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The Supreme Court sided with Native American tribes Thursday in a dispute with the federal government over the cost of health care when tribes run programs in their own communities.

The 5-4 decision means the government will cover millions in overhead costs that two tribes faced when they took over running their health care programs under a law meant to give Native Americans more local control.

Covering those costs is “necessary to prevent a funding gap,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. Not reimbursing them forces tribes to “pay a penalty for pursuing self-determination.”

The Department of Health and Human Services had argued it isn’t responsible for the overhead costs associated with billing insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid.

Paying those costs for all tribes that run their own health care programs could total between $800 million and $2 billion per year, the agency said.

“The extra federal money that the Court today green-lights does not come free,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the dissent, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett. “In my view, the court should leave those difficult appropriations decisions and tradeoffs to Congress.”

The federal Indian Health Service has provided tribal health care since the 1800s under treaty obligations, but the facilities are often inadequate and understaffed, the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona said in court documents.

Health care spending per person by the IHS is just one-third of federal spending in the rest of the country, the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming said in court documents. Native American tribal populations have an average life expectancy of about 65 years, nearly 11 years less than the U.S. as a whole.

Attorney Adam Unikowsky, who represented the Northern Arapaho Tribe, said the decision puts tribes on equal footing with IHS on health care and will “promote tribal sovereignty and provide resources for health care in under-served communities.”

The tribes contracted with IHS to run their own programs ranging from emergency services to substance-abuse treatment. The agency paid the tribes the money it would have spent to run those services, but the contract didn’t include the overhead costs for billing insurance companies or Medicare and Medicaid, since other agencies handle it when the government is running the program.


The Arizona Supreme Court gave the go-ahead Tuesday to prepare to enforce a long-dormant law that bans nearly all abortions, drastically altering the legal landscape for terminating pregnancies in a state likely to have a key role in the presidential election.

The law predating Arizona’s statehood provides no exceptions for rape or incest and allows abortions only if the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Arizona’s highest court suggested doctors can be prosecuted under the 1864 law, though the opinion written by the court’s majority didn’t explicitly say that.

The Tuesday decision threw out an earlier lower-court decision that concluded doctors couldn’t be charged for performing abortions in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Civil War-era law, enacted long before Arizona became a state on Feb. 14, 1912, had been blocked since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, persuaded a state judge lift an injunction that blocked enforcement of the 1864 ban. Then the state Court of Appeals suspended the law as Brnovich’s Democratic successor, Attorney General Kris Mayes, urged the state’s high court to uphold the appellate court’s decision.

The court itself was expanded in 2016 from five justices to seven, all appointed by Republican governors.

The high court said enforcement won’t begin for at least two weeks. However, plaintiffs say it could be up to two months, based on an agreement in a related case to delay enforcement if the justices upheld the pre-statehood ban.

The law orders prosecution for “a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life.”

The Arizona Supreme Court suggested in its ruling Tuesday that physicians can be prosecuted, though justices didn’t say that outright.

“In light of this Opinion, physicians are now on notice that all abortions, except those necessary to save a woman’s life, are illegal,” and additional criminal and regulatory sanctions may apply to abortions performed after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the ruling said.

The law carries a sentence of two to five years in prison upon conviction. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood Arizona said they believe criminal penalties will apply only to doctors. But the penalties also apply to providing abortion pills — the most common method in the United States.

In other places with abortion bans, some women have obtained pills both through underground networks and from telehealth from medical providers in states that have laws intended to protect prescribers from out-of-state prosecutions. This was already illegal in Arizona, the attorney general’s office said.

Dr. Maria Phillis, an Ohio OB-GYN with a law degree, said she believes women who obtain pills through those means could be prosecuted under the 1864 law. Across the country, new abortion bans have not been used to prosecute women in similar cases, and measures that have been introduced to punish those who obtain abortions have not been adopted.

Fourteen other states are now enforcing bans on abortion in all stages of pregnancy.


The Supreme Court cast doubt Monday on state laws that could affect how Facebook, TikTok, X, YouTube and other social media platforms regulate content posted by their users. The cases are among several this term in which the justices could set standards for free speech in the digital age.

