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As the South Carolina Supreme Court mulls the legality of a state rule that effectively bans masks in most schools, health care workers and educators are renewing calls for state lawmakers to repeal the provision altogether.

Pediatricians and school nurses joined state education groups at a news conference Tuesday to warn that lawmakers’ inaction will only continue to impede in-person learning as more than 88,000 students and staff have been forced to quarantine and dozens of schools have reverted to online lessons since the start of the school year.

The Republican-controlled Legislature put the one-year provision, which prevents school districts from using state money to enforce a rule requiring masks, into the state budget earlier this year. The state was averaging 150 COVID-19 cases a day at the time.


But in the following months, a new surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant triggered thousands of new cases. Schools have recorded more than 21,000 student cases this fall so far, almost 7,000 more than they counted for all of the previous academic year.

“We want to be sure that the policymakers are no longer using yesterday’s information to make today’s decisions,” said Dr. Robert Saul, the South Carolina chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The state’s Republican education superintendent, bipartisan groups of lawmakers, doctors and nurses, the state parent-teacher association, and multiple teachers groups have all opposed the state mask provision, saying it prevents locally elected school boards from deploying a critical tool in limiting the spread of the virus.

In addition to the state Supreme Court case, disability rights groups and parents of children with disabilities have also mounted a challenge to the law in federal court.

But every day the courts take to consider the cases is another day of disrupted learning for students and extra work for school staff, said Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association.


The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday again ruled that Oklahoma has no concurrent jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal lands by non-American Indians against American Indians.

The court rejected the state’s appeal of the dismissal of the manslaughter conviction and 19-year sentence of Richard Roth, 42.

The opinion by Judge Robert Hudson cites what is known as the McGirt decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma lacks authority over crimes committed on tribal reservations in which the defendants or the victims are tribal citizens.

“Adoption of the State’s theory of concurrent jurisdiction is a political matter that may be addressed by Congress, not this Court,” the opinion said.

Roth, who is not Native American, was convicted in the 2013 death of Billy Jack Chuculate Lord, 12, a member of the Cherokee Nation who died when a vehicle struck him from behind as he rode a bicycle in Wagoner, which is within the Creek Nation.

The state is appealing the state court’s April ruling that it does not have concurrent jurisdiction in the case of Shaun Bosse. Bosse, who is not an American Indian, was convicted of killing a woman and her two young children, who were Native American.


Jury selection began Monday in the retrial of a Massachusetts man whose murder conviction was overturned by the state supreme court in Maine.

Marcus Asante, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 35 years as the convicted triggerman in a drug-related killing in Sherman, Maine, before his conviction was overturned last year.

It was the first murder conviction to be set aside in more than a decade in Maine.

Asante was accused of shooting Douglas Morin Jr., of Oakland, nine times during a drug deal in October 2016.

Asante testified that he fired in self-defense when Morin pulled out a gun after the deal was called off.

The supreme court ruled that a judge erred in instructions to jurors, allowing the jury to reach “a verdict based on impermissible criteria.”

The original trial was held in Aroostook County, where the crime took place, but the retrial was moved to Androscoggin County.


A Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect Wednesday, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.

If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most far-reaching restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.

In a statement after the law took effect, President Joe Biden said it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” And he said the law “outrageously” gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”

In a phone call with reporters early Wednesday, Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that “as of now, most abortion is banned in Texas.” Hearron said his group and the abortion providers it represents were still hoping to hear from the Supreme Court.


Arizona’s top court is eliminating the longstanding practice of allowing lawyers in criminal and civil trials in state courts to remove potential jurors without explanation, a move that proponents said would help prevent discrimination in the selection of trial jurors.

So-called peremptory challenges will end Jan. 1., under a groundbreaking rule change ordered Tuesday and released Friday by the Arizona Supreme court.

In the meantime, a court task force will recommend possible changes to current court rules that also allow opposing sides in trials to ask judges to remove potential jurors for valid reasons such as stated bias or inability to serve, the order said.

