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The U.S. Supreme Court stepped back into the ring in the ongoing challenge to the viability of the Affordable Care Act today, agreeing to review the availability of tax credits under its provisions.

The justices will review a decision out of the Fourth Circuit, King v. Burwell,  holding that such subsidies are available to health insurance purchasers on both state exchanges and the federal exchange.

In North Carolina, which did not set up a state exchange, more than 350,000 residents purchased health insurance on the federal exchange — and more than 90 percent did so with the assistance of subsidies. Millions more across the country did the same.

Plaintiffs who brought the case contended that the language of the statute only authorized those credits for purchasers on state-run exchanges, but the Fourth Circuit unanimously rejected that position.

That ruling came just hours after a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington issued a contrary decision in a separate case pending there. Several weeks later, though, the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that panel and agreed to have the entire court consider the issue.

Rather than wait for a decision there, the justices today agreed to take the Fourth Circuit case up this term.

The Supreme Court’s order is here.

 

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(Source: USDOJ)

President Obama is expected to nominate Loretta Lynch to serve as U.S. Attorney General, replacing the resigning Eric Holder — according to this CNN  report.

If confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve in that position.

Born in Greensboro, N.C., Lynch is currently the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn.

Read more  about Lynch here, from NPR.

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Supreme courtYesterday in a 2-1 decision the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio became the first federal appeals court to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage. In doing so, it created the split among federal circuits needed to get a marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices already considered a flurry of cases early in the term — including one from the Fourth Circuit — but declined to take any up for review. Although they gave no reason, many experts suspected that the lack of any circuit split at that time was at least one reason for their refusal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said as much in public comments.

But the Sixth Circuit decision now directly conflicts with federal appeals courts in the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits.

“Now there is a split, and it is a stark one,” SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston wrote :

In one sweeping decision, the Sixth Circuit has given all of the states in its geographic region a victory for their bans on both initial marriages of same-sex couples and official recognition of such marriages performed outside of the couples’ home states.  By contrast, other federal courts have nullified identical bans in thirteen states just over the past few months, with the prospect that the number would soon rise to sixteen — for a total of thirty-five states, plus Washington, D.C., allowing such marriages.

A number of options now exist for parties to get a marriage case before the high court, Denniston explained later —  including asking for a direct review of the Sixth Circuit case, a review of an appeals court decision that has not yet gone to the Supreme Court (the Ninth Circuit, for example), or a review of a case pending in an appeals court.

The first option — review of the Sixth Circuit case — is the best and most likely, Denniston said, for these reasons:

Among those three options, Option 1 might have the most promise of gaining Supreme Court review because the Sixth Circuit’s decision is the one that broke the pattern, because it involves an array of cases from four states, raising the constitutionality of bans on both new same-sex marriages and the official state recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, because it was written by a highly respected court of appeals judge (Jeffrey S. Sutton), because it brought a stirring dissent by another well-regarded jurist (Senior Circuit Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey), and because the opinions swept across all of the issues that have been raised in case after case — even the rather obscure question whether a refusal to recognize an out-of-state same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to travel, and the emotional question of whether a death certificate for a same-sex spouse who has now died should show that there was a surviving spouse.

And indeed lawyers in that case  have already indicated that they will move quickly, with the hope they’ll get the nod on review and then get the case on the calendar in time for argument and an opinion before the term ends in June.

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vote2According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Mike Robinson will ask the state Board of Elections for a recount in his Supreme Court race against Justice Cheri Beasley.

“Robinson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he intends to request a recount after the State Board of Elections certifies the election results,”  the Journal reported.

(The Robinson campaign has not yet returned a call to confirm the candidate’s intentions.)

The latest posted results from the SBOE show Beasley with 1,228,439 votes and Robinson with 1,225,298.

State law allows a candidate in a statewide race to request a recount when the difference between the votes cast is one-half of one percent (0.5%) or 10,000, whichever is less.

Robinson can submit his request at any time up until noon November 18, which is the second business day after the county canvass — when the counties approve their results as “official,” according to SBOE Public Information Officer Josh Lawson.

Any recount would occur after the county canvass, with a decision possible before Thanksgiving.

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State magistrates have a duty under state and federal law to perform same-sex marriages, despite religious convictions, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts John Smith told Senate President Phil Berger in a letter yesterday.

In October, Berger and other GOP lawmakers had asked Smith to modify an earlier AOC memo requiring magistrates to perform such marriages, citing federal and state law protections of religious beliefs.

Rejecting that request, Smith said that such protections do not apply to judicial officials “acting in their official capacities,” which would include administering the law as it now stands with respect to marriage.

“The law is now clear that any magistrate who does officiate over marriages must  comply with the court rulings mandating equal treatment as to same-sex marriages,” Smith wrote. “Since no stays have  been issued in either of the federal cases, the federal injunction must be given effect across the state as long as magistrates perform marriages.”

The Director acknowledged that many may have sincere religious beliefs on this issue, but noted that magistrates performing civil ceremonies are not the same as ministers performing religious ones — a distinction that several across the state have managed to accept.

Smith offered up these words from the Chief Magistrate in Forsyth County, who is also an ordained minister:

Same-sex marriage is a function of the courts performed by a judicial magistrate who has sworn an oath of office to uphold the laws of the State. Holy marriage, the sacred union of a man and a woman, remains a sacrament of the Church performed by an ordained minister who has pledged a vow of holiness unto the Lord. Civil marriage and Holy matrimony are not the same even though semantically they use the same word.

Read the Director’s full letter here.