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The Supreme Court said Tuesday that the first-ever women to hold two prominent positions at the court, handling the justices’ security and overseeing publication of the court’s decisions, are retiring.

Pamela Talkin’s most public role in nearly two decades as the court’s marshal has been opening court sessions by announcing the justices’ entrance into the courtroom and banging a gavel before court begins. She noted in 2005: “I’m the only person in the courtroom with a gavel.” But her responsibilities as marshal’s job were vast. She served as the court’s general manager and chief security officer, managing approximately 260 employees, including the Supreme Court’s police force.

Christine Luchok Fallon’s name wasn’t on any Supreme Court decision, but part of her job as the reporter of decisions was to oversee the writing of summaries of the justices’ opinions that begin each decision, turning lengthy legal explanations into a succinct few pages.

Fallon became the court’s 16th reporter of decisions in 2011. But she joined the court as deputy reporter of decisions in 1989, eight years after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the court’s first female justice and four years before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second. The court’s third and fourth female justices, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, joined the court in 2009 and 2010 respectively.


The Supreme Court on Thursday turned away pleas from anti-abortion activists to make it easier for them to protest outside clinics, declining to wade back into the abortion debate just days after striking down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics.

The justices said in a written order that they would not hear cases from Chicago and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where anti-abortion activists had challenged ordinances that restrict their behavior outside clinics.

As is usual, the justices did not comment in turning away the cases. The order from the court noted Justice Clarence Thomas would have heard the Chicago case.

The Supreme Court has since the late 1990s heard several cases involving demonstration-free zones, called buffer zones, outside abortion clinics. Most recently, in 2014, the justices unanimously struck down a law that created a 35-foot protest-free zone outside Massachusetts abortion clinics. The court said Massachusetts’ law, which made it a crime to stand in the protest-free zone for most people not entering or exiting the clinic or passing by, was an unconstitutional restraint on the free-speech rights of protesters.

On Thursday, one of the two cases the court declined to take up involved an ordinance passed by the city counsel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital, in 2012 that made it illegal to “congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate” in a zone 20 feet from a health care facility. Anti-abortion activists sued, arguing that the ordinance violates their free speech rights. Lower courts have upheld the ordinance, however, ruling it doesn't apply to “sidewalk counseling,” where individuals who oppose abortion offer assistance and information about alternatives to abortion to those entering a clinic.


The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request by Texas Democrats to allow all of the state’s 16 million registered voters to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

The denial is not the end of the ongoing battle over mail-in voting in Texas, but it remains a loss for Democrats who made the emergency ruling request while the original case is tied up at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor urged the lower court to consider the case “well in advance of the November election.” Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person.

For months, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has fought expanding mail-in balloting during the pandemic, saying fear of contracting the virus is an insufficient reason. A federal judge in Texas sided with Democrats in May, but that decision is on hold pending appeal.

Early voting in Texas begins Monday for primary runoff elections that had been postponed to July over coronavirus fears, but Texas is now one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots as confirmed cases reach record levels and Gov. Greg Abbott reimposes restrictions.


A Washington sheriff has asked the state's highest court to reject legal arguments seeking his removal.

The Daily Herald reported attorneys for Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney are seeking a state Supreme Court review of a lower court ruling allowing an effort to unseat him to move forward.

The Committee to Recall Sheriff Fortney accuses him of violating his statutory duties and endangering community peace and safety by saying in an April 21 social media post that he would not enforce Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's coronavirus stay-at-home order. The group also leveled other accusations of office misuse by Fortney.



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 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.


Texas officials fighting to block widespread mail-in voting during the pandemic claimed victory after the state's highest court ruled Wednesday that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus doesn't qualify someone to cast a ballot by mail.

The decision was unanimous by the Texas Supreme Court, which is stocked with nine Republican justices, including one who revealed last week that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Texas generally limits mail balloting only to voters who are over 65 years old or have a disability.

Justice Eva Guzman wrote the court was unified in the conclusion that “fear of contracting a disease is not a physical condition."

The Texas Democratic Party blasted the decision, and moved its hopes to a similar challenge playing out in federal court. But not all saw the decision as a total loss: the top elections lawyer in Houston, Harris County attorney Douglas Ray, said he believed the ruling leaves room for each voter to decide themselves whether they qualify, and gives clerks basically no ability to second-guess the reasoning.

In Texas, voters do not have to describe their disability when requesting a mail-in ballot.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who earlier this month lost lower court decisions that would have expanded mail-in ballots to all of the state's 16 million registered voters, has argued that fear of getting the virus alone doesn't qualify as a disability. He applauded the court for keeping the status quo with just weeks until the state is set to hold primary runoff elections in July.

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