Peremptory challenges are a hot-button legal issue nationally as illustrated by jury selection in the trial that resulted in the conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd’s death.

Robert Chang, a Seattle University law professor, said during an interview Saturday that he believed Arizona’s impending outright elimination of peremptory challenges is believed to be a first such step by a U.S. state, though others such as Washington and California have recently moved to place new restrictions on the challenges.

“Arizona clearly has gone further,” said Chang, the director of a legal center that endorsed a competing Arizona rule-change proposal to restrict but not eliminate peremptory challenges. “Arizona’s move is big, and it will be fascinating to see what other states and courts do.”

The Arizona court rejected the competing proposal and, as is its practice when it acts on requests to change rules, did not comment on its reasoning for its actions.

However, the two state Court of Appeals judge who proposed the rule change in January said it was “a clear opportunity to end definitively one of the most obvious sources of racial injustice in the courts.”

While many lawyers view peremptory challenges as a way to “structure a jury favorable to his or her cause,” that interest should be secondary “if elimination of racial, gender and religious bias in the court system a controlling goal,” Judges Peter Swann and Paul McMurdie wrote in their proposal.

The current system of allowing a side to object to the other side’s peremptory challenge of a potential juror if discrimination is thought to be the unstated motive is ineffective and inefficient, according to the proposal by the two former trial judges.

Their proposal drew some support but also strong opposition from within the state’s legal community while it was under consideration by the Supreme Court.


Several suspects are in custody after a shooting Thursday morning at the county courthouse in the northern Illinois community of Kankakee, authorities said.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey told WGN TV that the shooting happened at about 9:45 a.m. near the courthouse and the county jail. Downey had no other details.

David Guzman, an assistant to Mayor Christopher Curtis, said Kankakee Police made at least one arrest and that there is no longer any danger to the public. Kankakee Police Chief Robin Passwater said several people were in custody, according to the Daily Journal of Kankakee.

Guzman said he had no information on casualties, but a photo carried by the Daily Journal showed a body being loaded into an ambulance.

Kankakee is a community of about 26,000 located 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Chicago.


The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected a new law designed to make it harder for voters to get initiatives on the ballot, saying the legislation was so restrictive that it violated a fundamental right under the state’s constitution.

The ruling issued Monday was a win for Reclaim Idaho, a group that successfully sponsored a Medicaid expansion initiative three years ago and that is now working to qualify an initiative for the ballot that aims to increase public education funding.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said in a prepared statement that members of the House Republican Caucus were disappointed by the ruling. He said the law would have increased voter involvement, “especially in the corners of the state too often forgotten by some.”

Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said the ruling means thousands of Idaho residents are “breathing sighs of relief.”

“Nearly every time in our history that our legislature attempted to eliminate the initiative process, either the governor or the courts stepped up to protect the rights of the people. Today’s decision adds a new chapter to that history, and future generations of Idahoans will look back on the court’s decision with gratitude,” Mayville said in a prepared statement.

The high court’s opinion written by Justice Gregory Moeller was unanimous in its main conclusion — that the law should be overturned — though two of the justices said they would have gotten at the same conclusion in slightly different ways.

“The ability of the legislature to make laws related to a fundamental right arises from the reality that, in an ordered society, few rights are absolute,” Moeller wrote. “However, the legislature’s duty to give effect to the people’s rights is not a free pass to override constitutional constraints and legislate a right into non-existence, even if the legislature believes doing so is in the people’s best interest.”

The case pitted the rights of voters to enact and repeal laws against the power of the state Legislature to shape how ballot initiative efforts are carried out. The new law, which passed earlier this year, required signature-gatherers to get 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts within a short time span. Opponents said it made Idaho’s initiative process the toughest in the nation, rendering such efforts virtually impossible to achieve. But supporters said the law would protect people with less popular political opinions from being overrun by the majority.

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