Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.
More in “Trump is bad news for the federal judiciary”: At age 37 and with only one year on the bench, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick is about to become the youngest federal judge confirmed under the Trump administration. He’s white and conservative, which should come as no surprise. What may come as a surprise is that before Scott Pruitt joined the Environmental Protection Agency and blew all our minds with rank corruption, he was Oklahoma’s attorney general and blew Oklahomans’ minds with rank corruption. And guess who his protégé was? If you guessed Patrick Wyrick, give yourself a high five.
Lisa Belkin of Yahoo News writes that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has become a favorite among abortion foes in the states that sit in the Eighth Circuit—Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Anti-abortion politicians and lobbyists have been introducing abortion restrictions in those states in the hopes that the Eighth Circuit will uphold them—because it is one of the most conservative courts of appeal in the country, especially when it comes to abortion rights—thus provoking a challenge to Roe v. Wade and giving the Supreme Court an opening to reverse the 45-year-old decision.
Demand Justice, a liberal nonprofit founded by Capitol Hill alums, is going on the offensive: Since Republicans have been blocking the appointments of progressive judges such as U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, this Democrat-heavy group is rolling out a digital ad campaign targeting Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist.
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In the case of Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the Planned Parenthood shooter who admitted to killing three people in Colorado Springs, the Colorado Supreme Court has upheld two lower court rulings that the state mental institution where Dear is housed can forcibly medicate him in an effort to restore his mental competency so that he can stand trial.
New court documents in a pending criminal case in Kentucky have filled in some details about the September 2017 yard dispute that landed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in the hospital with broken ribs and injured lungs. Paul was reportedly dumping yard debris near a neighbor’s property and said neighbor tackled Paul. Good fences make good neighbors?
New York’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the Trump Foundation alleging campaign finance violations and other problems related to the foundation’s dealings with the Trump campaign. If convicted, President Trump won’t be able to pardon his way out of it because he can only pardon federal crimes, not state crimes.
In Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Minnesota law barring voters from wearing political apparel at the ballot box. John Roberts, writing for the majority, said that the definition of political apparel was too broad and that the enforcement guidance provided to poll workers was haphazard, rendering the statute unconstitutional.
Crystal Mason, the Texas woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for voter fraud, will not get a new trial. Mason says she didn’t know that her felony conviction for tax fraud barred her from voting.
A new restriction on medication abortion in Missouri will remain in effect pending the resolution of a lawsuit that will determine whether the restriction is lawful. The regulation requires clinics to adopt a “complication plan” under which the clinic contracts with two OB-GYNs who have admitting privileges at a local hospital and agree to be on call 24/7 in case a complication arises in connection with medication abortion services. Judge Beth Phillips denied Planned Parenthood’s request for an injunction, which means Planned Parenthood clinics in in Columbia and Springfield, Missouri, will not be able to offer medication abortion until the lawsuit is resolved one way or the other.