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A front-runner to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a federal appellate judge who has established herself as a reliable conservative on hot-button legal issues from abortion to gun control.

Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic, is hailed by religious conservatives and others on the right as an ideological heir to conservative icon Antonin Scalia, the late Supreme Court justice for whom she clerked.

Liberals say Barrett’s legal views are too heavily influenced by her religious beliefs and fear her ascent to the nation’s highest court could lead to a scaling back of hard-fought abortion rights. She also would replace the justice who is best-known for fighting for women’s rights and equality.

President Donald Trump  has said he’ll nominate a woman and Barrett is thought to be at the top of his list of favorites. The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge was considered a finalist in 2018 for Trump’s second nomination to the high court, which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. Barrett’s selection now could help Trump energize his base weeks before Election Day.

At just 48, Barrett would be the youngest justice and her tenure could last for decades. She’s made her mark in law primarily as an academic at the University of Notre Dame, where she began teaching at age 30. She first donned judges’ robes in 2017 after Trump nominated her to the 7th Circuit.

But she wouldn’t be the only justice with little prior experience as a judge: John Roberts and Clarence Thomas spent less time as appellate judges before their Supreme Court nominations and Elena Kagan had never been a judge before President Barack Obama nominated her in 2009.

Barrett mentioned Kagan when asked in a White House questionnaire in 2017 about which justices she admired most, saying Kagan brought to the bench “the knowledge and skill she acquired as an academic to the practical resolution of disputes.”

When Barrett’s name first arose in 2018 as a possible Trump pick, even some conservatives worried her sparse judicial record made it too hard to predict how she might rule. Nearly three years on, her judicial record now includes the authorship of around 100 opinions and several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent.

She has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution, called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in assessing if someone’s rights have been violated. Many liberals oppose that strict approach, saying it is too rigid and doesn’t allow the Constitution to change with the times.


Joe Biden on Sunday used the sudden Supreme Court vacancy to reinforce his argument that the upcoming election should be a referendum on President Donald Trump's handling of health care and the coronavirus.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jolted the presidential campaign just six weeks before the election and as several states are already voting. Trump has seized on the opportunity to nominate a new justice to motivate his most loyal voters. Biden kept the focus on health care, which has proven to be a winning issue for Democrats during previous elections and could be even more resonant amid the pandemic.

The Supreme Court will hear a Republican-led case seeking to throw out the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration supports, the week after the Nov. 3 election. Biden charged that Trump is seeking to undermine the protections for people with pre-existing conditions under the ACA, as well as its provisions covering preventative care for women.

“Millions of Americans are voting because they know their health care hangs in the balance," Biden said during remarks at Constitution Center in Philadelphia. “In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court, trying to strip health care coverage away from tens of millions of families.”

The Supreme Court could also hear cases on a few more particularly salient issues in the next few months: voting rights, and potentially who wins the November election.

Biden is expected to focus in the weeks ahead on the Democratic fight to prevent a nominee from being confirmed to the court, with a particular emphasis on the effect the court could have on health care and climate change. Biden aides stopped short of ruling out the possibility the campaign would advertise around the court fight, though that decision hadn’t been finalized.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a towering women’s rights champion who became the court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Ginsburg died of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer, the court said.

Her death just over six weeks before Election Day is likely to set off a heated battle over whether President Donald Trump should nominate, and the Republican-led Senate should confirm, her replacement, or if the seat should remain vacant until the outcome of his race against Democrat Joe Biden is known. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Friday that the Senate will vote on Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, even though it’s an election year.

Trump called Ginsburg an “amazing woman” and did not mention filling her vacant Supreme Court seat when he spoke to reporters following a rally in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Biden said the winner of the November election should choose Ginsburg’s replacement. “There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters after returning to his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, from campaign stops in Minnesota.

Chief Justice John Roberts mourned Ginsburg’s passing. “Our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” Roberts said in a statement.

Ginsburg announced in July that she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for lesions on her liver, the latest of her several battles with cancer.

Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the unquestioned leader of the court’s liberal wing and became something of a rock star to her admirer s. Young women especially seemed to embrace the court’s Jewish grandmother, affectionately calling her the Notorious RBG, for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crises.


Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages around the U.S., more than a half million households are made up of married same-sex couples, according to figures the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.

Since 2014, the year before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriages, the number of married same-sex households has increased by almost 70%, rising to 568,110 couples in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Of the 980,000 same-sex couple households reported in 2019, 58% were married couples and 42% were unmarried partners, the survey showed.

There were slightly more female couple households than male couple households.

“Opponents of marriage equality frequently argued that same-sex couples really weren’t all that interested in marriage. But the large increase in marriages among same-sex couples since marriage equality became legal nationwide offers evidence of the clear desire for marriage among same-sex couples,” said Gary Gates, a demographer specializing in LGBT issues.

The survey revealed noticeable economic differences between male couples and female couples, as well as same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples.

