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Robert Collier says that during the seven years he worked as an operating room aide at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, white nurses called him and other Black employees “boy.” Management ignored two large swastikas painted on a storage room wall. And for six months, he regularly rode an elevator with the N-word carved into a wall.

Collier ultimately sued the hospital, but lower courts dismissed his case. Now, however, beginning with a private conference that was scheduled for Thursday, the Supreme Court is considering for the first time whether to hear the case. (Although the court did not comment, the case remained on its calendar, which likely means it was discussed Thursday.)

Focusing on the elevator graffiti, Collier is asking the justices to decide whether a single use of the N-word in the workplace can create a hostile work environment, giving an employee the ability to pursue a case under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Already, the court’s two newest members, both appointed by President Donald Trump, are on record with seemingly different views. The case is also a test of whether the justices are willing to wade into the ongoing, complex conversations about race happening nationwide. The public could learn as soon as Monday whether the court will take Collier’s case.

Jennifer A. Holmes, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has urged the court to take the case, says she hopes the conversations taking place nationally will push the justices in that direction.

Doing so gives the court an “opportunity to show that they’re not insensitive to issues of race,” Holmes said. And courts are “all the time” confronting workplace discrimination claims involving use of the N-word, she said. The question for the justices, she said, is just whether someone who experiences an isolated instance of the N-word can “advance their case beyond the beginning stage.” Two of the court’s nine justices have experience with similar cases.



A Brooklyn man who prosecutors say twice pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and encouraged deadly “lone-wolf” attacks in New York City’s subways and elsewhere was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison.

Zachary Clark’s penalty was announced in Manhattan federal court by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

The judge said she wanted to send the message that “provide or attempt to provide materials or support to a foreign terrorist organization and you will spend a very long time in jail.”

The bearded Clark, in an orange prison jumpsuit and black glasses, tried along with his lawyer to persuade Buchwald that he had reformed himself behind bars since his November 2019 arrest, in part by attending drug and anger-management programs.

But the judge remained unconvinced. “I have no confidence Mr. Clark can be a productive and law abiding citizen,” Buchwald said as she ordered supervision for life once he is freed.

Clark, 42, pleaded guilty in August to attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group. The 20-year sentence was the maximum.

Prosecutors had requested it, noting that he posted maps and images of the subway system online in encrypted chat rooms, encouraged Islamic State supporters to attack it and urged “lone-wolf” attacks in the United States and elsewhere.




Psychiatric patients being held involuntarily in emergency rooms must be given a chance to contest their detention within three days of their arrival, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

State law requires probable cause hearings for such patients within three days of an “involuntary emergency admission,” but the state has argued the clock doesn’t start until someone is transferred to an inpatient facility. However, those facilities often have no available beds, leaving patients “boarding” in emergency departments for weeks at a time.

Tuesday’s decision reaffirms a lower court ruling in favor of a woman who spent more than two weeks at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s emergency room before being transferred to the state psychiatric hospital. Justices agreed with the lower court, which said the state has a duty to provide hearings within three days of when a doctor signs off on an involuntary emergency certificate.

“Nothing in the statutory scheme allows a person to be held indefinitely pending delivery to a receiving facility,” the court said in Tuesday’s ruling.

In recent days, more than 80 mental health patients, including record numbers of children, have been waiting in emergency departments for inpatient beds, said Ken Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Such boarding often aggravates rather than helps mental health conditions, he said, and stands in contrast to the quick treatment provided to those suffering from other illnesses.

Norton said he hopes the state sees the ruling as a call to rapidly improve a mental health system that is overburdened at every stage, from entry to treatment to re-entry into the community.

“During the past eight years thousands of Granite Staters have experienced ED Boarding. When justice is denied to one person it is denied to all,” he said. “Today’s decision on behalf of Jane Doe is a decision in favor of all Granite Staters. We are all Jane Doe.”

A spokesperson for Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The department had argued in part that requiring hearings within three days of the signing of certificates would result in either court hearings being held in private hospitals or courts ordering patients to be released when such hearings do not occur. That would increase the risk that mentally ill people would hurt themselves or others, they said.

