Manhattan DA won’t oppose Trump filing request to have NY conviction tossed


Important Takeaways:

  • On Monday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling that Trump has some presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for actions taken to overturn results of the 2020 election, Trump’s attorneys sent a letter to Judge Merchan asking to him to “set aside the jury’s verdict” in his hush money case.
  • The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Tuesday it would not oppose former President Donald Trump’s request to file a motion arguing that his hush money conviction should be tossed, a move that will almost certainly delay Trump’s sentencing, which is currently set for July 11.
  • Prosecutors asked for two weeks to respond to the defense motion.
  • “The verdicts in this case violate the presidential immunity doctrine and create grave risks of ‘an Executive Branch that cannibalizes itself,'” defense attorney Todd Blanche wrote. “After further briefing on these issues beginning on July 10, 2024, it will be manifest that the trial result cannot stand.”
  • Judge Merchan has yet to rule on Trump’s request to file his motion or make any determination about the July 11 sentencing date.

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U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing medical emergency abortions in Idaho does not lift the confusion in many states


Important Takeaways:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday allowing abortions for women facing medical emergencies in Idaho – for now – despite the state’s near-total ban on the procedure does nothing to lift the confusion in many states surrounding when emergency abortions are permissible, according to legal experts.
  • The case is one of several around the United States over when abortion is legally available in medical emergencies under exceptions to state abortion bans.
  • Doctors have said that they are unable to perform abortions that they believe are medically necessary for fear of prosecution because it is not clear what is allowed
  • In Thursday’s order, the Supreme Court found it should not have agreed to hear the case in the first place because lower courts needed more time to work through factual and legal issues, and dismissed it – restoring the judge’s order blocking the law while the case proceeds.

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Over 650,000 Americans experienced homelessness in 2023—up almost 50% from 2015


Important Takeaways:

  • Line between housed and homeless growing thinner across America
  • On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson—a case which aims to determine whether local governments can make it a crime for someone to live outside and unsheltered if they have no home.
  • Proponents argue that criminalizing public camping is a necessary measure for cities seeking to deal with unsafe and unsanitary homeless encampments. Opponents argue that criminalizing the involuntarily homeless only compounds injustice and inequality.
  • The hotly contested case is the latest eruption of a long-simmering problem that is rapidly becoming a full-blown crisis in communities around the country. And regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, a stubborn fact remains: Neither strict nor lenient laws will end homelessness. But a systematic and community-wide focus on homelessness prevention measures just might.
  • A January 25 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies estimated that over 650,000 Americans experienced homelessness in 2023—up almost 50% from 2015. Costs of renting and home ownership have skyrocketed while wages largely stagnate. The Harvard report found that half of U.S. households are “cost-burdened” (meaning that 30-50% of monthly income goes to housing), and 12 million people are “severely cost-burdened.” These Americans stand one accident, health setback, or employment disruption away from eviction.

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U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine-or-test policy for large businesses

Proverbs 29:2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s pandemic-related vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses at a time of escalating COVID-19 infections while allowing his administration to enforce its separate vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.

The court acted after hearing arguments last Friday in the legal fight over temporary mandates issued in November by two federal agencies aimed at increasing U.S. vaccination rates and making workplaces and healthcare settings safer. The cases tested presidential powers to address a swelling public health crisis that already has killed more than 845,000 Americans.

The court was divided in both cases. It ruled 6-3 with the six conservative justices in the majority and three liberal justices dissenting in blocking the broader workplace ruling. The vote was 5-4 to allow the healthcare worker rule, with two conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joining the liberals in the majority.

The federal workplace safety agency issued a rule affecting businesses with at least 100 workers requiring vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests – a policy applying to more than 80 million employees. Challengers led by the state of Ohio and a business group asked the justices to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule after a lower court lifted an injunction against it. Companies were supposed to start showing they were in compliance starting this past Monday.

The other mandate required vaccination for an estimated 10.3 million workers at about 76,000 healthcare facilities including hospitals and nursing homes that accept money from the Medicare and Medicaid government health insurance programs for elderly, disabled and low-income Americans.

