News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: FBI probes slaying of US lawyer overseas; liberal group’s SCOTUS short list released

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FBI to aid probe into slaying of US lawyer in Micronesia

The FBI is aiding the investigation into the Monday shooting death of U.S. lawyer Rachelle Bergeron, who was acting attorney general of Yap State in the Pacific nation of Micronesia. A friend, Amos Collins, said he doesn’t know who shot Bergeron, but some people she prosecuted might hold grudges. She became an assistant attorney general in Yap in 2015 and became acting attorney general in January. (The Pacific Daily News, the Associated Press, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Liberal group releases its U.S. Supreme Court short list

A liberal group called Demand Justice has released a short list of 32 potential candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court. The group said it hopes to prod Democratic candidates to release their own short lists. The group includes public officials, plaintiffs lawyers, academics, judges and civil rights advocates—but no lawyers from BigLaw. Missing from the list is former Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Demand Justice,, the Volokh Conspiracy)

Judge vacates Obama-era rule banning health care bias based on gender identity

A federal judge in Texas has vacated a rule that protects people from health care discrimination based on gender identity. In an expansion of his previous decision in the case, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor said the anti-bias provision bars religious exemptions for Christian health care providers in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Reed was in the news earlier this year when he struck down the Affordable Care Act in December 2018. (The Hill, Bloomberg, Becket press release, Oct. 15 decision)

Judge overturns Virginia law requiring marriage applicants to list race

A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, has struck down a Virginia law requiring marriage applicants to identify their race. U.S. District Judge Rossie Alston Jr. ruled that the requirement violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. It was one of his first opinions after being sworn in as a federal judge in August. (The Washington Post, CNN, Oct. 11 decision)

Missouri appeals court overturns $110M talcum powder verdict

The Missouri Court of Appeals overturned Tuesday a $110 million baby powder verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a suit filed by Virginia plaintiff Lois Slemp. The appeals court said the case alleging a link between baby powder and ovarian cancer should not have been filed in Missouri. The court cited a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that California courts did not have jurisdiction to hear Plavix claims by nonresident plaintiffs who didn’t buy or ingest the drug in the state. The appeals court has now overturned four St. Louis verdicts in baby powder litigation. (

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