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Friday morning docket: Judicial showdown over same-sex benefits

There is a battle brewing over the issue of extending same-sex benefits to federal court employees.

In this corner: 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who granted health benefits this week to the same-sex partners of court employees. The move came after colleague Judge Stephen Reinhardt gave a similar ruling for a federal public defender, finding that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

In the other corner: The U.S.  Office of Personnel Management in Washington, which rejected Kozinski’s ruling, saying it had to enforce the DOMA  – which bars such benefits for federal employees – even though the White House disagrees with it.

That didn’t set well with Kozinski, who yesterday ordered the OPM Thursday to quit interfering with his orders, arguing that the agency is exceeding its authority.

“The Office of Personnel Management shall cease at once its interference with the jurisdiction of this tribunal,” Kozinski wrote in his 18-page order. “I don’t believe Congress intended to grant OPM that authority. Instead, I hold [Congress] recognized the Judiciary’s inherent authority to resolve workplace complaints without interference by the Executive [branch]. This court’s non-discrimination plan requires that” the employee get spousal coverage. “OPM had, and has, no authority to conclude otherwise.”

A federal challenge to California’s state ban of same-sex marriage is currently pending in a California district court. The 9th Circuit would be the next stop for the case, since its outcome is likely to be appealed either way.

In other news,

Honeymoon’s over: Growing discontent over the economy, recovery efforts turn into a wave of criticism and outright anger from members of Congress directed at the Obama administration. (Washington Post)

Iqbal bill’s in the House: House lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would reverse two recent Supreme Court rulings and restore the “notice pleading” standard for federal civil actions. (Lawyers USA)

Trials and tribulations: The number of state court tort suits that make it to trial declined steadily over a 10-year period ending in 2005, dropping to about 4 percent, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. (Lawyers USA)

‘Loser pays’ med-mal bill: Two lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require losing medical malpractice plaintiffs to pay the legal costs of both parties. (Lawyers USA)

E. coli bill filed: Citing public concern about the safety of ground beef, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would require companies to test for a deadly E. coli strain. (New York Times)

Ricci saga continues: A group of black Connecticut firefighters hopes to block promotions for white firefighters who won a discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP)

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