The court’s unsigned ruling regarding larger businesses said that the OSHA rule was not an ordinary use of federal power.

“It is instead a significant encroachment on the lives – and health – of a vast number of employees,” the court said.

The court’s majority downplayed the risk COVID-19 specifically poses in the workplace, comparing it instead to “day-to-day” crime and pollution hazards that individuals face everywhere.

“Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life -simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock – would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization,” the court said.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote on behalf of the liberal justices that the decision “stymies the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID-19 poses to our nation’s workers.”

The United States leads the world in COVID-19 deaths and infections.

The high court blocked a Dec. 17 decision by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had allowed the mandate to go into effect.

The court’s order blocking enforcement while litigation continues in a lower court likely signals doom for the administration’s attempt to boost vaccination numbers by harnessing federal powers to protect workplace health and safety.


In the healthcare facilities case, the court’s differently comprised majority concluded that the regulation “fits neatly” within the power Congress conferred on the government to impose conditions on Medicaid and Medicare funds, which includes policies that protect health and safety.

“After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm,” the court said.

The justices lifted orders by federal judges in Missouri and Louisiana blocking the policy in 24 states, allowing the administration to enforce it nearly nationwide. Enforcement was blocked in Texas by a lower court in separate litigation not at issue in the case before the Supreme Court.

Workers must be vaccinated by the end of February under the mandate.

The White House has said the two mandates will save lives and strengthen the U.S. economy by increasing the number of vaccinated Americans by the millions. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices that the pandemic poses a particularly acute workplace danger, with employees getting sick and dying every day because of their exposure to the coronavirus on the job, with outbreaks across all industries.

The challengers argued that the two federal agencies overstepped their authority in issuing the mandates without specific authorization by Congress.

The Supreme Court’s consideration of the challenges to the mandates underscored how divisive the issue of vaccination has become in the United States, as in many nations. Many Republicans have been critical of vaccine mandates imposed by governments and businesses.

The pandemic has presented an ongoing test for Biden since he took office in January 2021, having promised to improve the federal response to the crisis after an approach by his predecessor Donald Trump that critics called disjointed. But like many other countries the United States is still struggling to overcome the pandemic and is facing an upswing in COVID-19 cases driven by the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Analysis: Texas abortion law opens door to copycat curbs on guns, other rights

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place a Texas law banning most abortions has opened the door for states to seek to restrict other rights including guns by copying the measure’s novel enforcement mechanism, though it remains to be seen how many will actually do it.

The Republican-backed Texas law takes enforcement away from state officials, instead empowering private citizens to sue anyone who performs or assists a woman in obtaining an abortion after embryo cardiac activity is detected – at about six weeks of pregnancy – with awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Friday.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said the next day that he directed his staff to work with legislators and the state’s attorney general on a bill that would similarly enable private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells assault weapons or self-assembled “ghost guns,” also with at least $10,000 in damages.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, another Democrat, said in an appearance on Tuesday on ABC’s program “The View” that she would support a similar effort in her state.

“We need to follow his lead,” James said, referring to Newsom.

President Joe Biden has urged the U.S. Congress to pass national gun restrictions, but Democratic-backed legislation over the years has been stymied by Republican opposition.

Legislators in five other Republican-led states have introduced abortion bills modeled on the Texas law, similarly structured to avoid judicial review, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group favoring abortion rights. None have yet been enacted.

The Texas law, known formally as S.B. 8, was designed to be difficult for courts to block because it removed state officials from enforcement, making it is hard for challengers to figure out who to sue and obtain a ruling that would halt it statewide. The Supreme Court largely accepted that construct while allowing abortion providers to proceed with a legal challenge aimed at some medical licensing officials.


Critics have said that ruling would allow states to enact laws that circumvent other recognized rights such as LGBT and religious rights as well as guns.

“The court is not pushing back on the use of S.B. 8-style laws to infringe constitutionally protected rights. I do think this is a bit of an invitation to other states,” said David Noll, a professor at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey.

