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Harvard does not discriminate against Asian American applicants, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday in a decision that offers relief to other colleges that consider race in admissions, but also sets the stage for a potential review by an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision came from two judges on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston who rejected claims from an anti-affirmative action group that accused the Ivy League University of imposing a “racial penalty” on Asian Americans. The judges upheld a previous ruling clearing Harvard of discrimination when choosing students.

It delivers a blow to the suit’s plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate the use of race in college admissions. In a statement, the group’s president, Edward Blum, said he was disappointed but that “our hope is not lost.”

“This lawsuit is now on track to go up to the U.S. Supreme Court where we will ask the justices to end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies at Harvard and all colleges and universities,” Blum said.

Both sides have been preparing for a possible review by the Supreme Court, and some legal scholars say the issue is ripe to be revisited.

Filed in 2014, the lawsuit has revived a national debate about race’s role in college admissions. In multiple decisions spanning decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that colleges can consider race as a limited factor in order to promote campus diversity. But the practice faces mounting challenges in the courts, including three suits from Students from Fair Admissions.

Many elite colleges consider applicants’ race and give an edge to some underrepresented students to promote diversity on campus. The Trump administration has opposed the practice and backed the lawsuit against Harvard. In October, the Justice Department filed a similar suit accusing Yale University of discriminating against Asian American and white applicants.


A state court legal fight to stop the counting of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area has ended after the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Donald Trump campaign and the state Republican party, at their request. The dismissal leaves two active legal cases in Nevada relating to the 2020 presidential election, as a small number of remaining ballots are counted.

The campaign and GOP had tried to withdraw the appeal in the state case, submitting a document last week telling the seven-member court that it had reached a settlement calling for Clark County election officials to allow more observers at a ballot processing facility. However, not all the parties in the lawsuit signed the agreement. The case also involved the national and state Democratic parties, the Nevada secretary of state and the Clark County registrar of voters.

Trump Nevada campaign official Adam Laxalt did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages about the action by the state high court. The appeal had challenged Judge James Wilson Jr.’s ruling Nov. 2 in Carson City that neither the state nor Clark County had done anything to give one vote preference over another. Meanwhile, an active lawsuit filed in federal court alleging ineligible votes were cast in the Las Vegas area has a Nov. 19 deadline for filings but no immediate hearing date.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon declined after a hearing Friday to issue an order immediately halting the count of mail-in ballots from Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County ? a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise GOP state. The judge noted what was then the pending Nevada Supreme Court appeal and said he didn’t want to become involved in “an issue of significant state concern, involving state laws (that) should be interpreted by state courts.”

Plaintiffs in that case include a woman who said she tried to vote in person but was told a mailed ballot with her signature had already been received, and a political strategist and TV commentator who said he was denied an opportunity to observe ballot counting late on election night.  Separately, a public records lawsuit in state court led a judge to set a Nov. 20 deadline for the Clark County registrar of voters to turn over to the Trump campaign and the state GOP the names, party affiliations, work schedules and job responsibilities of more than 300 people who were hired to count ballots.

Vote counting in Nevada ends Thursday. State elections officials report more than 1.3 million ballots were cast. On a call with reporters hosted by the Voter Protection Program, Democratic attorneys general Aaron Ford of Nevada and Dana Nessel of Michigan said lawsuits questioning the results of elections in their states are baseless.

Ford branded people spreading claims of fraud “saboteurs” working to undermine faith in the democratic process. “There’s been no evidence of widespread fraud or wrongdoing and no P.R. stunt or piled-on litigation is going to change that fact,” Ford said.


The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to leave in place the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, including key protections for pre-existing health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums that affect tens of millions of Americans. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, among the conservative justices, appeared in two hours of arguments to be unwilling to strike down the entire law — a long-held Republican goal that has repeatedly failed in Congress and the courts — even if they were to find the law’s now-toothless mandate for obtaining health insurance to be unconstitutional.

The court’s three liberal justices are almost certain to vote to uphold the law in its entirety and presumably would form a majority by joining a decision that cut away only the mandate, which now has no financial penalty attached to it. Congress zeroed out the penalty in 2017, but left the rest of the law untouched.

“Would Congress want the rest of the law to survive if the unconstitutional provision were severed? Here, Congress left the rest of the law intact,” Roberts said. “That seems to be a compelling answer to the question.” For his part, Kavanaugh said recent decisions by the court suggest “that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place.”

