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Afederal appeals court opened a case this week on an Ocean City, Maryland, emergency ordinance passed in 2017 that  prohibited women from going topless on beaches while men were still allowed to go shirtless in the same areas.

Five town residents then posed a legal challenge to the ban, arguing it was unconstitutional.

A civil suit filed in a U.S. District Court in 2018 was dismissed in April 2020 when the court ruled that city officials have a better understanding of the public’s moral “sensibilities” than residents and visitors.

U.S. v. Biocic of 1989, in which the court found no right to public nudity, was a similar case that was used as a precedent for the court ruling. 

After the lower court’s dismissal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit opened the case this week for review and oral arguments. 

“This lawsuit is about confirming the legal right of women to be bare-chested in public in the same places that men are permitted to be bare-chested, for purposes other than breastfeeding,” plaintiff attorney Devon Jacob said in opening arguments. “This lawsuit seeks a declaration from the court that Ocean City’s ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution.”

Jacob argued that protecting the public’s moral sensibilities “permits a sexist ideology to be cloaked in legitimacy in the same way that nationalism legitimizes racism.”

He also told the court it’s time for the Biocic case from three decades ago to be overturned, according to the Maryland Coast Dispatch.

Ocean City’s attorney, Bruce F. Bright, said the ordinance is “not a regulation of sexual choices or behavior.”

“This is a regulation of public nudity and whether it should still be defined as exposure of the female breast,” he also said.

The judge who upheld the ban last year said that it is the government’s objective to protect the public from displays of areas traditionally considered erogenous zones, citing female but not male breasts.

Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory expressed skepticism during the Wednesday hearing about the town’s rationale for the ban  and extent of public concerns over topless sunbathing.

He also asked how many calls town officials received complaining about the possibility of women baring their chests and pointed out the ordinance was passed after an inquiry to police about what would happen if women “expressed their freedom in this manner on the beach,” The Washington Post reported.

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Judge pauses release of part of memo cited by Barr in decision not to charge Trump with obstruction

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Ajudge has ruled that the Justice Department does not need to disclose the second portion of a memo cited by then-Attorney General William Barr in choosing not to charge then-President Donald Trump with obstruction.

The Washington Times reported that judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the department’s request to pause the order mandating the disclosure of the full memo, which contends there was not enough evidence to prosecute Trump with obstruction. 

The first portion of the memo was previously released to the public. The judge noted that the DOJ required time to appeal the order since “without a stay, the battle would be lost before it begins.”

“While there may be some additional public benefit in revealing the contents of Section II, the Court will not deny the Department the opportunity to challenge its ruling in order to advance that interest at this time,” the ruling says, according to the outlet.

The memo was crafted by the Office of Legal Counsel following the release of the Mueller report regarding if Trump had obstructed justice in the Russia probe, according to the outlet, which noted that Barr reportedly asked OLC to create a legal opinion on the issue.

The judge pushed back against the notion that the memo represented justification for Barr’s choice to clear Trump.

“DOJ suggested that it was the Barr Memo that prompted the Attorney General to speak, when it appears that the decision to speak prompted the Barr Memo,” she wrote.

“The Court found — given the unique circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Barr Memo, including the timing and joint nature of its creation, and the unique issues presented by DOJ‘s pleadings, including the inconsistencies between the declarations and the memo itself — that DOJ failed to meet its burden to establish that the record was protected under the established law governing the privileges it asserted,” the judge wrote.

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Judge dismisses suit challenging Houston Methodist requirement for workers to get COVID vaccination

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Afederal judge dismissed the lawsuit waged by more than 100 Houston Methodist hospital system workers seeking to challenge the organization’s requirement that workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for continued employment.

“Bridges says that she is being forced to be injected with a vaccine or be fired. This is not coercion,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.

“If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain,” Hughes wrote.

Houston Methodist allowed workers until June 7 to get vaccinated or face being ousted from employment. The hospital has said that almost 100% of its staff has followed the requirement, but those who did not have been suspended for 14 days. If they do not get vaccinated prior to the conclusion of the suspension, the hospital will “immediately initiate the employee termination process.”

Attorney Jared Woodfill told The Hill that the plaintiffs plan to appeal.

“This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment,” Woodfill said. “Ultimately, I believe Methodist Hospital will be held accountable for their conduct.”

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Supreme Court declines case challenging California’s winner-take-all presidential election process

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The Supreme Court has declined to hear a lawsuit regarding the constitutionality of California’s winner-take-all method for choosing presidential electors.

“Petitioners are two California Republicans and two non-profit organizations who have alleged their votes for President and Vice President are diluted by California’s use of the so-called winner-take-all system,” the petition said. “That system, by law, results in the appointment of members of only one political party to the Nation’s largest electoral college delegation.”

Among the petitioners are actor and comedian Paul Rodriguez and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

The Golden State has consistently gone blue in every presidential election spanning from 1992 through 2020. Prior to that, the state had gone red during every election from 1968 through 1988.

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