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Justice Clarence Thomas, who remains hospitalized in Washington, does not have COVID-19, the Supreme Court said Monday.

The court provided no additional information about the infection that put Thomas in the hospital on Friday, other than to say he is responding to intravenous antibiotics.

The 73-year-old justice has been vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, along with the other eight justices, the court has said.

The chair to his right empty, Chief Justice John Roberts took note of Thomas’ absence from the courtroom Monday without explaining why. He said the justice would take part in the cases based on written briefs and recordings of the in-court arguments.

Thomas has been on the court since 1991. Word on Sunday of his hospitalization came as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to begin hearings Monday in the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom President Joe Biden named to replace Stephen Breyer. He is retiring at the end of the session.


Walter E. Dellinger, a noted constitutional scholar who argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, served in top positions in the Justice Department and was a professor at Duke Law School, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Dellinger died Wednesday morning in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, his son Hampton Dellinger said.

During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Dellinger headed up the influential Office of Legal Counsel that advises the attorney general on often sensitive legal and policy issues and served as the acting Solicitor General, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

During his time as acting solicitor general during the 1996-97 term of the high court, he argued nine cases including those dealing with doctor-assisted suicide and the line-item veto, according to his Duke Law biography. Dellinger was an emeritus professor at Duke, where he had been a faculty member since 1969.

Dellinger was a leader of a legal team assembled by Democrats ahead of the 2020 presidential election to take on election-related court cases. And in early February, Dellinger spoke out in defense of Biden’s pledge to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court in an essay published by the New York Times.


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.


The chief of Vermont’s trial courts is retiring after 17 years as a judge, including seven as chief superior judge, the state Supreme Court has announced.

Chief Judge Brian Grearson will retire Nov. 1.

“Vermont’s judiciary is a vital institution of democracy that ensures equal justice under the law,” Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber said in a statement on Friday. “Judge Grearson’s work in support of the courts has been distinctive, accruing to the benefit of every person in our great state.”

The court also said that Superior Judge Thomas A. Zonay of Hartland will succeed Grearson.

The chief superior judge supervises and oversees the administrative responsibilities of the judicial officers who serve in the state superior court and trial courts.

Zonay was appointed as a superior judge in 2007. Before being named a judge Zonay practiced law in Rutland and Woodstock for 18 years. Zonay also has served as president of the Vermont Bar Association and the New England Bar Association.

“He is a knowledgeable, hardworking and committed public servant,” Reiber said of Zonay. “I wish him all the best in his new role.”


An Eastern Shore judge who was about to be arrested at his home was found dead Friday, officials said.

Federal and local officials said FBI agents went to the residence of Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell in Henderson, Maryland, early Friday morning to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint.

He was under investigation for sexual exploitation of a child, according to a federal affidavit.

“Upon entering the residence the agents found Newell suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” a joint statement from Acting Maryland U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner and other officials said. “He was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m. Maryland State Police will lead the investigation into the apparent suicide.”


With abortion and guns already on the agenda, the conservative-dominated Supreme Court is considering adding a third blockbuster issue — whether to ban consideration of race in college admissions.

The justices could say as soon as Monday whether they will hear an appeal claiming that Harvard discriminates against Asian American applicants, in a case that could have nationwide repercussions. The case would not be argued until the fall or winter.

“It would be a big deal because of the nature of college admissions across the country and because of the stakes of having this issue before the Supreme Court,” said Gregory Garre, who twice defended the University of Texas’ admissions program before the justices.

The presence of three appointees of former President Donald Trump could prompt the court to take up the case, even though it’s only been five years since its last decision in a case about affirmative action in higher education.

In that Texas case, the court reaffirmed in a 4-3 decision that colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions. But they must do so in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity, the court said in a decision that rejected the discrimination claims of a white applicant. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

Two members of that four-justice majority are gone from the court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September. Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018.

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