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Legal News Roundup: March 3

Here’s a roundup of recent legal stories in the news.

Texas, Mississippi to end mask mandates, allow businesses to reopen at full capacity

ABC News – Governor Greg Abbott ended Texas’ statewide mask mandate and announced an executive order to allow all businesses to reopen at full capacity.

“COVID has not suddenly disappeared,” said Abbott. “But it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations and from the safe practices that Texas [is] using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”

Mississippi followed suit, as Governor Tate Reeves announced he would also remove mask mandates and business restrictions.

Health experts have cautioned against states reopening too quickly. At a White House briefing last week, Doctor Anthony Fauci warned against easing restrictions until the U.S. baseline average of new infections is lower.

Read the full story.

New York Governor Cuomo hires defense lawyer in nursing home probe

Reuters – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has retained a prominent white-collar criminal defense lawyer to represent his office in a federal investigation into the state’s misreporting of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.

Elkan Abramowitz—a former federal prosecutor now working in private practice in New York City—was hired to represent Cuomo and his immediate staff in the U.S. Justice Department’s inquiry into the COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

Cuomo has come under fire in recent weeks over his office’s role in reporting the official count of coronavirus fatalities among patients of nursing and extended-care facilities, as well as for allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him.

Read the full story.

Garland nomination advances out of committee

NBC News – The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to be President Joe Biden’s attorney general.

Garland, 68, has been a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia since 1997. He was its chief judge from 2013 to 2020.

Garland emphasized that if he is confirmed, he would “supervise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6—a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government.”

Last month, Garland said he would strive to make sure that “like cases are treated alike, that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, the other for foes.”

Read the full story.

Report: Decline in OSHA inspections during pandemic endangers workers

Westlaw News – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is placing workers at risk by performing fewer on-site inspections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the number of complaints it receives has increased. This comes from a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG said OSHA received 15 percent more complaints in 2020 than in the previous year, yet it conducted only half as many inspections.

The findings echoed criticisms of OSHA’s response to the pandemic during the Trump administration by many Democrats, unions and worker advocates.

Read the full story.