Biden seeks to add seats to the Supreme Court, term limits to justices
The White House announced Friday, April 9, that President Joseph Biden will create a commission to possibly institute changes in the Supreme Court such as adding seats to the court and implementing term limits. The commission is a response to President Donald Trump’s three appointments during his term that pushed the Supreme Court towards the right side of the political spectrum. The announcement was met with scrutiny from multiple groups. Liberal activist groups see the commission as an unnecessary step to add seats and call for Biden to implement the changes right away. However, the current members of the court are opposed to the idea, including Justice Stephen Breyer, the court’s most senior liberal. The 36-member commission has 180 days to debate the issue before they must report to the White House.
Supreme Court votes to block California restrictions on religious activities
The Supreme Court voted Friday, April 9, in a 5-4 vote to block California’s COVID-19 restriction on religious services despite protests that the restrictions do not impede religious rights. The decision comes after California has allowed for the opening of hair salons, restaurants and movie theaters but prohibited the gathering of a Bible study held in a private home. The Supreme Court majority said that “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were in the majority while Justices John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer were in the minority.
Maryland passes police reform legislation despite veto from governor
Maryland lawmakers overturned the veto against legislation to limit police officers’ use of force Saturday. Gov. Larry Hogan, a republican, vetoed the bill Friday, claiming that the Maryland Police Accountability Act went too far for reforms, but the primarily Democratic legislature overruled Hogan’s decision. The act lays down policies that dictate how police can use force, which the policy says must be “necessary and proportional.” Violations of the policies can result in a 10-year prison sentence. The act places Maryland at the forefront of the debate over police reforms following the death of George Floyd last May.
Prince Philip dies at 99
Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, died Friday morning, April 9, at the age of 99. The Queen expressed her sorrow in a statement from Buckingham Palace. The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving royal consort in British history after being at Queen Elizabeth’s side for 73 years. People placed floral tributes outside of Buckingham Palace, although the Royal Family asked people to make a donation to charity instead. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Prince Philip was an inspiration to young people. Prince Philip was honored with a tribute from Westminster Abbey’s bells Friday at 6 p.m. BST and with a 41-gun salute Saturday afternoon. His funeral is scheduled for April 17.
Volcano erupts on Caribbean island St. Vincent following months of activity
La Soufrière volcano on St. Vincent in the Caribbean erupted Friday morning after being dormant since 1979, spewing ash as far as 12 miles away and as high as thousands of feet into the air. Thousands of people were evacuated ahead of the eruption to safer areas of the island. The volcano began to show activity in December 2020, making rumbling noises and spewing steam and smoke. A lava dome became visible on La Soufrière Thursday evening just before the eruption. There are no reported deaths so far.
Unrest flares in Northern Ireland
Violence has once again flared in Northern Ireland for the past week due to Catholic-Protestant conflict that sparked again due to Brexit concerns. A lack of trade to the region led to a food shortage and has raised concerns that the predominantly Protestant region may have to reunite with the rest of the predominantly Catholic country. The tensions also arose after the police decision to not prosecute politicians who attended the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army commander despite COVID-19 restrictions last June. The government of Northern Ireland held an emergency meeting Thursday, April 8, to address the violence, which calmed slightly after Prince Philip’s death Friday, April 9. Youth attacked police and the cement wall between the Catholic and Protestant neighbors in Belfast. Violence has not been a concern for two decades following the Good Friday accord that allowed for power sharing between Catholics and Protestants in the north.