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The Biden administration is no longer accepting applications for student loan forgiveness after a second federal court shut down the program.

“Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program,” the Education Department said on its federal student aid website. “As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders.”

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, President Joe Biden announced in August plans to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals with incomes below $125,000 or households earning less than $250,000. The White House has estimated that more than 40 million people could qualify.

Already, about 26 million people have applied, and 16 million applications have been approved. However, because of court rulings, none of the relief has actually gone out. The Department of Education would “quickly process their relief once we prevail in court,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman in Texas ruled Thursday that Biden had overstepped his authority in creating the debt relief program without congressional approval.

“In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone. Instead, we are ruled by a Constitution that provides for three distinct and independent branches of government,” Pittman wrote.

The administration has appealed that ruling.

Pittman’s ruling came after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stopped the program while it considers whether to impose a permanent ban. That case was brought by a half-dozen Republican-led states.

Student loan forgiveness is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.

People with student loan debt have not been required to make payments during the pandemic. But payments are set to resume, and interest will begin to accrue again, in January.

Biden has said the payment pause would not be extended again, but that was before the court rulings. It was not clear whether the pause might be continued while the legal challenges to the program play out.

As for loan forgiveness, the Education Department said on its website that it would hold on to the applications for those who have already applied.


A Washington city’s dress code ordinance saying bikini baristas must cover their bodies at work has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.

The decision in a partial summary judgment this week comes after a lengthy legal battle between bikini baristas and the city of Everett over the rights of workers to wear what they want, the Everett Herald reported. Everett is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Seattle.

U.S. District Court in Seattle found Everett’s dress code ordinance violated the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and Washington state constitutions. The Court found that the ordinance was, at least in part, shaped by a gender-based discriminatory purpose, according to a 19-page ruling signed by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez.

It is difficult to imagine, the court wrote, how the ordinance would be equally applied to men and women in practice because it prohibits clothing “typically worn by women rather than men,” including midriff and scoop-back shirts, as well as bikinis.

Bikini baristas were “clearly” a target of the ordinance, the court also ruled, adding that the profession is comprised of a workforce that is almost entirely women.

In 2017, the city enacted its dress code ordinance, requiring all employees, owners and operators of “quick service facilities” to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. The ordinance listed coffee stands, fast food restaurants, delis, food trucks and coffee shops as examples of quick service businesses.

The owner of Everett bikini barista stand Hillbilly Hotties and some employees filed a legal complaint challenging the constitutionality of the dress code ordinance. They also challenged the city’s lewd conduct ordinance, but the court dismissed all the baristas’ claims but the dress code question.

The court directed the city of Everett to meet with the plaintiffs within 14 days to discuss next steps.


A federal judge on Thursday dismissed an effort by six Republican-led states to block the Biden administration’s plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis wrote that because the six states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — failed to establish they had standing, “the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case.”

Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, said the states will appeal. She said in a statement that the states “continue to believe that they do in fact have standing to raise their important legal challenges.”

Democratic President Joe Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in education debt for huge numbers of borrowers. The announcement immediately became a major political issue ahead of the November midterm elections.

The states’ lawsuit is among a few that have been filed. Earlier Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected an appeal from a Wisconsin taxpayers group seeking to stop the debt cancellation program.

Barrett, who oversees emergency appeals from Wisconsin and neighboring states, did not comment in turning away the appeal from the Brown County Taxpayers Association. The group wrote in its Supreme Court filing that it needed an emergency order because the administration could begin canceling outstanding student debt as soon as Sunday.


Planned Parenthood leaders from 24 states gathered in California’s capital Friday to begin work on a nationwide strategy to protect and strengthen access to abortion, a counteroffensive aimed at pushing back against restrictions that have emerged in more than half of the country after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Their goal is to emulate the success liberals have had in California, where state lawmakers passed some of the most robust abortion protections in the country this year, culminating in a statewide election this fall that would make abortion a constitutional right in the nation’s most populous state.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta, speaking to a group of 25 leaders in a hotel conference room in Sacramento, with another 30 watching online, said abortion advocates could channel what he called the “ruthless energy” of anti-abortion advocates — “but not as a way to hurt people.”

