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The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are set to decide whether to hear a case filed by Maine families who want to use a state tuition program to send their children to religious schools.

The case concerns a Maine Department of Education rule that allows families who live in towns that don’t have public schools to receive public tuition dollars to send their children to the public or private school of their choosing. The program excludes religious schools, and families who want to send their children to Christian schools in Bangor and Waterville sued to try to change that.

The justices were slated to meet Thursday to consider whether to hear the case. It was unclear when they would issue a decision about whether the case can go forward.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the lawsuit last year, and the families appealed to the high court. They face the possibility of taking their case to a Supreme Court that has shifted in a conservative direction since they first filed in federal court three years ago.

Conflicting rules about the subject of public tuition assistance have led to confusion in lower courts, so the Supreme Court should take up the case, said Michael Bindas, the lead attorney for the families and a lawyer with the libertarian public interest firm Institute for Justice.

“Only the Supreme Court can provide that clarity, and make sure students aren’t being treated differently based on where they reside,” Bindas said. “The government shouldn’t be able to deny those parents the ability to send their children to the best available education for them.”

The lawsuit was first filed after the Supreme Court ruled that a Missouri program was wrong to deny a grant to a religious school for playground resurfacing. The issue of public funding for religious schools has also come up in other states.

The Supreme Court ruled in a Montana case last year that states have to give religious schools the same access to public money that other private schools benefit from. Vermont has also faced lawsuits over a voucher program for students who live in locales that don’t have their own schools. The issue has also been raised in New Hampshire.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has filed court papers in support of Maine’s law that excludes religious schools from the tuition program. States aren’t obligated to fund religious schools, ACLU of Maine legal director Zachary Heiden said.

“Religious views infuse everything, as part of their curriculum and how they are dedicated to training future religious leaders,” Heiden said. “Which is absolutely something they can do, but it’s not something the government should be required to fund.”



The Washington state Supreme Court this month unanimously rejected the notion that a man who skipped his court date could be presented as evidence that he felt guilty about the original crime.

State Supreme Court justices agreed that criminalizing a single missed court date could disproportionately harm people of color, poor people or people without reliable transportation or scheduling conflicts due to child care or work, The Daily Herald reported.

The ruling came less than a year after the state Legislature revised the bail jumping law, which gives people more time to respond to a warrant. Samuel Slater, 27, had one unexcused absence in his case, which predated the new law.

Records show Slater was convicted of violating no-contact orders five times in five years, multiple driving offenses and domestic violence charges. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to assault in Washington state.

A judge ordered him not to have contact with the woman, who was not identified, but he showed up within a day of being let out of jail. He was charged in 2017 with alleged felony violation of a no-contact order and felony bail jumping after missing a court date later in the year.

Slater’s attorney, Frederic Moll, asked for separate trials on the counts. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris, a former public defender, found that the charges could be tried together for “judicial economy reasons” and that they were cross-admissible, meaning one could be used to prove the other.

Judge Ellen Fair presided over the trial and agreed with Farris. State Court of Appeals judges also agreed.

During the trial, deputy prosecutor Adam Sturdivant repeatedly noted how the defendant missed his court date, asking: “If he didn’t do it, why didn’t he show up for trial call a year ago?”

Slater was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to more than two years in prison and a year of probation


The Washington state Supreme Court this month unanimously rejected the notion that a man who skipped his court date could be presented as evidence that he felt guilty about the original crime.

State Supreme Court justices agreed that criminalizing a single missed court date could disproportionately harm people of color, poor people or people without reliable transportation or scheduling conflicts due to child care or work, The Daily Herald reported.

The ruling came less than a year after the state Legislature revised the bail jumping law, which gives people more time to respond to a warrant. Samuel Slater, 27, had one unexcused absence in his case, which predated the new law.

Records show Slater was convicted of violating no-contact orders five times in five years, multiple driving offenses and domestic violence charges. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to assault in Washington state.

A judge ordered him not to have contact with the woman, who was not identified, but he showed up within a day of being let out of jail. He was charged in 2017 with alleged felony violation of a no-contact order and felony bail jumping after missing a court date later in the year.

Slater’s attorney, Frederic Moll, asked for separate trials on the counts. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Anita Farris, a former public defender, found that the charges could be tried together for “judicial economy reasons” and that they were cross-admissible, meaning one could be used to prove the other.

Judge Ellen Fair presided over the trial and agreed with Farris. State Court of Appeals judges also agreed.

During the trial, deputy prosecutor Adam Sturdivant repeatedly noted how the defendant missed his court date, asking: “If he didn’t do it, why didn’t he show up for trial call a year ago?”

Slater was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to more than two years in prison and a year of probation


The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted Oklahoma’s request to retain custody of a man who has been on death row for killing three Native Americans, a sign the court may be willing to limit the fallout from last year’s ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma remains a tribal reservation.

The action came in the case of Shaun Bosse, whose conviction and death sentence for the murders of Katrina Griffin and her two young children were overturned by a state appeals court.

The order makes it likely that the high court will weigh in soon on the extent of its 5-4 ruling last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

The state court had held that state prosecutors had no authority to try Bosse for the killings, which took place on the Chicksaw Nation’s reservation, based on the McGirt decision.

Hundreds of criminal convictions, including several death sentences for first-degree murder, have been set aside, and tribal and federal officials have been scrambling to refile those cases in tribal or U.S. district court.

Oklahoma argued to the Supreme Court that it can prosecute crimes committed by non-Native Americans like Bosse, even if the scene of the crime is on tribal land. The state also said there might be technical legal reasons for rejecting Bosse’s claims.

The three liberal justices dissented from the order but did not explain their disagreement. They were in last year’s majority, along with Justice Neil Gorsuch, the author of the opinion. Gorsuch did not publicly dissent from Wednesday’s order.

The fifth member of the McGirt majority was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. She has been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Bosse already has been charged with the killings in federal court, and he had been scheduled to be transferred to federal custody. But he could not be sentenced to death under the federal charges.

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