News Roundup

SCOTUS building

Image from Shutterstock.com.

3 SCOTUS justices didn’t attend the inaugurations of Biden and Harris

The U.S. Supreme Court’s three oldest justices did not attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration Wednesday: Stephen G. Breyer, 82; Clarence Thomas, 72; and Samuel A. Alito Jr., 70. It’s the first time since 2001 that all the justices did not attend. A Supreme Court spokeswoman said several justices did not attend “in light of the public health risks posed by the COVID pandemic.” The Washington Post pointed out that Biden tried to filibuster Alito’s Supreme Court nomination and grilled Thomas on natural law during his contentious nomination hearing. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath to Biden, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor administered the oath to Vice President Kamala Harris. (CNN, Politico, the Washington Post)

Federal student loan deferments extended

The U.S. Department of Education has extended the moratorium on federal student loan payments through Sept. 30. The extension also keeps the interest rate at 0%. Congress postponed federal student loan payments through Sept. 30, 2020, in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act. Former President Donald Trump extended the moratorium. The latest extension was due to the request of President Joe Biden. (The Washington Post, White House press release)

11th Circuit upholds punitive verdict in tobacco case

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Atlanta on Tuesday upheld a $20.7 million punitive damages award against tobacco company Philip Morris USA. The case was filed by the estate of Judith Berger, who was 13 when she first tried cigarettes. The appeals court said the tobacco company engaged in “reprehensible” conduct, partly by engaging in a disinformation campaign about the dangers of smoking that began in the 1950s. The court also found that the punitive award was not constitutionally excessive. (Law360, the News Service of Florida, the 11th Circuit Court decision)