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The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to consider a fast-track review of a lawsuit that threatens the Obama-era health care law, making it highly unlikely that the justices would decide the case before the 2020 election.

The court denied a request by 20 mainly Democratic states and the Democratic-led House of Representatives to decide quickly on a lower-court ruling that declared part of the statute unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the issues raised by the case are too important to let the litigation drag on for months or years in lower courts, and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans erred when it struck down the health law's now toothless requirement that Americans have health insurance.

The justices did not comment on their order. They will consider the appeal on their normal timetable and could decide in the coming months whether to take up the case.


A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by 21 young people who claimed the U.S. government’s climate policies and reliance on fossil fuels harms them, jeopardizes their future and violates their constitutional rights, potentially dealing a fatal blow to a long-running case that activists saw as an important front in the war against environmental degradation.

The Oregon-based youth advocacy group Our Children’s Trust filed the lawsuit in 2015 in Eugene on behalf of the youngsters. It sought an injunction ordering the government to implement a plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide emission. The case had bounced around the federal courts for five years and multiple trial dates were canceled.

The 2-1 vote for dismissal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was a serious setback for the climate activists, who vowed to ask the full 9th Circuit panel to review the ruling. Our Children’s Trust has filed numerous similar cases in state and federal courts and currently has nine cases pending in state courts from Alaska to New Mexico. The federal ruling was less likely to impact those cases, experts said.

“This is a very serious blow to the case, perhaps a fatal blow,” said Jennifer Rushlow, an associate dean for environmental programs at Vermont Law School, who has been watching the case closely.

Our Children’s Trust said in a statement that although the justices ruled for dismissal, it was important to note that they also said in the opinion that the evidence showed climate change was real and caused by fossil fuels and that the young plaintiffs had suffered legitimate consequences from climate change.

The “case is far from over,” said Julia Olson, lead attorney for Our Children’s Trust. “The court recognized that climate change is exponentially increasing and that the federal government has long known that its actions substantially contribute to the climate crisis.”

Government attorneys repeatedly sought the case’s dismissal and succeeded in having the scope of the claims narrowed and some defendants dismissed during years of back-and-forth litigation.


The Supreme Court on Monday left in place the conviction of a Massachusetts woman who sent her boyfriend text messages urging him to kill himself.

Michelle Carter is serving a 15-month sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2014 death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. A judge determined that Carter, who was 17, caused the death of the 18-year-old Roy when she ordered him in a phone call to get back in his carbon monoxide-filled truck that he’d parked in a Kmart parking lot.

The phone call wasn’t recorded, but the judge relied on a text Carter sent her friend in which she said she told Roy to get back in. In text messages sent in the days leading up to Roy’s death, Carter also encouraged Roy to follow through with his suicide plan and chastised him when he didn’t, Massachusetts courts found.

The case has garnered national attention and sparked legislative proposals in Massachusetts to criminalize suicide coercion.

Carter’s lawyers argued in their Supreme Court appeal that the conviction should be thrown out because it was an “unprecedented” violation of her free speech rights that raised crucial questions about whether “words alone” are enough to hold someone responsible for another person’s suicide.

The lawyers also argued there was simply not enough evidence to prove Carter urged Roy to to get back in his truck to die, or that he would have lived if she had called for help or taken other actions to try and save his life.

Joseph Cataldo, one of Carter’s lawyers, said Monday’s decision was an “injustice” and that the legal team is weighing its next steps. He didn’t elaborate.

“The Court passed on the rare chance to clarify an outdated and confusing exception to the First Amendment, which has divided courts around the country,” said Daniel Marx, another one of Carter’s lawyers. “It also missed an invaluable opportunity to address the toxic combination of mental illness, adolescent psychology, and social media that was at the heart of this suicide case and will likely lead to additional tragedies in the future.”

The court’s decision was welcomed by Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III, whose office prosecuted the case.

“The US Supreme Court’s decision today brings closure to the family of Conrad Roy for his tragic death. I hope that the finality of this decision brings some solace to them,” he said in a statement.


Crews could start building a private border wall in South Texas within the coming days following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that lifted a restraining order against the project.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane’s order was the second federal ruling in two days in favor of border barriers. On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court’s stay that had prevented President Donald Trump’s administration from diverting $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund 175 miles (280 kilometers) of border wall.

While the White House on Thursday celebrated the appeals court’s ruling, saying it rightfully lifted an “illegitimate nationwide injunction,” Crane’s ruling actually went against the U.S. government’s position.

Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction firm, wants to install 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of steel posts about 35 feet (10 meters) from the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The company’s president, Tommy Fisher, wants to spend $40 million on the private border wall — originally promoted by a pro-Trump online fundraising group — to prove that his company can build barriers more effectively.

The U.S. government sued to stop Fisher on the grounds that building so close to the Rio Grande risked changing the flow of the river and potentially pushing floodwaters into Mexico, in violation of treaty obligations. The U.S. attorney’s office argued the project could shift the river and the international boundary, which violated the president’s authority “to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.”

Existing segments of fencing and the small sections that the government is currently building typically run along the Rio Grande levee or through property a significant distance away from the river. The U.S. is currently working to seize private land  to build more sections of wall in Texas.

Crane issued a restraining order in December, but lifted that order Thursday. He also declined to grant a restraining order at the request of the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit located next to the South Texas construction site. The butterfly center and environmentalists warn building a border barrier so close to the river could worsen erosion and potentially damage other land.


President Donald Trump got a reprieve in a former “Apprentice” contestant’s lawsuit over his response to her sexual assault allegations, when appeals judges gave him permission to appeal to New York’s highest court and put proceedings on hold in the meantime.

Trump’s lawyers have been trying to get Summer Zervos’ defamation suit delayed through his presidency or dismissed altogether.

Courts so far have said no, but Trump’s attorneys can now try to persuade the top-level state Court of Appeals to hear the case. Tuesday’s ruling also holds off other pretrial action until the high court decides. Trump had been due to undergo sworn pretrial questioning by Jan. 31, under an agreement the two sides reached last fall.

Trump’s lawyers said they were pleased with the ruling.

“We believe that the Court of Appeals will agree that the U.S. Constitution bars state court actions while the president is in office,” Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP said in a statement.



The Vermont Supreme Court will be hearing a case that tests the validity of nearly a dozen newly merged school districts.
   
The court is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 15 that will look at the education reform law, known as Act 46, that encouraged, provided incentives for and compelled some school districts to merge.

Lawyers from 33 school districts, seven select boards, one planning commission and several residents, are seeking to block the law. It took effect last July 1.

The people and groups who brought the suits will argue the law is unconstitutional.


Two members of the Kansas attorney general's staff who were finalists for a previous appointment and four lower-court judges are seeking to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

A lawyer-led state nominating commission is scheduled to interview 17 candidates for the high court Jan. 16 and 17. The commission will name three finalists for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to consider, and she will have until March 17 to pick one.

The vacancy was created by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss' retirement last week. The next senior justice, Marla Luckert, became chief justice.

It will be Kelly's second appointment to the seven-member court within three months. Last week, the governor appointed Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson to replace retired Justice Lee Johnson.

The two finalists for that spot were Deputy Attorney General Dennis Depew and Assistant Solicitor General Steven Obermeier.

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