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The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced the nomination of a 38-year-old judge and ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to serve on a federal appeals court, despite Democrats’ objections that he’s inexperienced and biased against the Obama health care law.

The panel's 12-10, party-line vote Thursday sets the stage for Justin Walker’s likely confirmation in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Walker, a protege of both McConnell and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, told senators last month that he will have an open mind on the Affordable Care Act, adding that he was writing as an academic and commentator when he criticized as “indefensible” a Supreme Court ruling upholding the law.

Walker, who was confirmed as a federal judge last fall, declined a request by Senate Democrats to recuse himself on matters related to the health care law if he’s confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court is widely considered the second-most powerful in the nation and frequently serves as a launching pad for a seat on the Supreme Court. Four current justices, including Kavanaugh, served on the D.C. circuit.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called Walker's nomination a travesty and an affront to other, more qualified conservative judges.



The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the oversight board established by Congress to help Puerto Rico out of a devastating financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, recent earthquakes and damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The justices reversed a lower court ruling that threatened to throw the island's recovery efforts into chaos.

In a unanimous holding, the court will allow the oversight board's work to pull the island out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history to proceed. At one point, Puerto Rico faced more than $100 billion in debt and unfunded pension obligations.

The case stemmed from a constitutional challenge to the oversight board's composition led by hedge funds that invested in Puerto Rican bonds. A lower court ruled last year that board members were appointed in violation of the Constitution because they were not confirmed by the Senate.

The president selects the board's seven voting members. They and one other non-voting member chosen by Puerto Rico's governor approve budgets and fiscal plans drawn up by the island's government. The board also handles bankruptcy-like cases that allow the island to restructure its debts.


The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily prevented the House of Representatives from obtaining secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The court’s unsigned order granted the Trump administration’s request to keep previously undisclosed details from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election out of the hands of Democratic lawmakers, at least until early summer.

The court will decide then whether to extend its hold and schedule the case for arguments in the fall. If it does, it’s likely the administration will be able to put off the release of any materials until after Election Day. Arguments themselves might not even take place before Americans decide whether to give President Donald Trump a second term.

For justices eager to avoid a definitive ruling, the delay could mean never having to decide the case, if either Trump loses or Republicans regain control of the House next year. It’s hard to imagine the Biden administration would object to turning over the Mueller documents or House Republicans would continue to press for them.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objected to the high court’s decision in a statement Wednesday evening. “The House’s long-standing right to obtain grand jury information pursuant to the House’s impeachment power has now been upheld by the lower courts twice,” Pelosi said. “These rulings are supported by decades of precedent and should be permitted to proceed.”

The federal appeals court in Washington ruled in March that the documents should be turned over because the House Judiciary Committee’s need for the material in its investigation of Trump outweighed the Justice Department’s interests in keeping the testimony secret.


The Supreme Court is allowing a bigger award of money to victims of the 1998 bombings by al-Qaida of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Despite the court’s ruling, however, it’s unlikely the victims will ever collect the full amount.

The nearly simultaneous truck bombings at the embassies killed 224 people and injured thousands. They were the first major attacks on U.S. targets by al-Qaida.

The case the Supreme Court ruled in involves lawsuits filed by victims and their families against Sudan that accused the country of causing the bombings by aiding al-Qaida and leader Osama bin Laden, who lived in Sudan in the 1990s.

The more than 500 people involved in the case are mostly foreign citizens, either U.S. government employees or contractors injured in the bombings or relatives of those who died. A court initially awarded the group more than $10 billion, but an appeals court threw out $4 billion of the award that was punitive damages. The Supreme Court unanimously vacated the appeals court's ruling Monday.



A proposal striking at the proliferation of TV, radio and billboard ads blanketing Louisiana is headed to the state House for debate after winning support from senators Thursday.

Sen. Heather Cloud’s bill would declare as false or misleading those lawyer ads in which a person claims to have received the full amount of a settlement or judgment. Instead, the ads would have to disclose how much was deducted for attorney fees, expert witness fees, court costs and any other expenses related to the litigation.

Advertisements deemed to be deceptive could be prosecuted as an unfair trade practice violation.

Cloud, a Republican from Turkey Creek, said lawyers are making false promises of big payouts, encouraging people to file lawsuits against businesses. But she said people who file the lawsuits only get a small slice of the money from the judgments and settlements in most instances.


The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a dispute involving Trump administration rules that would allow more employers who cite a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women.

With arguments conducted by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined in from the Maryland hospital where she was being treated for an infection caused by a gallstone. The court said she expected to be in the hospital for a day or two.

Justice Clarence Thomas kept up his streak of asking questions, a rarity for him, during the third day of phone arguments, with live audio available to the public.

The case stems from the Obama-era health law, under which most employers must cover birth control as a preventive service, at no charge to women in their insurance plans.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration exempted houses of worship, such as churches, synagogues and mosques, from the requirement. It created a way by which religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals, universities and charities could opt out of paying for contraception, but women on their health plans would still get no-cost birth control. Some groups complained the opt-out process violated their religious beliefs.

Trump administration officials in 2017 announced a rule change that allows many companies and organization with religious or moral objections to opt out of covering birth control without providing an alternate avenue for coverage. The rules were finalized in 2018. The government has estimated that the change would impact approximately 70,500 women who would lose contraception coverage in one year as a result.


A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote is unconstitutional, upholding a judge's injunction that had banned its use.

A 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel found in two consolidated appeals challenging the Kansas statute that the state law violates the Equal Protection Clause and the National Voter Registration Act.

The panel upheld the permanent injunction that U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson had imposed prohibiting enforcement of the requirement.



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