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The future of abortion rights in Kentucky reaches a defining moment Tuesday when the state’s highest court hears arguments over a sweeping abortion ban put in place by the Republican-led legislature.

The case before Kentucky’s Supreme Court is the first legal test since voters in Kentucky and three other states signaled their support for abortion rights in last week’s midterm election. Kentuckians rejected a ballot measure that would have denied abortion rights in the state’s Constitution.

“Its defeat –- at the least –- keeps alive the plaintiffs’ claim that the Kentucky Constitution protects a woman’s right to choose,” University of Louisville law professor Samuel Marcosson said ahead of the court hearing. “The outcome doesn’t establish that there is such a right; that remains a question for the court depending on their view of the scope of the Kentucky constitutional right to privacy.”

The Kentucky justices will review a challenge to the state’s trigger law that banned nearly all abortions, taking effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June by the U.S. Supreme Court. Approved in 2019, the law carved out narrow exceptions to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent disabling injury. There are no exceptions for rape or incest victims.


A federal judge has approved a nearly $58 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in response to the deaths of dozens of veterans who contracted COVID-19 at a Massachusetts veterans home.

“It was with heavy hearts that we got to the finish line on this case,” Michael Aleo, an attorney for the plaintiffs said Tuesday, the day after the settlement was approved by a judge in U.S. District Court in Springfield.

The coronavirus outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke in the spring of 2020 was one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the U.S.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said 84 residents died and roughly the same number were sickened. A total of 164 plaintiffs include veterans who tested positive for the disease and survived as well as the families of those who died. Several of the veterans who survived COVID-19 have died of other causes since the lawsuit was filed, Aleo said.

“The families are thankful that we’ve been able to bring this case to a conclusion,” Aleo said. “Trying the case would have taken years.”

The original settlement amount announced in May was $56 million, but that was increased to about $58 million with the addition of three additional plaintiffs, he said.

The families of veterans who died will receive a minimum of $400,000 each, while veterans who contracted the disease and survived will receive a minimum of $10,000 under the settlement’s terms.

Aleo expects the settlement to be disbursed within four to eight weeks.

The defendants in the case were four former leaders at the state-run home and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the state agency that oversees the facility. With the approval of the settlement, which is being paid by the state, claims against all five were dropped.

An investigation by a former federal prosecutor hired by Gov. Charlie Baker found that management at the home made several “utterly baffling” decisions that allowed the virus to spread almost unchecked.


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.


Republicans have claimed key victories in state Supreme Court races that will give them an advantage in major redistricting fights, while Democrats notched similarly significant wins with help from groups focused on defending abortion access.

The expensive fights over court control in several states in Tuesday’s election highlight just how partisan the formerly low-key judicial races have become. Observers say they’re a sign of what to expect as legal battles over abortion, voting rights and other issues are being fought at the state level.

“Nothing about this election suggests to me that we’re going to see these races quiet down anytime soon,” said Douglas Keith, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school, which tracks spending in judicial races.

About $97 million was spent on state Supreme Court elections during the 2019-2020 election cycle, according to the Brennan Center. Once this year’s numbers are tallied, spending records are expected to be shattered in some of the 25 states that had races targeted by groups on the right and the left.

One of the biggest players was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which focused heavily on the court races in North Carolina and Ohio.

“Republican wins in the Tarheel State and Buckeye State ensure that the redistricting fights ahead in those states within the next decade are ruled on by strong conservatives who will follow the Constitution and don’t believe it’s their role to draw maps from the bench,” said Dee Duncan, president of the committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative.


Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence disgraced Theranos CE0 Elizabeth Holmes to 15 years in prison, arguing she deserves a lengthy prison term because her massive scheme duped investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars by falsely convincing them her company had developed a revolutionary blood testing device.

Calling the case “one of the most substantial white collar offenses Silicon Valley or any other District has seen,” prosecutors vehemently rejected defense attorneys’ characterization that Holmes had been unfairly victimized, in part by media coverage.

Holmes is set to appear for sentencing on Nov. 18 in federal court in San Jose, California, nearly a year after she was convicted of three felony counts of wire fraud and one felony count of conspiracy to commit fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.

“She repeatedly chose lies, hype and the prospect of billions of dollars over patient safety and fair dealing with investors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Leach wrote in a 46-page brief filed Friday. “Elizabeth Holmes’ crimes were not failing, they were lying — lying in the most serious context, where everyone needed her to tell the truth.”

Holmes’ attorneys filed an 82-page document late Thursday calling for a lenient sentence of no more than 18 months, saying her reputation was permanently destroyed, turning her into a “caricature to be mocked and vilified.”

Besides asking that Holmes receive a lengthy prison sentence, prosecutors called for the 38-year-old pay $803,840,309 in restitution for her role in the yearslong scheme that turned her into one of the most widely respected and immensely wealthy entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley and the United States.

“She preyed on hopes of her investors that a young, dynamic entrepreneur had changed healthcare. She leveraged the credibility of her illustrious board,” Leach wrote. “And, through her deceit, she attained spectacular fame, adoration, and billions of dollars of wealth.”

Leach also pointed to how, after Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou exposed the scheme, Holmes “attacked him, along with his sources” and desperately tried to pin the blame on others.

“At trial, she blamed her COO (and longtime boyfriend), her board, her scientists, her business partners, her investors, her marketing firm, her attorneys, the media — everyone, that is, but herself,” Leach wrote.

The company’s former chief operating officer, 57-year-old Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was convicted on 12 felony counts of investor and patient fraud in July during separate trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7.

And Leach wrote that the health of actual patients was put into jeopardy by what Holmes had done.

“As money was drying up, she went to market with an unproven and unreliable medical device,” he wrote. “When her lead assay developer quit as Theranos launched, she chillingly told the scientist: ‘she has a promise to deliver to the customer, she doesn’t have much of a choice but to go ahead with the launch.’”

Holmes’ attorneys have argued that if U.S. District Judge Edward Davila does decide to send her to prison, she deserves a lenient sentence because she poses no danger to the public and has no prior criminal history.


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.


Abortion rights supporters secured another win Thursday as voters in Montana rejected a ballot measure that would have forced medical workers to intercede in the rare case of a baby born after an attempted abortion.

The result caps a string of ballot defeats, months after the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade galvanized abortion-rights voters.

Michigan, California and Vermont voted to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions, and Kentucky voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment in a tally that echoed a similar August vote in Kansas.

Abortion rights groups said the outcomes show that voters across the political spectrum support access to abortion, even after a dozen Republican-governed states legislatures adopted near-total bans in the wake of the Roe decision. Anti-abortion groups, on the other hand, say they were outspent in the state races and point out anti-abortion candidate victories.

Like voters nationwide, only about 1 in 10 voters in California, Michigan, Montana Kentucky or Vermont said abortion should generally be illegal in all cases, according to AP VoteCast.

The Montana ballot measure would have raised the prospect of criminal charges carrying up to 20 years in prison for health-care providers unless they take “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the life” of an infant born alive, including in the rare case of a birth after an abortion.

Doctors and other opponents argued the law could keep parents of babies born with incurable diseases from spending peaceful moments with their infants if doctors were forced to attempt treatment.

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