The court, however, said such public policy arguments should be made to the Legislature, not the judicial branch.

“We do not opine as to how the defendant should comply with its statutorily-mandated duty as our system of government entrusts such decisions to our coordinate branches,” the court said.

The ACLU-NH, which has filed a separate class action lawsuit in federal court over the issue, praised the ruling.

“Today’s historic decision is a major victory for mental health advocacy: it recognizes that those being boarded in hospital emergency rooms are human beings entitled to prompt due process,” said legal director Gilles Bissonnette.


A British lawyer and climate campaigner was fined 5,000 pounds ($7,070) on Monday after being convicted of contempt of court for a tweet which broke an embargo on a U.K. Supreme Court judgment over Heathrow Airport’s expansion.

Tim Crosland, a director of an environmental campaign group, revealed on social media the court ruling on Heathrow Airport’s proposed third runway a day before it was made public in December. He was among involved parties to receive a draft of the appeal judgment, and has said that he broke the embargo deliberately as “an act of civil disobedience” to protest the “deep immorality of the court’s ruling.”

The court had ruled that a planned third runway at Heathrow was legal. The case was at the center of a long-running controversy and environmentalists had argued for years that the climate impact far outweighed the economic benefits of expanding the airport.

Crosland said the proposed 14 billion-pound ($19.8 billion) expansion of Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest, would breach Britain’s commitments to the Paris climate agreement.

He argued that the government “deliberately suppressed” information about the effect that the airport’s expansion would have on the climate crisis, and said the publicity gained over breaking the embargo would act as an “antidote” to that.

Addressing the court, Crosland said: “If complicity in the mass loss of life that makes the planet uninhabitable is not a crime, then nothing is a crime.”

Three Supreme Court justices found Crosland in contempt of court for his “deliberate and calculated breaches of the embargo” and fined him 5,000 pounds.

The judges said he “wanted to demonstrate his deliberate defiance of the prohibition and to bring this to the attention of as large an audience as possible.”

Crosland had brought a small suitcase to Monday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in case he was given immediate jail time. The maximum sentence had been up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.


A lawsuit has been filed to challenge a legislative proposal to change the way Supreme Court justices would be elected in Montana.

A Roman Catholic nun, a former court clerk and three former state lawmakers are among those challenging the constitutionality of a bill the legislature passed to ask Montana voters if they want to elect Supreme Court justices by district, rather than on a statewide basis.

The complaint, filed on May 6 in Butte, asks District Judge Kurt Krueger to declare the bill unconstitutional and to prevent Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen from certifying the referendum for the November 2022 ballot.

“The office of the Secretary of State has not received service of any legal documents related to the alleged lawsuit, and thus is unable to comment,” spokesperson Richie Melby said in a statement.

The 2021 bill is similar to one passed a decade earlier that sought to divide the state into seven judicial districts, with each district electing one Supreme Court justice from that district. The Montana Supreme Court found the 2011 law unconstitutional because, in part, it would create new qualifications for the office of Supreme Court justice.

This year’s proposal would not require candidates to live in specific districts, but would only allow residents of each district to vote in one judicial race. That would eliminate the right of all Montana voters to select all seven justices of the Supreme Court, the complaint states.

In the case of the 2011 bill, the Montana Supreme Court found the language and structure of the state constitution requires the election of Supreme Court justices on a statewide basis while District Court judges would be elected by district-specific basis.

Ethical rules do not permit judges to “represent” particular constituencies or interest groups, the Supreme Court wrote in 2012.

The complaint also argues the bill is an effort to change the state constitution via referendum, rather than through a constitutional referendum. A constitutional referendum would have needed a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to be put on the ballot. The bill passed 94-55 over both houses, six votes short of a two-thirds majority.

The plaintiffs are Sister Mary Jo McDonald, former District Court clerk Lori Maloney and former Democratic Rep. Fritz Daily — all of Butte — along with former lawmakers Bob Brown and Dorothy Bradley; Mae Nan Ellingson, a delegate to Montana’s 1972 Constitutional Convention; Vernon Finley, a former chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Tribal Council; and the League of Women voters.

