Here is some of the legal news making the headlines this week:

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are considered “children” under state law.

  • The dispute centered on whether an individual who mistakenly destroyed others’ frozen embryos could be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. The court held “unborn children are ‘children’…[and] the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location.” The court further reasoned that the wrongful death statute “applies to all children, born and unborn, without limitation. It is not the role of this Court to craft a new limitation based on our own view of what is or is not wise public policy. That is especially true where, as here, the People of this State have adopted a Constitutional amendment directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”
  • In a concurring opinion, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker quoted the Bible to defend his position. Parker wrote, “God made every person in His image…and human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.” Parker continued, “Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”
  • The ruling is already impacting reproductive care in the state. On Wednesday, the University of Alabama at Birmingham became the first facility in the state to pause in vitro fertilization treatments.
  • The Biden administration denounced the Alabama ruling. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the ruling is “exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make…And, as a reminder, this is the same state whose Attorney General threatened to prosecute people who helped women travel out of state to seek the care they need.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an orders list in which the justices declined to review several cases.

  • The justices decided not to wade into another dispute over race in school admissions. The case concerned whether Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school in Virginia, violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by considering socioeconomic factors, as opposed to considering only admission exam scores, when allocating seats at the school. The challengers argued that the admissions policy drastically reduced the number of Asian American students admitted to the school. Justices Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas would have granted review. In his dissent, Justice Alito wrote that the lower court’s decision in this case is “based on a patently incorrect and dangerous understanding of what a plaintiff must show to prove intentional race discrimination.”
  • The Court also declined to review a decision affirming the dismissal of two jurors in a Missouri civil case who said during jury selection that homosexuality is “a sin.” The case for which the jurors were being screened was brought by Jean Finney against her employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections. Finney, “a lesbian who presents masculine,” alleged “she was improperly stereotyped and discriminated against based on sex.” None of the justices signaled that they would have granted review of the case, but Justice Alito wrote a statement taking aim at the Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. Alito wrote, “In this case, the court below reasoned that a person who still holds traditional religious views on questions of sexual morality is presumptively unfit to serve on a jury in a case involving a party who is a lesbian. That holding exemplifies the danger that I anticipated in Obergefell…namely, that Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government. The opinion of the Court in that case made it clear that the decision should not be used in that way, but I am afraid that this admonition is not being heeded by our society.”
  • Notably absent from the Court’s orders list is any decision on whether the justices will review former President Donald Trump’s appeal stemming from his election subversion criminal case. Trump recently asked the justices to temporarily freeze proceedings in the district court while litigation continues on the question of a former president’s immunity from criminal prosecution. Special counsel Jack Smith urged the justices to deny Trump’s request to delay the proceedings.

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