s mandatory ultrasound law, which requires abortion seekers to have the scan 18 hours before terminating a pregnancy, is constitutional.

Another challenge to Republican gerrymandering efforts after the 2010 census chugs along in federal court, this time in Pennsylvania.

A federal judge ruled that Maryland failed to address lack of investment in its historically black colleges and universities. And the state’s had time to work on this: A lawsuit first filed in 2006 alleged inadequate support has exacerbated racial inequality in public higher education.

The City of Port Isabel, Texas, faces a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against Latinos during recovery efforts after 2008’s Hurricane Dolly when it refused to issue the necessary permits to rebuild a housing complex destroyed in the storm. Why did the city refuse to issue the permits? According to the lawsuit’s claims, it was to block Latinos from moving into a predominately white neighborhood.

Under instructions from South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty, judges have stopped jailing people wanted for arrest for unpaid fines and missing court dates. Although no formal written order has been issued, Beatty’s instructions are an attempt to curb practices that turn corrections facilities into modern-day debtors’ prisons. This move may be in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this summer.

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