Justices reject fast track for Trump election cases

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday formally refused to put on a fast track election challenges filed by President Donald Trump and his allies.

The court rejected pleas for quick consideration of cases involving the outcome in five states won by President-elect Joe Biden: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The orders, issued without comment, were unsurprising. The justices had previously taken no action in those cases in advance of last week’s counting of the electoral votes in Congress, which confirmed Biden’s victory.

The court still could act on appeals related to the Nov. 3 election later this winter or in the spring. Several justices had expressed interest in a Pennsylvania case involving the state Supreme Court’s decision to extend the deadline for receipt of mailed ballots by three days, over the opposition of the Republican-controlled legislature.

But even if the court were to take up an election-related case, it probably wouldn’t hear arguments until the fall.

Court won’t hear PA abortion clinic free speech case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is declining to get involved in a case about free speech outside a Pittsburgh abortion clinic.

The high court turned away the case Monday. The court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a 2019 appeals court decision that upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance creating a 15-foot “buffer zone” where protests are barred around entrances to health care facilities. The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed “sidewalk counseling” within that zone.

The appeals court said the city can restrict congregating, picketing, patrolling and demonstrating in the immediate vicinity of clinics, but the zone restrictions do not apply to “calm and peaceful” one-on-one conversations by anti-abortion activists seeking to speak with women entering a clinic.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he agreed with the court’s decision not to take up this particular case because it “involves unclear, preliminary questions about the proper interpretation of state law.” But he said the court should take up the issue of buffer zones in an appropriate case.

UNC appeal on sex assault discipline rejected

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of a lower court decision requiring it to release disciplinary records of students who violated the school’s sexual assault policies.

The court issued a two-sentence decision without additional comment, listed among a host of orders.

Last May, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the flagship school of the UNC system had to release the records. The school had been sued by a media coalition including Capitol Broadcasting Co. and the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. In September 2016, the group requested documents under the North Carolina Public Records Act. The university denied the request, arguing that the records were protected by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, which shields academic records from public disclosure.

School officials argued for years that they exercised discretion granted by the federal act to protect victims and the confidentiality of the Title IX process. Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Michael Morgan concluded that UNC-Chapel Hill officials do not have that discretion in light of the state law requiring release of the records.

“Over my legal career I have learned that it is unwise either to gloat about a victory or despair about a defeat, but obviously it’s gratifying to prevail in a long, hard fight against dogged and worthy opponents,” said Raleigh attorney Hugh Stevens.

The former general counsel for the North Carolina Press Association spoke in an interview with WRAL, adding, “I am especially grateful that the result in this case upholds North Carolina’s long-established policy that public records are the property of the people, not government officials.”

In a statement, Joel Curran, UNC-Chapel Hill vice chancellor for communications, said while the school respects the court’s decision, it is disappointed.

“We stand by our belief in the importance of a confidential process for everyone involved, one that protects the identities of sexual assault victims. Since the North Carolina Supreme Court ruling in May, the University has fully complied with the court’s direction,” Curran said.

Court won’t hear Florida environmentalist’s appeal

STUART, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by a Florida environmentalist that sought to set aside a $4 million judgment over her criticism of a rock mining project near the Everglades.

The court without comment Monday decided not to consider the free speech case involving Maggy Hurchalla, 79, who is the sister of former Attorney General Janet Reno.

Hurchalla was appealing a 2018 jury verdict that imposed the multi-million penalty. The company, Lake Point Restoration, argued that Hurchalla’s comments about the rock project amounted to a violation of a contract it had with Martin County.

In an email Monday to The Associated Press, Hurchalla said she was disappointed but hoped the court would find another case to protect free speech rights in such debates with corporations and government entities.

“I would have thought that these times, above all others, would affirm the importance of the First Amendment right to peacefully tell government what to do,” Hurchalla said. “Without it, there is no “We the people”. If you can’t sort out what’s right by public discussion, the alternatives are dictatorship or violence.”