In Washington, while Democratic President Joe Biden supports abortion, Democrats hold narrow majorities in the House and Senate — advantages that could be wiped out after the midterm elections in November.

Even if Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate, they likely still would not have enough votes to stop Republicans from blocking abortion legislation. Democrats in the House have already voted to pass a bill that would make abortion legal nationwide, but they have been unable to get the bill past an evenly divided Senate.

“We can only get so far through our inside maneuverings. We also need your outside mobilization to rally support at the grassroots level, as you do so well,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, said in a video message to the group on Friday.


A federal judge is holding a hearing Tuesday to determine if a mentally ill man charged with killing three people and wounding eight others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 should be forcibly medicated so he can be put on trial.

Robert Dear’s prosecution in state court and then federal court for the attack on the clinic in Colorado Springs has been stalled because he has been repeatedly found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial after being diagnosed with delusional disorder. He has refused to take antipsychotic medication according to federal prosecutors who are asking U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn to order that Dear be given medication against his will.

In a court filing, prosecutors said they expected Dear’s lawyers to argue that serious medical problems prevent him from being treated with antipsychotic medication. According to prison medical records, Dear has reported that he suffered a heart attack while taking such a drug years ago but prosecutors said they could not find any record to back that up, according to a prosecution filing.

Dear, described by acquaintances at the time of his arrest as a reclusive loner, is being represented by federal public defenders who do not comment to the media on their cases.

During outbursts in court, Dear has declared himself a “warrior of the babies” and said he was guilty. When Blackburn declared that he was incompetent to stand trial in September 2021, Dear objected, shouting “I’m not crazy,” The Denver Post reported.

Dear told police he attacked the clinic because he was upset with Planned Parenthood for “the selling of baby parts,” according to state court documents.


Democratic candidates have decried North Carolina’s newly reinstated abortion restrictions after a federal judge allowed a state law banning nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy to go into effect.

But some North Carolina Democrats say the ruling earlier this month — the latest fallout of the June U.S. Supreme Court decision eliminating federal abortion protections — might be the catalyst their party needed to reinvigorate its political prospects in what was shaping up to be a losing year.

“I do think it’s a blessing in disguise for Democrats,” said Morgan Jackson, consultant to powerful North Carolina Democrats like Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein. “It was a horrible policy decision that set back decades and decades of progress for women, but at that same time, it has given Democrats a renewed optimism about this year.”

U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled Aug. 17 that the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade erased the legal foundation for his 2019 ruling that had placed an injunction on the 1973 state law banning abortions after 20 weeks. Though the law allows leeway for urgent medical emergencies that threaten the patient’s life or “create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment,” it does not grant exceptions for rape or incest.

The judge’s decision comes as North Carolina is preparing to vote this fall on its entire state legislature, two state supreme court races, all 14 U.S. House seats and a high-profile U.S. Senate contest.


The Alabama Supreme Court has set an execution date of July 28 for a man convicted of killing his one-time girlfriend after breaking into her home in Jefferson County almost three decades ago, according to a court order made public Monday.

Joe Nathan James Jr. would become the second Alabama inmate put to death this year unless a court intervenes.

James, 49, was sentenced to die after being convicted of capital murder during a burglary in the killing of his one-time girlfriend, Faith Hall, in Birmingham.

James, who had a history of stalking and harassing the woman, showed up at her apartment on Aug. 15, 1994, forced his way inside and accused her of unfaithfulness, court documents show. James pulled a gun out of his waistband and shot the woman, who died of multiple gunshot wounds, and James was later arrested in California.

A Jefferson County jury convicted James of capital murder in 1996 and voted to recommend the death penalty, which a judge imposed. The conviction was overturned when the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a judge wrongly admitted some police reports into evidence.

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