States seeking to roll back abortion rights may in the near future not need to resort to novel mechanisms like the Texas law to avoid running afoul of Supreme Court precedent on abortion. The conservative justices who hold a 6-3 majority on the court indicated during oral arguments on Dec. 1 in a case from Mississippi that they are willing to undercut or even overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

In Illinois, one Democratic legislator has proposed targeting gun dealers with a measure similar to the one California is discussing. National gun control activists sound noncommittal.

Stacey Radnor, a spokesperson for the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement that Newsom’s proposal is “an interesting approach that we’re going to examine further as we get more details.”

Groups favoring gun rights have called Newsom’s announcement a stunt, pointing out that California already has a law banning military-style assault weapons.

“If they really wanted to be the full-blown aggressive so-and-sos that Texas has been, they would ban handguns,” said Erik Jaffe, a lawyer who filed a brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of the Firearms Policy Coalition gun rights group that has been critical of the Texas law, said of California.

Jaffe said Newsom, who in September survived a recall election, “might not survive the political fallout” of such a measure.

James White, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives who supports the state’s abortion law, questioned in a letter to the state’s attorney general whether private individuals are bound by the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide. But White said in an interview he does not anticipate a state law similar to the abortion law targeting the rights of same-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that who people decide to get married to is left to their discretion. I don’t know how you would get into civil litigation,” White said.

Advocacy groups for LGBT people said they have not heard of any such proposals.

“I have not, and I hope I never do,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, adding that any such measures could run into other legal problems because they would be unlawfully discriminatory.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

Arizona asks U.S. Supreme Court to allow abortion restriction

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The state of Arizona on Tuesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a Republican-backed law that bans abortions performed due to fetal genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome to go into effect.

The emergency request to the justices, made by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, seeks to block part of a September ruling by a federal judge in the state that put the newly enacted measure on hold.

The Arizona Medical Association physicians’ group and abortion rights advocates were among those filing suit after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in April signed into law the measure banning abortions performed strictly on the basis of genetic disorders detected in the fetus, such as Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis, unless the condition is considered lethal.

It is one of a series of Republican-backed abortion restrictions pursued at the state level in recent years.

Brnovich has asked the high court to allow the provision to go into effect while litigation continues on the appeal.

His request reaches the conservative-majority court as the justices weigh another major abortion case from Mississippi that could lead to the overturning of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide. Such a move would make it easier for states to impose restrictions on abortion or possibly ban it entirely.

Mississippi’s law, blocked by lower courts, bans abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The conservative justices during arguments on Dec. 1 indicated sympathy toward Mississippi’s law and potential support for overturning Roe.

In another case, the Supreme Court last Friday left in place a Texas ban on abortions starting at about six weeks of pregnancy but allowed a legal challenge to proceed, with the fate of the Republican-backed measure that allows private citizens to enforce it still hanging in the balance.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court rejects religious challenge to New York vaccine mandate

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected challenges brought by a group of Christian doctors and nurses and an organization that promotes vaccine skepticism to New York’s refusal to allow religious exemptions to the state’s mandate that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Acting in two cases, the justices denied emergency requests for an injunction requiring the state to permit religious exemptions while litigation over the mandate’s legality continues in lower courts. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the injunction.

The Supreme Court previously rejected other challenges to vaccine mandates including one focusing upon Maine’s lack of a religious exemption for healthcare workers.

The New York challengers said the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on religious discrimination by the government, or a federal civil rights law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs. A lower court rejected their bid for an injunction.

New York’s Department of Health on Aug. 26 ordered healthcare professionals who come in contact with patients or other employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 27. That deadline was delayed to Nov. 22.

The state has said that under the policy employers can consider religious accommodation requests and employees can be reassigned to jobs such as remote work.

The state said it allows a narrow medical exemption for the small number of people with a serious allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines. It said longstanding healthcare worker vaccine mandates for measles and rubella also have no religious exemptions.

