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President Joe Biden may have averted a flood of evictions and solved a growing political problem when his administration reinstated a temporary ban on evictions because of the COVID-19 crisis. But he left his lawyers with legal arguments that even he acknowledges might not stand up in court.

The new eviction moratorium announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could run into opposition at the Supreme Court, where one justice in late June warned the administration not to act further without explicit congressional approval.

Landlords from Alabama whose bid to lift the earlier pause on evictions failed returned to federal court in Washington late Wednesday, asking for an order that would allow evictions to resume.

The administration is counting on differences between the new order, scheduled to last until Oct. 3, and the eviction pause that lapsed over the weekend to bolster its legal case. At the very least, as Biden himself said, the new moratorium will buy some time to protect the estimated 3.6 million Americans who could face eviction from their homes.

Some legal scholars who doubt the new eviction ban will stand up say its legal underpinnings are strikingly similar to the old one.

“Meet the new moratorium, same as the old moratorium!” Ilya Somin, a George Mason University law professor who backed Biden over former President Donald Trump last year, wrote on Reason.com.



Robert Collier says that during the seven years he worked as an operating room aide at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, white nurses called him and other Black employees “boy.” Management ignored two large swastikas painted on a storage room wall. And for six months, he regularly rode an elevator with the N-word carved into a wall.

Collier ultimately sued the hospital, but lower courts dismissed his case. Now, however, beginning with a private conference that was scheduled for Thursday, the Supreme Court is considering for the first time whether to hear the case. (Although the court did not comment, the case remained on its calendar, which likely means it was discussed Thursday.)

Focusing on the elevator graffiti, Collier is asking the justices to decide whether a single use of the N-word in the workplace can create a hostile work environment, giving an employee the ability to pursue a case under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Already, the court’s two newest members, both appointed by President Donald Trump, are on record with seemingly different views. The case is also a test of whether the justices are willing to wade into the ongoing, complex conversations about race happening nationwide. The public could learn as soon as Monday whether the court will take Collier’s case.

Jennifer A. Holmes, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has urged the court to take the case, says she hopes the conversations taking place nationally will push the justices in that direction.

Doing so gives the court an “opportunity to show that they’re not insensitive to issues of race,” Holmes said. And courts are “all the time” confronting workplace discrimination claims involving use of the N-word, she said. The question for the justices, she said, is just whether someone who experiences an isolated instance of the N-word can “advance their case beyond the beginning stage.” Two of the court’s nine justices have experience with similar cases.


A British lawyer and climate campaigner was fined 5,000 pounds ($7,070) on Monday after being convicted of contempt of court for a tweet which broke an embargo on a U.K. Supreme Court judgment over Heathrow Airport’s expansion.

Tim Crosland, a director of an environmental campaign group, revealed on social media the court ruling on Heathrow Airport’s proposed third runway a day before it was made public in December. He was among involved parties to receive a draft of the appeal judgment, and has said that he broke the embargo deliberately as “an act of civil disobedience” to protest the “deep immorality of the court’s ruling.”

The court had ruled that a planned third runway at Heathrow was legal. The case was at the center of a long-running controversy and environmentalists had argued for years that the climate impact far outweighed the economic benefits of expanding the airport.

Crosland said the proposed 14 billion-pound ($19.8 billion) expansion of Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest, would breach Britain’s commitments to the Paris climate agreement.

He argued that the government “deliberately suppressed” information about the effect that the airport’s expansion would have on the climate crisis, and said the publicity gained over breaking the embargo would act as an “antidote” to that.

Addressing the court, Crosland said: “If complicity in the mass loss of life that makes the planet uninhabitable is not a crime, then nothing is a crime.”

Three Supreme Court justices found Crosland in contempt of court for his “deliberate and calculated breaches of the embargo” and fined him 5,000 pounds.

The judges said he “wanted to demonstrate his deliberate defiance of the prohibition and to bring this to the attention of as large an audience as possible.”

Crosland had brought a small suitcase to Monday’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in case he was given immediate jail time. The maximum sentence had been up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.



Civil liberties groups are asking the Supreme Court to give the public access to opinions of the secretive court that reviews bulk email collection, warrantless internet searches and other government surveillance programs.

The groups say in an appeal filed with the high court Monday that the public has a constitutional right to see significant opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They also argue that federal courts, not the executive branch, should decide when opinions that potentially affect the privacy of millions of Americans should be made public.

The appeal was filed by Theodore Olson on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Olson is on the Knight institute’s board and was the Bush administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer as the FISA court’s role was expanded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“You’re talking about judicial decisions here that may affect millions of people. The public needs to know the outlines of what those decisions are and how far they go,” Olson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Because of my experience with it, I know that government, with the best of intentions, will tend to err on the side of keeping everything secret.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established in 1978 to receive applications from the FBI to eavesdrop on people it suspects of being agents of a foreign power, such as potential spies or terrorists. After Sept. 11, Congress expanded the court’s role to consider broad surveillance programs.

In recent decisions, judges ruled that opinions sought by the groups couldn’t be made public, even in censored form, and that they didn’t even have the authority to consider releasing the opinions.

Legislation adopted in 2015 includes a provision that requires the government to consider releasing significant FISA court opinions. But the law doesn’t apply to opinions written before it was enacted and leaves the review process entirely to the executive branch.

The ACLU and Knight institute say the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press demands greater access.

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