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New Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has issued her first Supreme Court opinion, a short dissent Monday in support of a death row inmate from Ohio.

Jackson wrote that she would have thrown out lower court rulings in the case of inmate Davel Chinn, whose lawyers argued that the state suppressed evidence that might have altered the outcome of his trial.

Jackson, in a two-page opinion, wrote that she would have ordered a new look at Chinn’s case “because his life is on the line and given the substantial likelihood that the suppressed records would have changed the outcome at trial.”

The evidence at issue indicated that a key witness against Chinn has an intellectual disability that might have affected his memory and ability to testify accurately, she wrote.

Prosecutors are required to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. In this case, lower courts determined that the outcome would not have been affected if the witness’ records had been provided to Chinn’s lawyers.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only other member of the court to join Jackson’s opinion. The two justices also were allies in dissent Monday in Sotomayor’s opinion that there was serious prosecutorial misconduct in the trial of a Louisiana man who was convicted of sex trafficking.

Jackson joined the high court on June 30, following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, her onetime boss.

The court has yet to decide any of the cases argued in October or the first few days of this month. Jackson almost certainly will be writing a majority opinion in one of those cases.


A memorial service will be held this month for Judge David Lee, who presided for several years over a far-reaching North Carolina school funding case and ordered last year that taxpayer money be spent on student inequities.

Lee died Oct. 4 at his Monroe home of complications from cancer, according to an obituary posted online by Gordon Funeral Service & Crematory. The funeral home confirmed his death Monday.

Lee, a Superior Court judge, oversaw litigation called “Leandro” since late 2016. In March, Chief Justice Paul Newby assigned another judge to hear the next portion of the case. Lee had reached the mandatory retirement age for judges in January.

In November, Lee directed that $1.75 billion be moved from state coffers to government agencies to fund a remedial spending plan to help provide a constitutionally mandated “opportunity for a sound basic education” for at-risk children and those in poor regions.

The judge found that he had the authority to transfer taxpayer funds in part because the state — in particular the legislature — had failed repeatedly to comply with major court rulings stemming from the 1994 lawsuit.

A state Court of Appeals panel blocked the transfer, and Lee’s successor in the case lowered the necessary amount to $785 million. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in August over whether the judiciary had the power to make such a unilateral spending decision. The justices have yet to rule.

Lee, a South Carolina native who grew up in Unionville, attended Western Carolina University and Wake Forest law school. He had been a longtime civil litigation attorney before first being appointed to the bench in 2003. He served as president of local Jaycees and Rotary Club groups.

Lee said last year that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer — a tumor had been found in his liver in 2019.

The memorial service is scheduled for Oct. 22 at First Baptist Church in Monroe, where he was a longtime member. Survivors include his wife, three children, and three grandchildren.


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Justice Clarence Thomas, who remains hospitalized in Washington, does not have COVID-19, the Supreme Court said Monday.

The court provided no additional information about the infection that put Thomas in the hospital on Friday, other than to say he is responding to intravenous antibiotics.

The 73-year-old justice has been vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, along with the other eight justices, the court has said.

The chair to his right empty, Chief Justice John Roberts took note of Thomas’ absence from the courtroom Monday without explaining why. He said the justice would take part in the cases based on written briefs and recordings of the in-court arguments.

Thomas has been on the court since 1991. Word on Sunday of his hospitalization came as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to begin hearings Monday in the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom President Joe Biden named to replace Stephen Breyer. He is retiring at the end of the session.


Walter E. Dellinger, a noted constitutional scholar who argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, served in top positions in the Justice Department and was a professor at Duke Law School, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Dellinger died Wednesday morning in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, his son Hampton Dellinger said.

During the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Dellinger headed up the influential Office of Legal Counsel that advises the attorney general on often sensitive legal and policy issues and served as the acting Solicitor General, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

During his time as acting solicitor general during the 1996-97 term of the high court, he argued nine cases including those dealing with doctor-assisted suicide and the line-item veto, according to his Duke Law biography. Dellinger was an emeritus professor at Duke, where he had been a faculty member since 1969.

Dellinger was a leader of a legal team assembled by Democrats ahead of the 2020 presidential election to take on election-related court cases. And in early February, Dellinger spoke out in defense of Biden’s pledge to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court in an essay published by the New York Times.


A federal judge has limited the ability for now for the nonprofit running Oak Ridge National Laboratory to place employees on unpaid leave who receive exemptions to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley in Knoxville issued the temporary restraining order Friday barring UT-Battelle from placing employees on indefinite unpaid leave or firing them after they receive a religious or medical accommodation to the vaccine.

The six workers who sued have argued they were told the unpaid leave would be indefinite. Their employer said in a court filing that the leave will last 60 days — with health benefits intact — and then will be reevaluated. Those with security clearances will maintain them for 90 days, the filing states.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory spokesperson Morgan McCorkle said Sunday that officials there “remain confident our policy is legal, in taxpayers’ interest, and necessary for the well-being of our workforce.”

The judge wrote that he will decide by Oct. 29 whether to let the order expire or keep it while the case plays out. He reasoned that “preventing their (employees’) placement on unpaid leave for a matter of two weeks simply will not harm” the organization, while the unpaid leave presents a “functional loss of employment” and other damages for the workers at the lab, which is about 25 miles west of Knoxville.

The judge wrote that the order shouldn’t be interpreted that he is inclined to block the order permanently, and instead was put in place to avoid the “risk of irreparable harm” until a full hearing can be held.

The employees sued earlier this month, saying they requested religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine and two of them also asked for a medical exemption. The lawsuit also seeks class-action status, arguing the unpaid leave policy breaches civil rights and disability discrimination protections.

The lawsuit says the workers were not offered alternatives, such as working remotely or periodic testing. All employees currently face a mask mandate at the lab.
The laboratory, which falls under the U.S. Department of Energy, announced on Aug. 26 that all staff needed to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, with a request that those who were seeking accommodations for religious or medical reasons to submit them by Sept. 15.

UT-Battelle had 145 employees request for accommodations for religious beliefs, and in 24 cases had in-person discussions with the workers. UT-Battelle received 75 requests for medical exemptions, granting 47 of them, denying 25, with three pending, a filing states.
According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website, there are 5,700 staff workers at the facility.

“The risk posed by unvaccinated staff members was exemplified by the employees who tested positive on the day they were being interviewed about their religious accommodation requests,” UT-Battelle wrote.


The chief of Vermont’s trial courts is retiring after 17 years as a judge, including seven as chief superior judge, the state Supreme Court has announced.

Chief Judge Brian Grearson will retire Nov. 1.

“Vermont’s judiciary is a vital institution of democracy that ensures equal justice under the law,” Vermont Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Reiber said in a statement on Friday. “Judge Grearson’s work in support of the courts has been distinctive, accruing to the benefit of every person in our great state.”

The court also said that Superior Judge Thomas A. Zonay of Hartland will succeed Grearson.

The chief superior judge supervises and oversees the administrative responsibilities of the judicial officers who serve in the state superior court and trial courts.

Zonay was appointed as a superior judge in 2007. Before being named a judge Zonay practiced law in Rutland and Woodstock for 18 years. Zonay also has served as president of the Vermont Bar Association and the New England Bar Association.

“He is a knowledgeable, hardworking and committed public servant,” Reiber said of Zonay. “I wish him all the best in his new role.”

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