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The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a Pennsylvania public school wrongly suspended a student from cheerleading over a vulgar social media post she made after she didn’t qualify for the varsity team.

The court voted 8-1 in favor of Brandi Levy, who was a 14-year-old high school freshman when she expressed her disappointment over not making the varsity cheerleading squad with a string of curse words and a raised middle finger on Snapchat.

Levy, of Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, was not in school when she made her post, but she was suspended from cheerleading activities for a year anyway. In an opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, the high court ruled that the suspension violated Levy’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights. Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, noting he would have upheld the suspension.

The justices did not foreclose schools from disciplining students for what they say off campus, though they did not spell out when schools could act. An earlier federal appeals court ruling in this case would have barred public schools from punishing off-campus speech.

Despite ruling in Levy’s favor, Breyer wrote that “we do not believe the special characteristics that give schools additional license to regulate student speech always disappear when a school regulates speech that takes place off campus. The school’s regulatory interests remain significant in some off-campus circumstances.”

The case drew extra interest at a time of remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic and a rising awareness of the harmful effects of online bullying.

The case arose from Levy’s posts, one of which pictured her and a friend with raised middle fingers and included repeated use of a vulgarity to complain that she had been left off the varsity cheerleading squad.

‘Serious racial disparities’ in Pennsylvania juvenile court

Pennsylvania locks up far too many first-time and low-level youth offenders, with Black youth in particular disproportionately yanked from their homes and prosecuted as adults, according to a governmental task force that made recommendations on Tuesday to reform juvenile justice in the state.

“Serious racial disparities pervade Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system,” the bipartisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force said in its report, adding that changes are urgently needed to make the state’s juvenile justice system more fair and more effective.

Young offenders told the task force of being stuck for years in a system they couldn’t seem to escape, lodged in facilities far from home that weren’t clean or safe and did not offer effective treatment or education. One girl said she’d “learned to live in an institution but not as a person in the world.”

A substantial percentage of young people who commit a minor crime, and are considered at low risk of reoffending, are nevertheless removed from home and placed in a residential facility, the group found in its 16-month review. The practice is widespread despite research showing that out-of-home placement is “generally not effective at reducing recidivism for most youth ? and can instead be counterproductive,” the report said.

Policymakers found widespread geographic and racial disparities in how youth offenders are treated, with Black youths more likely than white youths to be removed from home and prosecuted in adult court. Black youths represent 38% of cases in juvenile court, but 62% of the youths detained before adjudication and 47% sent to a residential facility, the report said. The use of detention varied widely from county to county.



Pennsylvania locks up far too many first-time and low-level youth offenders, with Black youth in particular disproportionately yanked from their homes and prosecuted as adults, according to a governmental task force that made recommendations on Tuesday to reform juvenile justice in the state.

“Serious racial disparities pervade Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system,” the bipartisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force said in its report, adding that changes are urgently needed to make the state’s juvenile justice system more fair and more effective.

Young offenders told the task force of being stuck for years in a system they couldn’t seem to escape, lodged in facilities far from home that weren’t clean or safe and did not offer effective treatment or education. One girl said she’d “learned to live in an institution but not as a person in the world.”

A substantial percentage of young people who commit a minor crime, and are considered at low risk of reoffending, are nevertheless removed from home and placed in a residential facility, the group found in its 16-month review. The practice is widespread despite research showing that out-of-home placement is “generally not effective at reducing recidivism for most youth — and can instead be counterproductive,” the report said.

Policymakers found widespread geographic and racial disparities in how youth offenders are treated, with Black youths more likely than white youths to be removed from home and prosecuted in adult court. Black youths represent 38% of cases in juvenile court, but 62% of the youths detained before adjudication and 47% sent to a residential facility, the report said. The use of detention varied widely from county to county.


The Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that the NCAA can’t enforce rules limiting education-related benefits — like computers and paid internships — that colleges offer to student athletes.

The case doesn’t decide whether students can be paid salaries. Instead, the ruling will help determine whether schools decide to offer athletes tens of thousands of dollars in those benefits for things including tutoring, study abroad programs and graduate scholarships.

The high court agreed with a group of former college athletes that NCAA limits on the education-related benefits that colleges can offer athletes who play Division I basketball and football are unenforceable.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court that the NCAA sought “immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws,” which the court declined to grant.

Under current NCAA rules, students cannot be paid, and the scholarship money colleges can offer is capped at the cost of attending the school. The NCAA had defended its rules as necessary to preserve the amateur nature of college sports.

But the former athletes who brought the case, including former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, argued that the NCAA’s rules on education-related compensation were unfair and violate federal antitrust law designed to promote competition. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling barring the NCAA from enforcing those rules.

As a result of the ruling, the NCAA itself can’t bar schools from sweetening their offers to Division I basketball and football players with additional education-related benefits. But individual athletic conferences can still set limits if they choose.


Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman formally launched a run for attorney general Monday, becoming the latest challenger to embattled GOP incumbent Ken Paxton.

Guzman, a Republican who spent more than a decade on Texas’ highest court before stepping down this month, joins Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush in what may be the state’s most contested primary in 2022.