In nearly four hours of arguments, several justices questioned aspects of laws adopted by Republican-dominated legislatures and signed by Republican governors in Florida and Texas in 2021. But they seemed wary of a broad ruling, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett warning of “land mines” she and her colleagues need to avoid in resolving the two cases.

While the details vary, both laws aimed to address conservative complaints that the social media companies were liberal-leaning and censored users based on their viewpoints, especially on the political right.

Differences on the court emerged over how to think about the platforms — as akin to newspapers that have broad free-speech protections, or telephone companies, known as common carriers, that are susceptible to broader regulation.

Chief Justice John Roberts suggested he was in the former camp, saying early in the session, “And I wonder, since we’re talking about the First Amendment, whether our first concern should be with the state regulating what we have called the modern public square?”

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas appeared most ready to embrace arguments made by lawyers for the states. Thomas raised the idea that the companies are seeking constitutional protection for “censoring other speech.”

Alito complained about the term “content moderation” that the sites employ to keep material off their platforms.

“Is it anything more than a euphemism for censorship?” he asked, later musing that term struck him as Orwellian. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh, seemingly more favorable to the companies, took issue with calling the actions of private companies censorship, a term he said should be reserved for restrictions imposed by the government.

“When I think of Orwellian, I think of the state, not the private sector, not private individuals,” Kavanaugh said.

The precise contours of rulings in the two cases were not clear after arguments, although it seemed likely the court would not let the laws take effect. The justices posed questions about how the laws might affect businesses that are not their primary targets, including e-commerce sites like Uber and Etsy and email and messaging services.


The longtime head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, misspent millions of dollars of the organization’s money, using the funds to pay for an extravagant lifestyle that included exotic getaways and trips on private planes and superyachts, a New York jury determined Friday.

The jury found LaPierre, 74, must repay almost $4.4 million to the powerful gun rights group that he led for three decades, while the NRA’s retired finance chief, Wilson Phillips, owes $2 million. Jurors also found that the NRA failed to properly manage its assets, omitted or misrepresented information in its tax filings and violated whistleblower protections under New York law.

LaPierre, who announced his resignation from the NRA on the eve of the trial, sat stone-faced in the front row of the courtroom as the verdict was read aloud, and did not speak to reporters on the way out.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who campaigned on investigating the NRA’s not-for-profit status, declared the verdict a “major victory.”

“In New York, you cannot get away with corruption and greed, no matter how powerful or influential you think you may be,” James said in a post on X. “Everyone, even the NRA and Wayne LaPierre, must play by the same rules.”

The group, which has in recent years has been beset by financial troubles and dwindling membership, was portrayed in the case both as a defendant that lacked internal controls to prevent misspending and as a victim of that same misconduct.

The jury found NRA general counsel John Frazer had violated his duties, but not that he owed any money or that there was cause to remove him from the organization.

In a statement, the NRA highlighted that part of the verdict in casting the outcome as proof it was “victimized by certain former vendors and ‘insiders’ who abused the trust placed in them.

The jury did find that the NRA violated state laws protecting whistleblowers who raised concerns about the organization, a cohort that included the group’s former president, Oliver North.

“To the extent there were control violations, they were acted upon immediately by the NRA Board beginning in summer 2018,” NRA President Charles Cotton said in the statement.

The jury actually found LaPierre liable for $5.4 million, but determined he’d already paid back a little over $1 million.

Another former NRA executive turned whistleblower, Joshua Powell, settled with the state last month, agreeing to testify at the trial, pay the NRA $100,000 and forgo further involvement with nonprofits.

James’ office said Friday it wants an independent monitor to be appointed to oversee the NRA’s administration of charitable assets. It is also seeking to ban LaPierre and Phillips from serving in leadership positions at any charitable organizations that conduct business in New York, and wants the NRA and Frazer barred from collecting funds on behalf of any charitable organization operating in the state.

A judge will decide those questions during the next phase of the state Supreme Court trial.

James sued the NRA and its executives in 2020 under her authority to investigate not-for-profits registered in the state.


The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday endorsed the consolidation of local police and firefighter pension systems, a rare victory in a yearslong battle to find an answer to the state’s besieged retirement accounts.

