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State Supreme Court rejects Allegheny County judge’s request to extend eviction protections

Protesters gather at the Allegheny Commons Park to protest the Supreme Court's decision to end the eviction moratorium.
Ariel Worthy
Protesters gather at the Allegheny Commons Park to protest the Supreme Court's decision to end the eviction moratorium.

On today’s episode of The Confluence: Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark requested an extension of eviction protections, but since the State Supreme Court denied it, we look at where this could leave tenants; University of Pittsburgh’s David Harris dives into what we learned from oral arguments regarding Texas’s abortion law; and a look at how everyday citizens think about foreign policy. 

Eviction protections have ended in Allegheny County
(0:00 - 4:44)

The state Supreme Court denied a request from the Allegheny County President Judge to extend eviction protections for an additional month.

Now, those tenants who qualified for rental assistance could be on less solid footing.

“Judge Kim Berkeley Clark had a previous order that had said in some cases of tenants not paying rent on time, they could get more time to apply for federal rental assistance,” explains WESA reporter Kate Giammarise. “Her order did not halt all evictions or eviction filings, it basically stretched out a timeline to allow people to get rental assistance.”

The state Supreme Court denied Clark’s request to extend her eviction protection order, so the county is technically back to pre-pandemic court procedures.

Giammarise says the rental assistance has slowly been getting out to tenants, which is why Clark made the request to extend eviction protections.

“So far, about 38% of people who have applied have gotten a payment,” says Giammarise. “Close to 20,000 households have applied in Allegheny County.”

Last week housing advocates and election officials called for protections to remain in place, and many expressed concern that a wave of evictions would come once protections expired. However, Giammarise says in other parts of the country where protections have expired, evictions have not spiked.

Emergency rental assistance is still available, and Allegheny County residents can apply online.

U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about Texas’ abortion law
(4:49 - 12:40)

The U.S. Supreme Court will now mull over what they heard in oral arguments regarding the most restrictive abortion-control law in the nation. The Texas law virtually ends the option to get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

“The issue is not, ‘Is Texas’ fetal heartbeat law constitutional or not?’ Right now, as the law stands under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Texas abortion restriction is unconstitutional,” says David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh professor of law and WESA’s legal analyst. “What the real issue is now, and what the court heard argument on, is the very novel structure of the Texas law, which is constructed with the purpose of keeping people from challenging that law in federal court … This law is specifically designed in order to stop court challenges from happening.”

Harris says other abortion restrictions have been enforced by entities like law-enforcement, who could then be sued. However, the Texas bill is open to enforcement by private parties.

At the oral arguments, Harris says, it seemed a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court would allow abortion providers to pursue a court challenge to the controversial Texas law.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, two conservative appointees of former President Donald Trump, were among those who voted in September to allow the law to take effect. But they raised questions Monday about its novel structure.

“They asked questions that were quite skeptical of the people defending Texas’ law, the Texas State Solicitor General,” says Harris. “They made it clear that they’re prepared to allow private parties such as the clinics themselves to bring these challenges despite the obvious intent of the law to keep challenges out.”

Harris says, however, the justices are also skeptical of intervention by federal authorities.

The Court is expected to make a decision on the case by next summer.

The Biden administration is working to connect foreign policy issues to average Americans 
(12:47 - 22:30)

Former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy included an “America First” agenda. So far, President Joe Biden continues to develop his policies and has faced his own foreign affairs challenges including the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But how do average Americans think about foreign policy, and how are they influencing this president’s actions abroad?

“American foreign policy hasn’t been that connected with the American people,” says Elizabeth Shackelford, a senior fellow on US Foreign Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “Normal average American don’t see how foreign policy really serves their needs and interests and so the lens through which the Biden administration is looking at foreign policy is asking that question, what will our foreign policy mean for American workers and families and communities?”

As a career diplomat, Shackleford has worked in U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Poland, South Sudan, and Somalia as well as in Washington, D.C.

“It turns out, if you’re asking what the American people want in their foreign policy, the American public is actually very heavily in favor of American global engagement,” says Shackelford, citing an annual survey from the Chicago Council.

She says survey respondents, year after year, say they prefer the U.S. government prioritize prevention of terrorist attacks, however, issues like climate change and pandemic prevention have obviously come to the fore this year.

This year specifically, Shackelford says the survey asked what respondents think the U.S. needs to do to maintain U.S. influence abroad, and answers ranged.

“I think the biggest risk that Americans are seeing right now to our global standing are the weaknesses that we have here at home, whether it’s in education, in the threats to our own political system, or in our weaker economy.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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