News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: SCOTUS lacks State of the Union majority; judge reverses No More Deaths convictions

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Which Supreme Court justices attended the State of the Union?

Only four justices attended the State of the Union on Tuesday. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was there, even though he presided over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Justices Elena Kagan, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch also attended. Justice Stephen G. Breyer had hoped to attend, but he had flu-like symptoms that prevented him from traveling back from the Caribbean, court officials told USA Today. A Quartz reporter watching the justices reported that Roberts “seemed uncomfortable and impatient.” The three other justices “all followed the chief’s lead. If he rose and clapped, they did, too. If he remained seated, the associate justices didn’t budge either. … They stood for sweet tales of kids getting scholarships and military families reunited. They sat during presidential policy boasts that had Republicans hooting and hollering.” (USA Today, Quartz)

Activists had religious right to leave food for immigrants, judge says

A federal judge in Arizona has reversed the convictions of four activists who left food and water in the desert for immigrants entering the United States illegally. The four members of No More Deaths had been convicted of entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning property. U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez said the prosecution violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (The New York Times, @ASFleischman, the Feb. 3 decision)

State isn’t immune from suit under Voting Rights Act, 11th Circuit says

Sovereign immunity doesn’t protect Alabama in an NAACP lawsuit alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act, according to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta. The suit claimed that at-large elections had kept judges preferred by black voters off the state’s appeals courts. (Courthouse News Service,, the Feb. 3 opinion)

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