Prison Sentence Delayed

A federal judge granted former New York Representative Chris Collins’ request to delay the start of his prison sentence because of Covid-19. Collins, who pleaded guilty to participating in an insider trading scheme, was scheduled to report to prison on April 21 to begin serving his 26-month sentence, which will now begin on June 2.

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Abortion Access

A district court in Iowa entered an order agreed to by the state and Planned Parenthood, which had sought an injunction to stop a proclamation it interpreted as restricting almost all surgical abortions. The state clarified the proclamation only suspends “nonessential” surgical abortions and also allows for the consideration of whether the timing of a patient’s pregnancy would prevent her from obtaining a legal abortion after the expiration of the proclamation. 

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Abortions During the Pandemic

Federal judges in Alabama and Ohio blocked coronavirus-related orders banning nonessential medical procedures from restricting abortion access. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson found that such an order is likely to “fully prevent women from exercising their righ to obtain an abortion,” given Alabama’s time limits on when women can undergo the procedure.

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Surf Gang

The Ninth Circuit upheld a judgment in favor of the City of Palos Verdes Estates and its former police chief in a suit brought by individuals who claim they were harassed by a territorial surf gang known as the Lunada Bay Boys and the city did not do enough to protect them. The court finds the city took “significant efforts to curb” the surf gang’s actions.

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Pledge of Allegiance

A federal court in Texas ruled that a former high school student may pursue her compelled speech claim against her sociology teacher who allegedly tried to force her to transcribe the Pledge of Allegiance and compared people who abstain from saying the pledge to “Soviet communists, supporters of Sharia, and people who condone pedophilia.” 

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Infowars

A trial court properly refused to dismiss defamation claims against Infowars owner Alex Jones and one of its reporters brought by the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook shooting, an appeals court in Texas ruled. The claims relate to Infowars broadcasts that challenged the father’s accounts of holding his deceased son in his arms.

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FOIA Requests

A federal court in Washington upheld a majority of Freedom of Information Act request withholdings challenged by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman who seeks every record in federal intelligence agencies’ files that mentions his name. Gellman, who is writing a book about intelligence gathering, reported on documents leaked to him from Edward Snowden.

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Pipeline Construction

Although Kinder Morgan violated the conditions of a biological opinion and incidental take statement designed to protect a federally protected bird species during its construction of a natural gas pipeline in the Texas Hill Country, a federal court in the state ruled, plaintiffs seeking to prohibit the company from engaging in clearing and construction are still not entitled to a preliminary injunction. 

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Lifetime Lease Requirement

The Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a suit challenging San Francisco’s Expedited Conversion Program, which lets owners of “tenancy-in-common” properties convert them into condominiums on the condition that existing tenants are offered lifetime leases. The owners failed to timely seek an exemption from the lifetime lease requirement, the court ruled.

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Oil and Terrorism

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit against Chevron claiming the company funded acts of terrorism through surcharges of Iraqi crude oil, which were remitted to former Iraq President Saddam Hussein. While Chevron knew a “kickback from its purchase” would be end up in Iraq, it did not necessarily know those funds were specifically used to finance terrorism, the court ruled.

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Transgender in Prison

The 11th Circuit ruled that an inmate’s claims against the Florida Department of Corrections’ now-repealed “freeze frame” policy limiting transgender inmates to the medical treatments they were receiving when they were taken into custody are moot. The circuit court also found the department did not violate the Eighth Amendment when it refused the inmate’s request to wear long hair, makeup and women’s undergarments.

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