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A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina’s flagship public university can continue to consider race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions, rebuffing a conservative group’s argument that affirmative action disadvantages white and Asian students.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled late Monday that the University of North Carolina has shown that it has a compelling reason to pursue a diverse student body and has demonstrated that measurable benefits come from that goal.

“In sum, the Court concludes that UNC has met its burden in demonstrating that it has a genuine and compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity,” Biggs wrote.

Students for Fair Admissions sued UNC in 2014, arguing that using race and ethnicity as a factor in college admissions violates the equal protection cause of the Constitution and federal civil rights law. The group contended that UNC had gone too far in using race as a factor in admissions and had thus “intentionally discriminated against certain of (its) members on the basis of their race, color, or ethnicity.”

The group’s president, Edward Blum, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that it would appeal by day’s end to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. His group already appealed a denial in a similar lawsuit against Harvard University. Blum said he hopes both cases get bundled together so that the U.S. Supreme Court rules simultaneously on private and public universities.

“Shame on Harvard, shame on UNC and shame on all universities who take federal funds from considering race as an element,” said Blum, who has long sought to rid college admissions of race-based admissions policies.

The Supreme Court in June asked the Justice Department to weigh in on Blum’s Harvard lawsuit, which was supported by former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s Justice Department also challenged Yale University ’s admissions practices in a suit President Joe Biden’s administration dropped earlier this year.

UNC countered in court that its admission practices are legally and constitutionally permissible and that race-neutral alternatives would not enable it to achieve its diversity goals. Of roughly 20,000 undergraduate UNC students this fall 2021 semester, approximately 56% are white, nearly 13% Asian, about 10% Hispanic, and 8.5% Black, the university said.

“This decision makes clear the University’s holistic admissions approach is lawful,” said an emailed statement from Beth Keith, a spokesperson for the university. “We evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to a vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive.”

Judge Biggs wrote that she applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s University of Texas precedent, which established that schools may consider race in admissions in ways narrowly tailored to promote diversity.

She noted that UNC “offered a principled and reasoned explanation,” supported by research, for its pursuit of a diverse student body, citing a 2005 report by a UNC task force that its academic goals depend on “a critical mass” of students from underrepresented groups.

“The University has presented substantial evidence demonstrating its good faith in pursuing the educational benefits that flow from diversity,” the judge concluded.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented a racially diverse group of students who intervened in the case demanding that the university to even more to support minorities. Its statement said considering race in admissions helps ensure that talented applicants from historically marginalized groups aren’t overlooked.

“As our clients demonstrated with their trial testimony and evidence, race is an integral part of a students’ identity, and must be treated as such during the admissions process,” attorney Genevieve Bonadies-Torres said.


A federal judge on Monday agreed to push back until next year the sentencing for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s friend who pleaded guilty earlier this year to sex trafficking and other charges.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said sentencing for Joel Greenberg could be postponed from next month to next March during a hearing in federal court in Orlando. Greenberg’s attorney had asked for the delay so the former local tax collector can continue cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors agreed to the postponement.

Greenberg wasn’t present during the 20-minute hearing. The judge said he would set a new sentencing date in the future.

Greenberg is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

Greenberg’s plea agreement with prosecutors requires continued cooperation with an ongoing probe into sex trafficking.

Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle, was not mentioned in Greenberg’s plea agreement. But Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, who was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.


A federal judge has limited the ability for now for the nonprofit running Oak Ridge National Laboratory to place employees on unpaid leave who receive exemptions to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley in Knoxville issued the temporary restraining order Friday barring UT-Battelle from placing employees on indefinite unpaid leave or firing them after they receive a religious or medical accommodation to the vaccine.

The six workers who sued have argued they were told the unpaid leave would be indefinite. Their employer said in a court filing that the leave will last 60 days — with health benefits intact — and then will be reevaluated. Those with security clearances will maintain them for 90 days, the filing states.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory spokesperson Morgan McCorkle said Sunday that officials there “remain confident our policy is legal, in taxpayers’ interest, and necessary for the well-being of our workforce.”

The judge wrote that he will decide by Oct. 29 whether to let the order expire or keep it while the case plays out. He reasoned that “preventing their (employees’) placement on unpaid leave for a matter of two weeks simply will not harm” the organization, while the unpaid leave presents a “functional loss of employment” and other damages for the workers at the lab, which is about 25 miles west of Knoxville.

The judge wrote that the order shouldn’t be interpreted that he is inclined to block the order permanently, and instead was put in place to avoid the “risk of irreparable harm” until a full hearing can be held.

The employees sued earlier this month, saying they requested religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine and two of them also asked for a medical exemption. The lawsuit also seeks class-action status, arguing the unpaid leave policy breaches civil rights and disability discrimination protections.

The lawsuit says the workers were not offered alternatives, such as working remotely or periodic testing. All employees currently face a mask mandate at the lab.
The laboratory, which falls under the U.S. Department of Energy, announced on Aug. 26 that all staff needed to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, with a request that those who were seeking accommodations for religious or medical reasons to submit them by Sept. 15.

