Legal Wrap: Baby Veronica Case Pits States Against Each Other


Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.

Oklahoma and South Carolina courts are fighting over who has parental rights over “Baby Veronica,” a young Cherokee girl at the center of a legal battle over parental rights, Native-American rights, and the patchwork array of state adoption laws. Dusten Brown, the girl’s father, filed a second appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in his bid to try and block his daughter’s adoption to a South Carolina couple. More rulings in the case could come this week.

The case of the judge who sentenced a former high school teacher to only 30 days and blamed his dead 14-year-old victim for her rape has gotten weirder, and worse. Not only did the evidence in the case clearly establish that Stacey Rambold had a history of inappropriate contact with underage girls—he was subject to a deferred prosecution agreement, which he violated by inappropriately contacting underage girls. The case has gotten so bad the Montana Supreme Court has stepped in.

While the state’s legislative efforts to close the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi are tied up in federal court, anti-choice activists in the state have launched a new administrative complaint against the clinic, clearly hoping to close the clinic in a flood of investigative paperwork and costs.

Communications regulators in Georgia came up with a novel way to support anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers: funnel fines paid by those who violate state law to Care Net rather than the state treasury.

In Aurora, Illinois, anti-choice activists tried to block the opening of a Planned Parenthood clinic by arguing the city violated its own rules about how it zoned for the clinic. An Illinois court disagreed.

It’s been months since the Obama administration announced its final rule as to how religiously affiliated nonprofits are to comply with the birth control benefit in Obamacare, which means it’s time for the religious right to refile legal challenges to the rule.

Chelsea Manning’s story has brought to light more than just the NSA’s massive extrajudicial spying program. Manning’s story also shows how the military discriminates against transgender individuals.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled sentencing juveniles to life without parole for crimes other than murder is unconstitutional, but states continue to impose sentences that have that same effect. In Florida, that may be changing soon.

On Friday, a federal court ruled it will not delay Texas’ primary elections and ordered the state to temporarily use political maps drawn by the state legislature, which have been challenged by Democrats. Meanwhile, the judges are sorting out the complicated legal challenges over the voting maps since the Supreme Court’s historic decision this summer gutting a key part of the Voting Rights Act. That means that for the 2014 election the heavily gerrymandered maps will be in effect, but the court reserves the right to challenge those maps once the underlying legal challenge that claims the maps were drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters is resolved, likely later this year.

Bank of America will pay $39 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by women financial advisers and licensed trainees against its Merrill Lynch unit. The advisers claim the financial giant discriminated against women in these positions, in compensation and business opportunities. The settlement, which is still subject to approval by a federal judge, covers about 4,800 women who worked at the firm during the period between August 2, 2007 and September 15, 2012. In addition to the cash settlement, it would require changes at Merrill Lynch to be independently monitored to assure the corporate culture promotes diversity and to cultivate opportunity for all employees.

Finally, it’s rumored that Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are friends, but it’s hard to imagine what the two have in common other than their jobs. While speaking in Houston, Scalia said he believes Christian values are “necessary” for capitalism to succeed. In contrast to Scalia’s remarks, Justice Ginsburg—the first justice to officiate a same-sex marriagetold an audience in Philadelphia Friday that that the country’s growing embrace of marriage equality reflects the “genius” of the U.S. Constitution in that it consistently, albeit slowly, pushes society toward ever greater inclusiveness.

Now consider adding departing Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to the mix. Vice President Joe Biden told an audience in Washington recently that if it was up to him, Napolitano would be the administration’s nominee for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

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