A week after the 2020 election, the justices heard arguments by telephone in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the court’s third major case over the 10-year-old law, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the administration want the whole law to be struck down, which would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people.

California, leading a group of Democratic-controlled states, and the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives are urging the court to leave the law in place.

Kavanaugh is one of three justices appointed by President Donald Trump on a court that is more conservative than the ones that sustained the law in previous challenges in 2012 and 2015. The others are Neil Gorsuch and new Justice Coney Barrett, who joined the court late last month following her hurried nomination and confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The three Trump appointees have never ruled on the substance of the health care law. Barrett, though, has been critical of the court’s earlier major health care decisions sustaining the law, both written by Roberts.

The Supreme Court could have heard the case before the election, but set arguments for a week after. The timing could add a wrinkle to the case since President-elect Joe Biden strongly supports the health care law.

The case turns on a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Without the penalty, the law’s mandate to have health insurance is unconstitutional, the GOP-led states argue.


A week after the 2020 election, Republican elected officials and the Trump administration are advancing their latest arguments to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, a long-held GOP goal that has repeatedly failed in Congress and the courts. In arguments scheduled for Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear its third major fight over the 10-year-old law, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Republican attorneys general in 18 states and the administration want the whole law to be struck down, which would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people.

It would wipe away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, subsidized insurance premiums that make coverage affordable for millions of Americans and an expansion of the Medicaid program that is available to low-income people in most states. California is leading a group of Democratic-controlled states that is urging the court to leave the law in place.

The case comes to a court that now has three justices appointed by President Donald Trump: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett,  who joined the court late last month following her hurried nomination and confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The three Trump appointees have never ruled on the substance of the health care law. Barrett, though, has been critical of the court’s earlier major health care decisions sustaining the law, both written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court could have heard the case before the election, but set arguments for a week after. The timing could add a wrinkle to the case since President-elect Joe Biden strongly supports the health care law.

The case turns on a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero. Without the penalty, the law’s mandate to have health insurance is unconstitutional, the GOP-led states argue.

If the mandate goes, they say, the rest of the law should go with it because the mandate was central to the law’s passage. But enrollment in the law’s insurance markets stayed relatively stable at more than 11 million people, even after the effective date of the penalty’s elimination in 2019. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, enrollment dropped by about 300,000 people from 2018 to 2019. Kaiser estimates 11.4 million people have coverage this year.

Another 12 million people have coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion. The legal argument could well turn on the legal doctrine of severability, the idea that the court can excise a problematic provision from a law and allow the rest of it to remain in force. The justices have done just that in other rulings in recent years.

But in the first big ACA case in 2012, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted to strike down the whole law. Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have voted to uphold it. A limited ruling would have little real-world consequences. The case could also be rendered irrelevant if the new Congress were to restore a modest penalty for not buying health insurance. A decision is expected by late spring.



Unsuccessful in an earlier bid for an emergency injunction, a Nevada church is asking the U.S. Supreme Court again to consider its challenge of coronavirus restrictions on religious gatherings as a test case for others brought by churches across the country arguing their First Amendment rights are being violated.

“This case is an ideal vehicle to solve the nationwide problem of government discrimination against churches in ad hoc COVID-19 orders,” lawyers for Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley wrote in the unusual new filing Thursday.

In a sharply divided 5-4 decision in July, the high court refused the church’s request for a temporary order blocking enforcement of Nevada’s 50-person cap on religious gatherings while its appeal is pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The appellate court has scheduled oral arguments Dec. 8 on the merits of the appeal of a ruling by a U.S. judge in Reno upholding Gov. Steve Sisolak’s 50-person cap on attendance at indoor church services to help slow the pandemic’s spread.

Calvary Chapel argues the cap is an unconstitutional violation of their religious freedoms partly because casinos and other businesses are allowed to operate at 50% of capacity.

“There is no constitutional right to gamble, but there is one that protects attending worship services,” said David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church.

The Christian church in rural Lyon County wants to allow as many as 90 people to attend services at the same time — with masks required, spaced 6 feet apart — at the sanctuary east of Reno with a capacity of 200.

Other secular businesses allowed to operate at half capacity include restaurants, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys.

The new filling is a “petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment” seeking review despite the pending appeal. Such petitions are rare and their approval rarer, even though they require approval by only four justices.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the 5-4 majority turning back Calvary Chapel’s request this summer before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The opening on the bench recently was filled by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who seems likely to align herself with the four conservative justices who sided with the church in July.

“There is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote then in one of three strongly worded dissents.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito added.