UT-Battelle had 145 employees request for accommodations for religious beliefs, and in 24 cases had in-person discussions with the workers. UT-Battelle received 75 requests for medical exemptions, granting 47 of them, denying 25, with three pending, a filing states.
According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website, there are 5,700 staff workers at the facility.

“The risk posed by unvaccinated staff members was exemplified by the employees who tested positive on the day they were being interviewed about their religious accommodation requests,” UT-Battelle wrote.


Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is defending her authority to decide how the state will spend more than $1 billion federal pandemic aid — without the approval of the Legislature.

In a written court briefing Friday, Lujan Grisham said a state Supreme Court decision nearly 50 years ago upheld the governor’s discretion over federal funding at universities and should hold true today more broadly regarding federal pandemic relief funds.

Republican Senate minority leader Gregory Baca of Belen and Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and rein in the governor’s authority to spend without legislative approval.

Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in 2022, has used the relief funds to replenish the state unemployment insurance trust, underwrite millions of dollars in sweepstakes prizes for people who got vaccinated, prop up agriculture wages amid a shortage of chile pickers and provide incentives for the unemployed to return to work. Decisions are pending on more than $1 billion in federal relief.

The ruling vacated approval of the pipeline, prompting FERC’s 90-day order allowing its continued operation.

Roberts handles emergency appeals to the Supreme Court in cases arising in the federal courts in Washington, D.C.

New Mexico’s state treasurer says a close reading of the state Constitution shows that the Legislature should help determine how to spend a recent round of pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden in March.


Chief Justice John Roberts has rejected a Supreme Court stay request from the St. Louis-based natural gas company Spire Inc. to allow it to keep operating a pipeline through Illinois and Missouri.

Roberts did not comment Friday in refusing to temporarily pause a lower court order affecting the operation of the Spire STL Pipeline. The company could be forced to stop operating the pipeline on Dec. 13 unless the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission extends an emergency order granted in September.

Scott Smith, president of Spire STL Pipeline, said in a statement that the company was disappointed in the decision.

“Shutting down the Pipeline could potentially lead to widespread, prolonged, and life-threatening natural-gas service disruptions for residents and businesses in the greater St. Louis region,” Smith said. “Spire STL Pipeline will continue to fully cooperate with the FERC and other stakeholders to keep this critical infrastructure in service to ensure continued access to reliable, affordable energy for homes and businesses in the greater St. Louis region.”

Smith said Spire “retains the ability to return to the Supreme Court for emergency relief if new developments further threaten its ability to serve its customers.”

The environmental group opposing Spire has said the company’s concerns are overblown because FERC is likely to allow the pipeline to continue to operate through the winter.
The pipeline runs for 65 miles (105 kilometers), from Scott County, Illinois, to near St. Louis, where it connects with a national network. FERC granted approval in 2018.

Spire has called it vital for providing “reliable and critical energy access to 650,000 homes and businesses throughout the St. Louis region.” But the Environmental Defense Fund contended in a lawsuit that the pipeline harms land in its path, and that taxpayers will foot the bill for decades to come.

In June, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that FERC “failed to adequately balance public benefits and adverse impacts” in approving the pipeline. The panel also wrote that evidence showed the pipeline “is not being built to serve increasing load demand and that there is no indication the new pipeline will lead to cost savings.”

The ruling vacated approval of the pipeline, prompting FERC’s 90-day order allowing its continued operation.


An Alabama man was arrested on criminal mischief and other charges after someone threw paint on a Confederate monument that has been the subject of protests at the Lauderdale County Courthouse, the TimesDaily reported.

Sheriff’s Lt. Joe Hamilton said a deputy assigned to provide security at the courthouse saw a man splash paint on the monument Thursday afternoon. The man ran away after seeing the deputy but was captured quickly, Hamilton said.

Courthouse workers used a garden hose to wash away the blue and purple paint, and most of the discoloration was gone within 30 minutes, the newspaper reported.

Seth Jones Robinson, 20, of Florence was charged with second-degree trespassing, third-degree criminal mischief, desecration of a venerated object, and attempting to elude. Robinson was booked into the county jail, and court records weren’t available Thursday to show whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Erected in 1903, when Confederate veterans and their descendants were attempting to portray the South’s cause in the Civil War as noble, the monument has been the subject of complaints for years. Project Say Something, a group that opposes the memorial, has sought its removal but county commissioners cited a potential $25,000 state fine for refusing to do anything.


A man sought by authorities was spotted at a southern Nevada courthouse and is accused of trying to run over a bailiff while driving off, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said.

Terrance Chess was at the Pahrump Justice Court Complex on Monday when court personnel identified him as being sought on charges of eluding police and battery, the office said.

As a bailiff sought to take Chess into custody, Chess fought the bailiff and ran into the parking lot where he attempted to run over the bailiff before driving off in a maroon SUV, the office said.

As a result of Monday’s incident, Chess now faces another warrant charging him with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and resisting arrest, the office said.

It wasn’t clear why Chess was at the the courthouse.

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