The court’s unanimous opinion rejected claims by three dozen working and retired police officers and firefighters from across the state that the merger of 649 separate systems into two statewide accounts violated the state constitution’s guarantee that benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

For years, that phrase has flummoxed governors and legislatures trying to cut their way past decades of underfunding the retirement programs. Statewide pension systems covering teachers, university employees, state employees, judges and those working for the General Assembly are $141 billion shy of what’s been promised those current and retired workers. In 2015, the Supreme Court overturned lawmakers’ money-saving overhaul approved two years earlier.

Friday’s ruling, which does not affect pension programs in Cook County, which includes Chicago, deals with a law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in late 2019 intended to boost investment power and cut administrative spending for hundreds of municipal funds. The Democratic governor celebrated the unusually good pension news.

“We ushered in a new era of responsible fiscal management, one aspect of which has been consolidating over 600 local pension systems to increase returns and lower fees, reducing the burden on taxpayers,” Pritzker said in a statement.

It would appear to be working. As of 2021, the new statewide accounts together had a funding gap of $12.83 billion; a year later, it stood at $10.42 billion, a decline of 18.7%.

Additionally, data from the Firefighters’ Pension Investment Fund shows that through June 2023, the statewide fund had increased return value of $40.4 million while saving, through June 2022, $34 million in investment fees and expenses.

But 36 active and former first responders filed a lawsuit, claiming that the statewide arrangement had usurped control of their retirement benefits. They complained the law violated the pension-protection clause because they could no longer exclusively manage their investments, they no longer had a vote on who invested their money and what risks they were willing to take, and that the local funds had to pay for transitioning to the statewide program.

The court decreed that none of those issues concerned a benefit that was impaired. Beyond money, the pension-protection law only covers a member’s ability to continue participating or to increase service credits.


The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to fight fraud, part of a broad attack on regulatory agencies led by conservative and business interests.

The case before the justices Wednesday involves the Biden administration’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that threw out stiff financial penalties imposed on hedge fund manager George R. Jarkesy by the SEC.

The high court’s decision could have far-reaching effects on the SEC and other regulatory agencies, and it’s just one of several cases this term that could constrict federal regulators. The court’s conservative majority has already reined them in, including in last May’s decision sharply limiting their ability to police water pollution in wetlands.

Last year, a divided panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jarkesy and his Patriot28 investment adviser group on three separate issues.

It found that the SEC’s case against him, resulting in a $300,000 civil fine and the repayment of $680,000 in allegedly ill-gotten gains, should have been heard in a federal court instead of before one of the SEC’s administrative law judges.

The panel also said Congress unconstitutionally granted the SEC “unfettered authority” to decide whether the case should be tried in a court of law or handled within the executive branch agency. And it said laws shielding the commission’s administrative law judges from being fired by the president are unconstitutional.

Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod wrote the appellate opinion, joined by Judge Andrew Oldham. Elrod was appointed by former President George W. Bush, and Oldham by former President Donald Trump.

Judge Eugene Davis, a nominee of former President Ronald Reagan, dissented.


U.S. Rep. George Santos stole the identities of donors to his campaign and then used their credit cards to ring up tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges, according to a new indictment.

He then wired some of the money to his own personal bank account, prosecutors said, while using the rest to inflate his campaign coffers.

The 23-count indictment filed Tuesday replaces one filed in May against the New York Republican charging him with embezzling money from his campaign and lying to Congress about his wealth, among other offenses.

In the updated indictment, prosecutors accuse Santos of charging more than $44,000 to his campaign over a period of months using cards belonging to contributors without their knowledge. In one case, he charged $12,000 to a contributor’s credit card and transferred the “vast majority” of that money into his personal bank account, prosecutors said.

Santos is also accused of falsely reporting to the Federal Elections Commission that he had loaned his campaign $500,000 when he actually hadn’t given anything and had less than $8,000 in the bank. The fake loan was an attempt to convince Republican Party officials that he was a serious candidate, worth their financial support, the indictment said.

“As alleged, Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.

Santos came out of a two-hour Republican conference at the U.S. Capitol and told reporters he had no comment on the superseding indictment. “I was in conference like everyone else, without my phone, so I have nothing to say,” he said. He has previously maintained his innocence, claiming he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

The new charges deepen the legal peril for Santos, who likely faces a lengthy prison term if convicted. So far, he has resisted all calls to resign, insisting he intends to run for reelection next year.

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