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Justice Joan Larsen Confirmed to Sixth Circuit

Justice Joan Larsen will join the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the second woman confirmed to a federal appeals court by the Senate this week.

Larsen also becomes the ninth woman on the Sixth Circuit, bringing her perspective to a court where men outnumber women two to one. The female jurist is hardly defined by gender, but her appointment represents clear differences in the judiciary.

In addition to more women, President Trump has appointed more judges in a shorter period of time than the last two presidents. New judges are coming on strong.

Prominent federal court and federal appellate court Justice Damon Jerome Keith, now 95 years old, is celebrating his 50th year of judging, and doesn't show any signs of getting off the bench.

Judge Keith started his judicial career in 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the federal Eastern District Court in Michigan. A decade later President Jimmy Carter nominated Judge Keith for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has remained for the last 40 years.

Kentucky Judge Strikes Down Abortion Ultrasound Law

Judge David Hale is not a man of few words, especially on the issues of abortion and free speech.

In a 30-page ruling, the federal judge struck down a Kentucky law that would require doctors to take an ultrasound of the fetus and describe it to a patient before performing an abortion.

He said the law, HB 2, violates doctors' First Amendment rights and "appears to inflict psychological harm on abortion patients."

Court Splits on Government-Led Prayer

For a prayerful people, there sure is a lot of bickering about prayer in government chambers these days -- and in the courts of appeal in particular.

In Bormuth v. County of Jackson, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals split over the issue of county commissioners leading prayer to open their meetings. Nine justices approved; six didn't.

"[A]lthough the prayers offered before the board generally espouse the Christian faith, this does not make the practice incompatible with the Establishment Clause," Judge Richard Allen Griffin wrote for the majority. "Quite the opposite, the content of the prayers at issue here falls within the religious idiom accept by our Founders."

Court Rejects Senator's Suit Against Foreign Taxes

It's one thing when a U.S. Senator can't get a bill passed; it's another when he can't get past standing to sue in court.

But that's what happened to Senator Rand Paul on his way to the Capitol, where he introduced a bill to repeal the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. In Crawford v. United States Department of the Treasury, Paul argued that the Act gave the IRS too much power to collect account information from citizens living abroad.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument, saying Paul and other plaintiffs had no standing because the government had not enforced the Act against them.

LGBT Rights Groups Adamantly Oppose Judicial Nominees

If attorneys John Bush and Damien Schiff were running for office, they might have been well-suited to serve in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Bush has made politically polarizing comments about issues such same sex-marriage, abortion, and women's rights. Schiff has publicly disparaged gays and even said states should be allowed to criminalize consensual sodomy.

But Bush and Schiff are in the running for judicial appointments. President Trump likes them for the federal courts; LGBT rights groups, not so much.

Same-Sex Couple Back to Court Against Kim Davis for Denied License

A federal appeals court revived a high-profile civil case against a county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal sent the case back to a trial judge, who had dismissed the complaint as moot after a state law removed clerks as signors on marriage certificates. Kim Davis, a Kentucky court clerk, had refused to issue a license to plaintiffs David Ermold and David Moore in 2015.

Davis refused on religious grounds, even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, choosing instead to spend five days in jail for contempt.

No Hostile Work Environment at Union for 'Jim Crow' Comments

Over a sharp dissent about 'Jim Crow-like' comments, a federal appeals court said a black woman did not prove a hostile work environment against a union based on "a smattering of offensive conduct."

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiff had a novel claim because the court had never addressed whether Title VII covers hostile work environment claims against a union. If the law applied, however, the court said the plaintiff did not have enough evidence to support her claim in Phillips v. UAW International.

"Whether unions can be held liable for a Title VII hostile work environment claim is only at issue if Phillips has made the adequate showing that there was a hostile work environment," Judge David McKeague said. "She hasn't. "

President Trump will nominate Amul Thapar to the Sixth Circuit, the White House announced on Tuesday. Thapar currently sits on the District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

This is not the first time Trump has considered Thapar for a promotion, either. The judge was included on President Trump's short list of candidates to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court. That spot went to the Tenth Circuit's Neil Gorsuch, but a shot at the Sixth isn't a bad consolation prize.

Court Gives FedEx Worker Another Chance to Prove Age Discrimination

Reinstating an age discrimination case, a federal appeals court said "suspicious circumstances" surrounded the termination of a former FedEx manager.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said Gerard Howley, who had worked for the company 21 years, never had a reprimand until a new supervisor took over. A short time later, the new supervisor piled on warnings and then fired Howley for poor performance. The appeals court didn't buy it.

"Most significantly, there are the suspicious circumstances surrounding Howley's termination that give rise to a negative inference of age discrimination," Judge Eric Lee Clay wrote for the panel in Howley v. Federal Express Corporation.

"FedEx contends that it had legitimate reasons for issuing a warning to Howley on all three occasions for which he was disciplined," the panel continued. "However, this Court is struck by the relatively minor nature of Howley's offenses and wonders whether any of them merited termination."