Nevada’s lawyers will have at least a month to respond to the new request. Neither Sisolak nor the state attorney general’s office had any immediate comment, their spokespersons said on Friday.


Until six weeks ago, defenders of the Affordable Care Act could take comfort in some simple math. Five Supreme Court justices who had twice preserved the Obama-era health care law remained on the bench and seemed unlikely votes to dismantle it.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in mid-September and her replacement by Amy Coney Barrett barely a month later have altered the equation as the court prepares to hear arguments Tuesday in the third major legal challenge in the law’s 10-year existence.

Republican attorneys general in 18 states, backed by the Trump administratio n, are arguing that the whole law should be struck down because of a change made by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 that reduced the penalty for not having health insurance to zero.

A court ruling invalidating the entire law would threaten coverage for more than 23 million people. It would wipe away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, subsidized insurance premiums that make coverage affordable for millions of Americans and an expansion of the Medicaid program that is available to low-income people in most states.

“No portion of the ACA is severable from the mandate,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the court in a written filing. The Republicans are pressing this position even though congressional efforts to repeal the entire law have failed, including in July 2017 when then-Arizona Sen. John McCain delivered a dramatic thumbs-down vote to a repeal effort by fellow Republicans.

Barrett is one of three appointees of President Donald Trump who will be weighing the latest legal attack on the law popularly known as “Obamacare.” Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are the others. It’s their first time hearing a major case over the health law as justices, although Kavanaugh took part in the the first round of suits over it when he was a federal appeals court judge.

Of the other justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stepehen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have voted to uphold the law. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas have voted for strike it all down.

The case is being argued at an unusual moment, a week after the presidential election, with Democrat Joe Biden on the cusp of winning the White House. Control of the Senate also is hanging in the balance.

The political environment aside, the practical effects of the repeal of the tax penalty have surprised many health care policy experts. They predicted that getting rid of the penalty would lead over time to several million people dropping coverage, mostly healthier enrollees, and as a result, premiums for the law’s subsidized private insurance would rise because remaining customers would tend to be in poorer health.


President Donald Trump has repeatedly said there’s one place he wants to determine the outcome of the presidential election: the U.S. Supreme Court. But he may have a difficult time ever getting there.

Over the last two days, Trump has leaned in to the idea that the high court should get involved in the election as it did in 2000. Then, the court effectively settled the contested election for President George W. Bush in a 5-4 decision that split the court’s liberals and conservatives.

Today, six members of the court are conservatives, including three nominated by Trump. But the outcome of this year’s election seemed to be shaping up very differently from 2000, when Florida’s electoral votes delivered the presidency to George W. Bush.

Then, Bush led in Florida and went to court to stop a recount. Trump, for his part, has suggested a strategy that would focus on multiple states where the winning margins appear to be slim. But he might have to persuade the Supreme Court to set aside votes in two or more states to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.

Chief Justice John Roberts, for his part, is not likely to want the election to come down to himself and his colleagues. Roberts, who was not on the court for Bush v. Gore in 2000 but was a lawyer for Bush, has often tried to distance the court from the political branches of government and the politics he thinks could hurt the court’s reputation.

It’s also not clear what legal issues might cause the justices to step in. Trump has made repeated, unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. Lawsuits filed by his campaign so far have been small-scale efforts unlikely to affect many votes, and some already have been dismissed.

Still, Trump has focused on the high court. In the early morning hours following Election Day he said: “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court — we want all voting to stop.” And on Thursday, as Biden inched closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House, Trump again told Americans, “It’s going to end up, perhaps, at the highest court in the land, we’ll see.” On Twitter too he urged, “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”

There is currently one election case at the Supreme Court and it involves a Republican appeal to exclude ballots that arrived after Election Day in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. But whether or not those ballots ultimately are counted seems unlikely to affect who gets the state’s electoral votes.

Biden opened a narrow lead over Trump on Friday, and any additional mail-in votes probably would help Biden, not the president.

Still, Trump’s campaign is currently trying to intervene in the case, an appeal of a decision by Pennsylvania’s highest court to allow three extra days for the receipt and counting of mailed ballots. Because the case is ongoing, the state’s top election official has directed that the small number of ballots that arrived in that window, before 5 p.m. Friday, be separated but counted. Republicans on Friday asked for a high court order ensuring the ballots are separated, and Justice Samuel Alito, acting on his own, agreed, saying he was motivated in part by the Republicans’ assertion that they can’t be sure elections officials are complying with guidance.

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