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The Trump administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revive a permit program that would allow the disputed Keystone XL pipeline and other new oil and gas pipelines to cross waterways with little review.

Earlier this year, a Montana judge suspended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ permit program when environmental groups seeking to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline argued the permit process allows companies to skirt responsibility for damage done to water bodies.

The permit program, known as Nationwide Permit 12, allows pipelines to be built across streams and wetlands with minimal review if they meet certain criteria.

Canadian company TC Energy needs the permit to build the long-disputed pipeline from Canada across U.S. rivers and streams. Industry representatives said U.S. District Judge Brian Morris' ruling blocking the program could also delay more than 70 pipeline projects across the U.S. and add as much as $2 billion in costs.

Morris ruled that Army Corps officials in 2017 improperly reauthorized the program, which he said could harm protected wildlife and wildlife habitat.

Last month, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency request to block Morris' ruling filed by the U.S. government, states and industry groups.

On Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to do what the 9th Circuit court wouldn't: block Morris' ruling and let the permit program operate again while the lawsuit plays out in court.


LGBT-rights activists are elated by a major Supreme Court victory on job discrimination, and hope the decision will spur action against other biases faced by their community despite Trump administration efforts to slow or reverse advances.

In most states, it remains legal to discriminate against gay and transgender people in housing and public accommodations, leading activists noted. And they decried continuing violence and discrimination directed at transgender Americans, notably trans women of color.

The Trump administration has sharply restricted military service by transgender people and last week formally overturned Obama-era protections for transgender people against sex discrimination in health care. And there are pending lawsuits over transgender participation in school events.

“This is a landmark victory for legal equality, but unfortunately we have a lot of work still to do,” Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights organization, said of the Supreme Court ruling Monday.

The high court decided 6-3 that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 — by prohibiting workplace sex discrimination — protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. The opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of President Donald Trump’s two appointees to the court.


The Supreme Court is for now declining to get involved in an ongoing debate by citizens and in Congress over policing, rejecting cases Monday that would have allowed the justices to revisit when police can be held financially responsible for wrongdoing.

With protests over racism and police brutality continuing nationwide, the justices turned away more than half a dozen cases involving the legal doctrine known as qualified immunity, which the high court created more than 50 years ago. It shields officials, including police, from lawsuits for money as a result for things they do in the course of their job.

As is usual the court didn't comment in turning away the cases, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a 6-page dissent saying he would have agreed to hear one of the cases.

“I have previously expressed my doubts about our qualified immunity jurisprudence,” he wrote, explaining he believes the court's "qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text."

As a result of qualified immunity, even when a court finds that an official or officer has violated someone’s constitutional rights, they can still be protected from civil lawsuits seeking money. The Supreme Court has said that qualified immunity protects officials as long as their actions don’t violate clearly established law or constitutional rights which they should have known about.


The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBT people from discrimination in employment, a resounding victory for LGBT rights from a conservative court.

The court decided by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 known as Title VII that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against LGBT workers.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The outcome is expected to have a big impact for the estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers across the country because most states  don’t protect them from workplace discrimination. An estimated 11.3 million LGBT people live in the U.S., according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school.

But Monday’s decision is not likely to be the court’s last word on a host of issues revolving around LGBT rights, Gorsuch noted.

Lawsuits are pending over transgender athletes’ participation in school sporting events, and courts also are dealing with cases about sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms, a subject that the justices seemed concerned about during arguments in October. Employers who have religious objections to employing LGBT people also might be able to raise those claims in a different case, Gorsuch said.


The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday issued a stay of execution for a second death row inmate because of the coronavirus pandemic. Byron Black's execution was scheduled for Oct. 8, but the court moved it to April 8, 2021.

Attorneys for the 64-year-old Black had said the pandemic made it impossible to have a hearing on whether Black is competent to be executed. They also wrote that the health crisis is interfering with his ability to prepare for a clemency request.

The court also extended until January Black's deadline for a petition alleging incompetence. The previous deadline was next month. "The stay will help protect guards, witnesses, attorneys representing the prisoners, attorneys for the State, and everyone else involved in these cases," said Kelley Henry, supervisory assistant federal public defender.

Henry said Black has mental defects and medical issues. "For the court to evaluate Mr. Black's competency, it would need to hear from mental health experts who are out of state and can't travel to Tennessee to examine Mr. Black in the prison at this time," Henry said. "The stay in Mr. Black's case was absolutely necessary."

Tennessee's attorney general opposed Black's motion to delay his execution. Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote in Supreme Court filings that attorneys for Black and another inmate who sought a stay, Harold Nichols, were speculating about future public health conditions in their delay requests.

Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Prosecutors said he shot the three during a jealous rage. Black was on work release at the time for shooting and wounding Clay's estranged husband.


The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration’s decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.”

An executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump’s order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

The court, which has 123 member states, said in a statement released early Friday that it “stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate” laid down in its founding treaty, the Rome Statute.

It said an attack on the Hague-based court also constitutes “an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

O-Gon Kwon, president of the court’s management and oversight mechanism, the Assembly of States Parties, also criticized the U.S. measures.

“They undermine our common endeavor to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for mass atrocities,” he said in a statement. “I deeply regret measures targeting Court officials, staff and their families.”

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes of humanity and genocide in places where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. The U.S. has never been an ICC member.


Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday to intervene in his dispute with legislative Republicans who have voted to end pandemic restrictions he imposed in March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Republican majorities in the House and Senate, with a few Democrats in support, voted this week to end the state’s emergency disaster declaration that Wolf has used to shut down “non-life-sustaining” businesses, ban large gatherings and order people to stay at home.

Wolf asked the state’s high court to uphold the shutdown. He said that his gradual reopening plan is working, pointing to a downward trend in the number of new virus infections in Pennsylvania even as cases rise in nearly half the states.

“Pennsylvania’s measured, phased process to reopen is successful because of its cautious approach that includes factors relying on science, the advice of health experts and that asks everyone to do something as simple as wearing a mask when inside or around others outside the home,” Wolf said in a news release. “We will continue to move forward cautiously.”

Wolf has been easing restrictions in vast swaths of the state, including on Friday when he announced that another eight counties would be moving to the least restrictive “green” phase of his reopening plan. But gyms, barber shops, theaters and similar businesses in the state’s highly populated southeast corner remain closed, and many types of businesses statewide must abide by occupancy limits.

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