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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is calling fellow conservatives to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas tells 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an "odd couple" of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln's Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to "be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion."




Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland praised lawyers for their work with low-income Washingtonians Thursday in his first public remarks since his nomination last month.

Garland was on familiar turf, speaking at the federal courthouse in Washington, where he is chief judge of the appeals court.

Giving people living in poverty access to the courts is critical for society, Garland said. "Without equal justice under law," Garland said, using the phrase engraved above the entrance to the Supreme Court, "faith in the rule of the law, the foundation of our civil society, is at risk."

Garland's nomination is stalled in the Senate, where GOP leaders say the next president should choose the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He has met with roughly 40 senators so far, with no sign that Republicans will allow hearings on his nomination, much less a vote.

At those meetings, Garland has typically said nothing for public consumption.

His appearance Thursday was part of the White House's effort to familiarize the country with the nominee by having him speak on a noncontroversial topic, free legal assistance for the poor.




A Virginia high school discriminated against a transgender teen by forbidding him from using the boys' restroom, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in a case that could have implications for a North Carolina law that critics say discriminates against LGBT people.
 
The case of Gavin Grimm has been especially closely watched since North Carolina enacted a law last month that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. That law also bans cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances, a response to an ordinance recently passed in Charlotte.  

In the Virginia case, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which also covers North Carolina — ruled 2-1 to overturn the Gloucester County School Board's policy, saying it violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in schools. A federal judge had previously rejected Grimm's sex discrimination claim, but the court said that judge ignored a U.S. Department of Education regulation that transgender students in public schools must be allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

"We agree that it has indeed been commonplace and widely accepted to separate public restrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities on the basis of sex," the court wrote in its opinion. "It is not apparent to us, however, that the truth of these propositions undermines the conclusion we reach regarding the level of deference due to the department's interpretation of its own regulations."

Maxine Eichner, a University of North Carolina law professor who is an expert on sexual orientation and the law, said the ruling — the first of its kind by a federal appeals court — means the provision of North Carolina's law pertaining to restroom use by transgender students in schools that receive federal funds also is invalid.

"The effects of this decision on North Carolina are clear," she said, adding that a judge in that state will have no choice but to apply the appeals court's ruling.

Other states in the 4th Circuit are Maryland, West Virginia and South Carolina. While those states are directly affected by the appeals court's ruling, Eichner said the impact will be broader.

"It is a long and well-considered opinion that sets out the issues," she said. "It will be influential in other circuits."

Appeals court Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, who was appointed to the appeals court by Republican President George H.W. Bush, wrote in a dissenting opinion that the majority's opinion "completely tramples on all universally accepted protections of privacy and safety that are based on the anatomical differences between the sexes."

The majority opinion was written by Judge Henry F. Floyd and joined by Judge Andre M. Davis, both appointees of Democratic President Barack Obama. The Richmond-based court was long considered the nation's most conservative federal appeals court, but a series of vacancies in the last few years has allowed Obama to reshape it. Including the two senior judges, the court now has 10 judges appointed by Democrats and seven by Republicans.



A defense lawyer says a U.S. citizen charged in the United Nations bribery case will plead guilty Wednesday to charges.

Attorney Brian Bieber said Monday that Francis Lorenzo will plead guilty to three charges. Lorenzo is a suspended ambassador from the Dominican Republic who was arrested in the fall.

The plea comes in a case that resulted in the arrest of a former president of the U.N. General Assembly and a billionaire Chinese businessman.

Bieber says Lorenzo will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering and filing a false tax return.

Bieber says his client decided to plead guilty after reviewing the government's evidence. He says it led him to "accept responsibility for his role in the criminal conspiracies committed by him and his co-defendants."




The Republican Party is launching a campaign to try to derail President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, teaming up with a conservative opposition research group to target vulnerable Democrats and impugn whomever Obama picks.

A task force housed within the Republican National Committee will orchestrate attack ads, petitions and media outreach to bolster a strategy that Senate Republicans adopted as soon as Justice Antonin Scalia died last month: refusing to consider an Obama nominee out of hopes that the next president will be a Republican.

The RNC will contract with America Rising Squared, an outside group targeting Democrats that's run by a longtime aide to GOP Sen. John McCain. GOP chairman Reince Priebus said it would be the most comprehensive judicial response effort in the party's history.

Priebus said the RNC would "make sure Democrats have to answer to the American people for why they don't want voters to have a say in this process."

Obama is expected to announce his pick as early as this week, touching off a heated election-year battle as Obama and Democrats try to pressure Republicans into relenting and allowing hearings and a vote. Advocacy groups on both sides are primed to unleash an onslaught of activity aimed at rallying public support, and a number of former top Obama advisers have been drafted to run the Democratic effort.

RNC officials said that in addition to scouring the nominee's history for anything that can be used against him or her, the party will also work to portray Democrats as hypocritical, dredging up comments that Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats made in previous years suggesting presidents shouldn't ram through nominees to the high court in the midst of an election.


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