By Jake Kaplan

Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked enforcement of Texas’s restrictive abortion law.

  • The law in question, Texas’s SB8, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is around six weeks of gestation. 
  • Various challenges to the law are ongoing, but in this case, Judge Robert Pitman granted the Department of Justice’s request for a preliminary injunction, which temporarily freezes enforcement of the. 
  • In the order, Judge Pitman wrote, “This Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
  • It is unclear to what extent this order will enable abortion providers in the state to resume the procedures because abortion providers could still be sued under the law if Judge Pitman’s order is overturned. Law professor Steve Vladeck tweeted, “One of the many novel provisions in #SB8 provides that abortions performed while a preliminary injunction is in effect can *still* be a basis for liability if the injunction is later stayed/reversed.” 

The Department of Justice is reviewing its decision to not prosecute the FBI agents who ignored allegations that disgraced former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted gymnasts.

  • In 2018, Nassar pled guilty to molesting seven women and girls in Michigan, and, in 2017, he pled guilty to federal child pornography and obstruction of justice charges. He is currently serving an up-to-175-year prison sentence and a 60-year prison sentence for his guilty pleas, respectively. More than 150 women and girls testified in court as to the sexual abuse they endured from Nassar. In total, over 300 women and girls have accused Nassar of sexual abuse, including Olympians Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney. 
  • In July, the DOJ inspector general released a report finding that FBI agents disregarded allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar, and at least one agent “made false statements to the OIG about … his handling of the … allegations.” 
  • At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said that DOJ “is currently reviewing this matter, including new information that has come to light.” Monaco also said that she is “deeply sorry that in this case, the victims did not receive the response or the protection that they deserved.”

The Supreme Court kicked off its 2021-2022 term this week.

  • On Monday, the justices returned to the bench for in-person oral arguments for the first time in over 18 months. It was also Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s first opportunity to attend oral arguments in person, since all hearings during her tenure on the Court had been conducted virtually. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was the only justice missing from the bench—he recently tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Tuesday, the Court denied a request to delay the execution of Ernest Johnson, a Missouri man who was convicted of murdering three people in the 1990s. Johnson’s lawyers had argued that the Court should postpone his execution because of his intellectual disabilities. Johnson was executed Tuesday night.
  • Court observers will be paying close attention to the Court’s docket in the coming weeks, as the justices tackle major issues including reproductive rights, gun rights, and religious freedom. In December, for example, the Court will hear oral argument in a case where the state of Mississippi has asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.