Guzman is a longtime judge who became the first Latina to join the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn are also former justices who were later elected attorney general.

Paxton did not draw a primary challenger in 2018 but now has at least two as his legal problems mount. He is under FBI investigation following an extraordinary revolt by his top aides, who accused him of abusing his office in the service of a donor, and he is still awaiting trial on separate charges of securities fraud.

The Texas bar association is also investigating whether Paxton’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on bogus claims of fraud amounted to professional misconduct. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges and has denied the other accusations as politically motivated.



A federal judge has issued a summary judgment in favor of Washington state against two gold mining companies over years of water pollution stemming from the Buckhorn Mountain gold mine in Okanogan County.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson on Thursday dismissed the companies’ main defenses, writing there was no support for their claims that the state Attorney General cannot enforce all of the mine’s Clean Water Act permit.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson contended that Crown Resources and Kinross Gold violated the law by discharging illegal levels of pollutants into creeks in Okanogan County flowing into the Kettle River.

Now the focus shifts to how much the companies will owe for the violations. They potentially face millions of dollars in penalties for their pollution, and the judge will decide how much.

“Crown and Kinross knew even before the mine’s construction that it could release significant contamination, including arsenic and chloride, into surrounding waters, yet plowed ahead anyway,” Ferguson said. “Washington takes our water quality seriously.”

Crown Resources and its parent company, Kinross Gold, own the 50-acre underground mine located approximately 100 miles northeast of Twisp. From 2008 to 2017, the companies extracted approximately $1.3 billion in gold from the mine. Ore extraction stopped in 2017, but contaminants continue to be released from the mine.

Crown Resources said it was disappointed by the ruling and reviewing its appeal options.

“The company maintains that the current discharge permit is unreasonable, based on flawed assumptions and did not properly consider the natural background levels nor previously permitted mine activities,” the company said in a news release.

“Crown has adhered to the highest environmental standards during operation and closure of the Buckhorn Mine, which has resulted in discharge water at or below drinking water standards,” the company said.


With the Affordable Care Act now secure in the framework of the nation’s health care programs, Democrats are eager to leap above and beyond.

They want to expand insurance coverage for working-age people and their families, add new benefits to Medicare for older people and reduce prescription drug costs for patients and taxpayers.

But health care is expensive, there’s concern about deficits and with Democrats holding only bare majorities in Congress, a winnowing down of expectations seems likely later this year.

For now, Democrats are savoring Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding “Obamacare” for the third time in a decade. The latest challenge to the law had been seen as a stretch by many legal experts, but a 7-2 vote from the conservative court was unexpected.

“I think Democrats once again know they have a moment in time, and they want to make the most of it,” said Kathleen Sebelius, health secretary under President Barack Obama during the passage and implementation of the health law. “I think people are fired up and ready to go.”

There is no shortage of proposals. Some, such as authorizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, could potentially save hundreds of billions of dollars, depending on how they are structured. But coverage and benefit expansions could cost an equal or even much greater amount.

Complex budget procedures that Democrats plan to use to pass President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda by a simple majority vote in the Senate may also limit the types of proposals that can be considered.


A sharply divided Iowa Supreme Court on Friday stopped a lawsuit aimed at reducing the flow of fertilizer and hog farm waste into the state’s river and streams, finding that limiting pollution from farms was a political matter and not one for the courts.

The 4-3 decision handed a significant defeat to environmental groups hoping to get the chance to prove that Iowa should scrap it’s voluntary farm pollution policy, order new mandatory limits on nitrogen and phosphorous pollution and stop construction of new hog barns.

It is the latest court rejection of an attempt to force the nation’s leading corn and pork producing state to clean up farm pollutants from its major rivers that provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of Iowans.

The lawsuit, which was brought by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch, contended that unregulated farm pollution is violating the rights of citizens to clean water in the Raccoon River for recreational and drinking water use.

It said a legal concept that precedes Iowa statehood — the public trust doctrine — should apply to this case and require the state to ensure that citizens have a useable Raccoon River untainted by excess pollution caused by farm runoff of fertilizer and animal manure.

A state judge ruled in 2019 that the environmental groups sufficiently demonstrated that they suffered injury because the river’s untreated water is too polluted to enjoy recreationally or aesthetically. The state appealed the ruling and asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Four of the court’s conservative justices said the environmental groups didn’t show that the state’s actions had caused a concrete injury the courts could fix. They also said the public trust doctrine historically hasn’t been used to solve a problem as complex as the environmental issues raised, and that the issues at the heart of the case were political questions that would fall to the Legislature to settle.

“There is not enough here to demonstrate that a favorable outcome in this case is likely to redress the plaintiffs’ alleged reduced ability to kayak, swim, or enjoy views of the Raccoon River, or would save them money on drinking water. The plaintiffs’ claims must therefore be dismissed for lack of standing,” Justice Edward Mansfield wrote for the majority.

He said the Des Moines Water Works would have better standing to sue, but he pointed out that the utility already did so and lost a 2017 federal court case that was also dismissed.

The utility filed a brief with the state Supreme Court saying it was pursuing the development of alternate sources of water but that its long-range plans involve the implementation of new treatment technologies that would cost customers tens of millions of dollars.

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