(Bloomberg) — A U.S. judge blocked a federal commission from releasing a final report on ways to improve policing, faulting the panel for doing its work behind closed doors and failing to include people with diverse views.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr created the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice last year. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington ruled the panel had violated the law, in part because it was comprised entirely of current and former law enforcement officials.
The commission failed to obey a mandate of the Federal Advisory Committee Act that such groups be “fairly balanced” in the viewpoints represented and that they conduct meetings that are open to the public. The decision is a win for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, which filed the suit challenging it.
“Especially in 2020, when racial justice and civil rights issues involving law enforcement have erupted across the nation, one may legitimately question whether it is sound policy to have a group with little diversity of experience examine, behind closed doors, the sensitive issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system in America today,” Bates said.
The Justice Department didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
The case is NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, 20-cv-01132, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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Gov. Bill Lee on Monday signed into law the state’s wide-ranging abortion ban banning abortions after the point a fetal heartbeat can be detected along with other restrictions.
A federal judge this week temporarily blocked a section of Tennessee’s new abortion law requiring doctors to share controversial information about medication abortions, saying there is evidence the law might violate the First Amendment.
U.S. District Judge William L. Campbell, Jr. issued the ruling Tuesday, two days before that portion of the law was set to go into effect.
Campbell said in legal filings that his order blocking the law could remain in place for months while legal arguments for and against a longer term preliminary injunction are under consideration.
Among other things, the new state law requires clinics to notify patients that medication abortions, which are induced by pills, may be reversible. Providers who fail to do so could face criminal felony charges.
Abortion providers sued the state in federal court to block the law, saying it unconstitutionally required them to share “false and misleading” information with their patients.
In a filing last week, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, one of the named defendants, said he wouldn’t enforce the provision because he considers it unconstitutional.
There is no conclusive medical proof such that it is possible to reverse medication abortions, called “chemical abortions” in the legislation.
Abortion providers said they have experts ready to testify such a reversal is not possible. The state points to research from doctors suggesting it could be possible.
Campbell said he would consider testimony from dueling experts at a hearing. In the meantime, he said, the abortion providers had justified blocking the law temporarily.
Related: Gov. Bill Lee signs controversial Tennessee abortion restriction measure into law
Campbell said his decision was guided in part by the fact that the law requires providers to refer patients to the Tennessee Department of Health for more information on reversing medication abortions despite the fact that the health department has yet to compile that information.
“With this built-in delay, (the law) requires abortion providers to tell patients that ‘information on and assistance with reversing the effects of a chemical abortion’ is available on the Department of Health website, when in fact, such information and assistance may not be available,” Campbell wrote.
“Consequently, the mandated message contains misleading information.”
A hearing to debate the provision is set for Oct. 13, although Campbell suggested he might push it back 90 days to allow both sides time to prepare.
The ACLU of Tennessee, which is representing abortion providers in the lawsuit, celebrated the ruling in a statement.
“This decision is a victory for patients, who rightfully expect factual and clear information from their personal doctors,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.