Same-sex married couples had a higher median income than opposite-sex married couples, $107,210 compared to $96,932. In same-sex marriages, though, male couples earned more than female couples, $123,646 versus $87,690.

According to the survey, same-sex married households were more likely to be in the workforce than opposite-sex married households, 84.6% compared to 80.4%.

However, there was a difference between gay and lesbian couples. Married women in same-sex households were much more likely to be working than married women in opposite-sex households, but the reverse was true for married men in same-sex households. They were less likely to be working than married men in opposite-sex households, according to the Census Bureau.

“While most research shows that gay and bisexual men, on average, do not earn more than their comparable heterosexual male counterparts, that research also shows that they tend to earn more than lesbian and bisexual women,” Gates said. “Unfortunately, gender discrimination is present, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Separate survey results also released Thursday show almost 15% of same-sex couples had at least one child under age 18, compared to 37.8% of opposite-sex couples. Of the nearly 300,000 children living in a homes with same-sex couples, 66% were children of both partners or spouses, compared to 95% for opposite-sex couples, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

The District of Columbia had the greatest concentration of same-sex households, at 2.4% of households, followed by Delaware (1.3%), Oregon (1.2%), Massachusetts (1.2%) and Washington State (1.1%), according to the American Community Survey.




A Rwandan court on Monday charged Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” with terrorism, complicity in murder, and forming an armed rebel group.

Rusesabagina declined to respond to all 13 charges, saying some did not qualify as criminal offenses and saying that he denied the accusations when he was questioned by Rwandan investigators.

Rusesabagina, 66, asked to be released on bail, citing poor health that has caused him to be taken to hospital three times in the time that he has been held in Rwanda.

“I request that I am given bail and I assure the court that I will not flee from justice,” Rusesabagina said. The court said it will rule on his bail application on Thursday.

Rusesabagina was represented by Rwandan lawyers David Rugaza and Ameline Nyembo, who have been discounted as state-imposed representation by his family outside Rwanda.

Neither his lawyers nor the prosecution explained the circumstances under which Rusesabagina arrived in Kigali at the end of August from Dubai. He had traveled from the U.S. to Dubai and then mysteriously appeared in Rwanda. The Rwandan court said the suspect was arrested at Kigali International Airport, contradicting the earlier police version that he was arrested through “international cooperation.”

When Rwandan President Paul Kagame spoke on national broadcasting about the case, he indicated that Rusesabagina may have been tricked i nto boarding a private plane in Dubai that took him to Rwanda.

Amnesty International on Monday urged Rwandan authorities to guarantee Rusesabagina his right to a fair trial.



One of Virginia’s largest courts will restart jury trials next week, six months after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Tidewater-area judges to halt them. Norfolk Circuit Court is one of four courts statewide that the Virginia Supreme Court has allowed to conduct jury trials again, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.

The Supreme Court banned all lower courts from conducting jury trials starting in mid-May, but Norfolk already had postponed them in mid-March. Courts can petition the high court to restart jury trials.

Potential jurors in Norfolk Circuit Court will be kept in small groups, have to wear face masks and practice social distancing. Once in court, they won’t sit in jury boxes but in seats 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart, and they’ll decide verdicts in an empty court room, rather than in a special side room normally used.

Norfolk’s judges already have been holding in-person hearings of several types, including bench trials in which a judge renders a verdict. The Supreme Court also has allowed jury trials again in Alleghany, Henrico and Stafford counties.


A drive-by shooting wounded a federal security officer outside the U.S. courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, and a person was later taken into custody, authorities said. The officer was taken to a hospital and was expected to recover, according to city police and the FBI. Jill McCabe, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Phoenix office, said someone was later detained and there was no indication of a further threat to the public.

The court security officer works for the U.S. Marshals Service and was struck in their protective vest, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. Court security officers work under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service but generally are employed by private security companies.

The FBI said it isn’t providing any more details as it investigates. Police had released a photo of a silver sedan spotted leaving the area around the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse. Hours after the shooting, a street surrounding the courthouse was closed to traffic, roped off by yellow tape with police officers standing on each corner. Armed federal officers talked outside the main entrance to the courthouse, which was still open to the public, according to a court clerk.

The shooting came after the weekend ambush of two Los Angeles County deputies. They were sitting in their parked vehicle when a man walked up to the passenger’s side and fired multiple rounds. The deputies were struck in the head and critically wounded but were expected to recover. The gunman hasn’t been captured, and a motive has not been determined. Federal courthouses have been flashpoints for recent violence, but it’s not clear who shot the officer in Phoenix or why.

In June, a federal security officer was shot and killed and his partner was wounded outside the federal courthouse in Oakland as they guarded the building during protests over racial injustice and police brutality. An Air Force sergeant was charged with the shooting, and prosecutors say he had ties to the far-right, anti-government “boogaloo” movement and used the protest as cover for the crime and his escape.

During demonstrations in Portland, Oregon, protesters and federal officers clashed at the federal courthouse, where people set fires and tossed fireworks and rocks, while federal authorities unleashed tear gas and made arrests.

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