Brown, Bradley, Ellingson, Finley and the League of Women Voters are plaintiffs in another complaint challenging a new law that eliminates the Judicial Nomination Commission and allows the governor to directly fill judicial vacancies that occur between elections.


Cruz Reynoso, a son of migrant workers who worked in the fields as a child and went on to become the first Latino state Supreme Court justice in California history, has died. He was 90.

Reynoso died Friday at an elder care facility in Oroville, according to his son Rondall Reynoso. The cause of death was not disclosed.

In a legal career that spanned six decades, Reynoso played a prominent role in the movement to uplift the poorest workers in California, especially farmworkers from Mexico like his parents, and guided many minority students toward the law.

As director of California Rural Legal Assistance — the first statewide, federally funded legal aid program in the country — in the late 1960s he led efforts to ensure farmworkers’ access to sanitation facilities in the fields and to ban the use of the carcinogenic pesticide DDT.

One of the biggest cases won by CRLA while Reynoso was its director centered on Spanish-speaking students who were incorrectly assessed by their schools and placed into classes for the mentally challenged when, in reality, they were simply new English learners. The 1970 class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Latino students in the Monterey County town of Soledad ended the practice of giving Spanish-speaking students IQ tests in English.

After leaving CRLA in 1972, Reynoso taught law before he was appointed to the state’s 3rd District Appellate Court in Sacramento. In 1982, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Reynoso to the state Supreme Court, the first Latino to be named to the state’s high court.

He earned respect for his compassion during his five years on the state Supreme Court but became the target of a recall campaign led by proponents of the death penalty who painted him, Chief Justice Rose Bird, and Associate Justice Joseph Grodin as being soft on crime. The three were removed in 1987.

After leaving the bench, he practiced and taught law at the University of California in Los Angeles and in Davis and served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 2000.

“Cruz Reynoso was a giant for the judiciary and the legal profession in California and across the country,” Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, a justice on the California Supreme Court, said in a statement.

“His accomplishments were as remarkable as his humility. His memory and deeds will continue to inspire so many of us across California and the rest of our country.”

Born in Brea on May 2, 1931, Reynoso was one of 11 children and spent summers with his family working the fields of the San Joaquin Valley.

After graduating from Pomona College in 1953, he served two years in the Army before attending law school at UC Berkeley.

He was married to Jeannene Reynoso for 52 years until her death in 2007. He married his second wife, Elaine Reynoso, in 2008. She died in 2017. He is survived by four children and two stepchildren.


A judge has ruled against the Klamath Tribes in a lawsuit that accuses federal regulators of violating the Endangered Species Act by letting water levels fall too low for sucker fish to spawn in a lake that also feeds an elaborate irrigation system along the Oregon-California border.

The ruling, reported Friday by the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, comes as the region confronts one of the driest years in memory. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last month announced that farmers who irrigate from its Klamath Project water-management area will get so little water that farming may not even be worthwhile this summer.

At the same time, the drought has brought to a head a conflict between the water needs of two protected fish species in the region after decades of instability. The Klamath Tribes consider the federally endangered sucker fish central to their creation story and culture, while the Yurok hold the federally threatened coho salmon in the lower Klamath River sacred and rely on them as a critical food source.

With scarce water in the Klamath Basin, the tribes are left to try to use the courts to secure enough of the precious liquid for the respective fish species.

The Klamath Tribes sued the bureau earlier this year, arguing it had violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing the Upper Klamath Lake to dip below a certain level in 2020 and 2021 that is necessary for successful sucker fish spawning.

The tribes asked the judge to order the bureau to reduce downriver water releases from the lake while the rest of the case worked through the courts, but U.S. District Judge Michael McShane declined. If granted, the order would have meant less water in the Klamath River to combat disease outbreaks downstream that are a huge concern for the Yurok and Karuk tribes and a threat to coho salmon.

The bureau argued it wasn’t liable for harm done to sucker fish this year because of the extreme drought and has no control over how much water enters Upper Klamath Lake in dry times.

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