One lawsuit was brought by a group of 17 doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, most of whom are Catholic, who sued under pseudonyms, denouncing “medical dictatorship.” Sixteen said they were fired or suspended under the policy, while one nurse agreed to be vaccinated to keep her job.

In a dissent in that case, Gorsuch said the mandate seemed based “on nothing more than fear and anger at those who harbor unpopular religious beliefs.” Joined by Alito, Gorsuch chastised the court for not protecting the challengers, saying that it “is always the failure to defend the Constitution’s promises that leads to this court’s greatest regrets.”

The other case involved a challenge by three Christian nurses, who are members of We the Patriots USA, a Connecticut-based group that is also a plaintiff. The group opposes vaccine mandates and advocates for various causes including what it called “medical freedom.”

In a video on the group’s website, co-founder Brian Festa said, “We were fighting against vaccine mandates. We were fighting to reveal the truth about what’s in these shots, long before COVID was even a thing.”

These plaintiffs are represented by Norman Pattis, a lawyer known for defending conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, founder of the right-wing website Infowars, against defamation lawsuits after he falsely called a 2012 Connecticut school mass shooting a “hoax.”

According to government data, about 84% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 72% are fully vaccinated. A minority of Americans has declined to get the shots.

In legal filings, the New York challengers said that they believe abortion is “evil” and object to any COVID-19 vaccine whose development relied on cell lines from aborted fetuses.

The three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for U.S. use do not contain aborted fetal cells. Laboratory-grown cells that descended from the cells of an aborted fetus obtained decades ago were employed in testing during the vaccine development process. Drug efficacy and safety testing using such cell lines is routine.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court allows challenge to Texas six-week abortion ban

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday allowed abortion providers to pursue a legal challenge to a ban on most abortions in Texas, with the fate of the Republican-backed measure that allows private citizens to enforce it now hanging in the balance.

The justices, who heard arguments on the case on Nov. 1, lifted a block on lower court proceedings, likely paving the way for a federal judge to formally block the law. The conservative-majority court on Sept. 1 had declined to halt the law. The court in a separate case dismissed a separate challenge brought by President Joe Biden’s administration.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide another major abortion rights case from Mississippi that could lead to the overturning of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

The court in the Texas case ruled 8-1 that the challenge was allowed under a 1908 Supreme Court ruling that said state laws can be challenged in federal court by suing state government officials. Texas had sought to exploit a loophole in that earlier ruling by saying no state officials could enforce it, but the Supreme Court said the challengers could pursue their case by naming state licensing officials as defendants.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented on that part of the ruling, saying he would have dismissed the lawsuit altogether.

The Texas measure is the nation’s most restrictive abortion law. It bans abortions at around six weeks, a point in time when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant, and has no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. It is one of a series of restrictive abortion laws passed by Republicans at the state level in recent years.

The Texas law enables private citizens to sue anyone who performs or assists a woman in getting an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo. Individual citizens can be awarded a minimum of $10,000 for bringing successful lawsuits under the law. Biden’s administration has called it a “bounty.”

That feature made it more difficult to directly sue the state to challenge the law’s legality, helping shield the measure from being immediately blocked.

Abortion providers and the Biden administration in separate legal challenges argued that the law violates a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy recognized in the Roe v. Wade ruling and is impermissibly designed to evade federal judicial review.

The Mississippi law – blocked by lower courts – bans abortions starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The court’s conservative justices during oral arguments in the Mississippi case on Dec. 1 indicated sympathy toward the Mississippi measure and potential support for overturning Roe.

How the conservative justices voted in the Texas case may not guide how they vote on the Mississippi law because the legal issues differed, particularly relating to its unusual enforcement mechanism.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court conservatives lean toward more public dollars for religious schools

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) – Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday appeared ready to further expand public funding of religiously based entities, indicating sympathy toward a challenge by two Christian families to a Maine tuition assistance program that excludes private schools that promote religious beliefs.

The court heard nearly two hours of arguments in an appeal by the families of a lower court ruling rejecting their claim that the Maine program singles them out for religious discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution including its First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion.

Expanding religious rights has been a priority in recent years for the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Conservative justices asked questions aimed at exposing potential bias in Maine’s program, indicating their concern that religious schools and parents are being treated differently than their secular counterparts.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the lesson from the court’s prior rulings in this area is that “discriminating against all religions versus secular is itself a kind of discrimination that the court has said is odious to the Constitution, at least in certain contexts.”

Liberal justices emphasized that the program is meant only to provide a public education everywhere in the state and expressed concern over possible strife that funding the promotion of religion could cause in society.

The families sought taxpayer dollars to send their children to two Christian schools that integrate religion into their classrooms and have policies against gay and transgender students and staff. The First Amendment also prohibits government endorsement of any particular religion.

The case comes to the Supreme Court on the heels of its 2020 ruling in a Montana case that paved the way for more taxpayer dollars to flow to religious schools.

The ruling in the Maine case, due by the end of June, could further erode the separation of church and state in the United States.

The Montana ruling prevented states from disqualifying schools from public aid based on their religious status or affiliation. The Maine case goes further, with the possibility looming of requiring states that subsidize private education to also fund religious activities.

Maine is backed in the case by President Joe Biden’s administration, public school boards and teacher unions. The state has said it excludes certain private schools not because they are religious but because they would use public funds to promote religious beliefs.

The families asked the justices to consider overruling a 2004 Supreme Court precedent in a case called Locke v. Davey that upheld a Washington state post-secondary grant program that excluded theology students.

In some sparsely populated areas lacking public secondary schools, Maine lets public funds be used to pay for tuition at certain private schools of a family’s choice. The schools must be “nonsectarian” and are excluded only if they promote a particular religion and present material “through the lens of that faith.”

Two sets of parents – David and Amy Carson, and Troy and Angela Nelson – sued the state in 2018.

The Nelsons would like to use the tuition aid to send their son to a Christian school called Temple Academy in Waterville, but instead use it to send him to a secular private high school. The Carsons paid out-of-pocket to send their daughter to Bangor Christian Schools in Maine’s third-largest city.

The two schools involved describe themselves as seeking to instill a “Biblical worldview” in students, according to court records. They will not admit gay or transgender students, or hire gay teachers. Bangor Christian Schools teaches that a “husband is the leader of the household” and includes a class instructing students to “refute the teachings of the Islamic religion with the truth of God’s Word.”

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the families last year.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

Groups push to make California a haven for abortion rights

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California must prepare for an influx of women seeking abortions in the liberal state if the U.S. Supreme Court ends the constitutional right to the procedure, dozens of women’s health and rights groups said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report by the Future of Abortion Council is aimed at positioning California as place where women from conservative states can get abortions. It comes as the Supreme Court considers overturning or weakening its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized the procedure nationwide.

Last week, the conservative-dominated court signaled a willingness to dramatically curtail abortion rights in America and possibly overturn Roe during oral arguments for a Mississippi case.

“It is imperative that California take the lead, live up to its proclamation as a ‘Reproductive Freedom State,’ and be ready to serve anyone who seeks abortion services,” Democrat Toni Atkins, president pro tem of the state Senate, wrote in a letter introducing the report.

The council made more than 40 recommendations, including a call for the state to fund programs to train additional abortion providers and legal protections for women from states where abortion becomes illegal.

Twenty-six states are certain or likely to ban abortions if the court limits or overturns Roe, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies abortion rights.

More than 40 health care providers, women’s rights groups and Democratic politicians formed the council in September after the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law that effectively bans abortion at about six weeks and allows people to sue doctors or others who have helped a woman end a pregnancy after fetal cardiac activity can be detected.

The Guttmacher Institute predicted in September that as many as 1.4 million women may drive in to California for abortion services if neighboring states outlaw or severely limit access to the procedure. That estimate doesn’t include women who might fly to the West Coast for abortions.

When the new Texas law took effect in September, Planned Parenthood clinics in California began treating two to three Texans per day, said Brandon Richards, a spokesperson for the clinics.

“We started to see an immediate impact on our health centers in California,” Richards said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)