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Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Law Firm News | 2018/02/05 19:13
The U.S. Supreme Court told North Carolina officials late Tuesday they must use some but not all of the state's legislative districts that other federal judges redrew for this year's elections.

The justices partially granted the request of Republican lawmakers who contend the House and Senate maps they voted for last summer were legal and didn't need to be altered.

A three-judge panel determined those GOP-approved boundaries contained racial bias left over from maps originally approved in 2011 and violated the state constitution. So the lower-court judges hired a special master who changed about two dozen districts in all. The judges approved them last month.

The Supreme Court's order means more than half of those districts redrawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily will revert to their shapes from last summer. The order said House district changes made in the counties that include Charlotte and Raleigh because of state constitutional concerns are blocked while the full case is appealed, but changes made elsewhere to alleviate racial bias must be used.

The maps containing the partial changes will be used when candidate filing for all 170 General Assembly seats begins next Monday.

Boundaries approved by the General Assembly last August kept Republicans in a position to retain veto-proof majorities in the chambers, which has helped them advance their conservative-leaning agenda this decade. But Democrats are bolstered after successful elections in other states last year. Tuesday's ruling means Democrats could find it harder to win more House districts than they hoped.

Dozens of North Carolina voters originally were successful in overturning the 2011 districts as racial gerrymanders. They subsequently asked Chief Justice John Roberts, who receives appeals from the state, to allow the lower court's directive and require the changes approved by the three judges be used.

The Republicans' request was considered by the entire court and the order reflected division among the justices. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have agreed to block all of the changes to the maps approved by the lower-court panel. Yet Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the GOP's request entirely, according to the order.



Court allows Pennsylvania to redraw GOP-favored district map
Topics in Legal News | 2018/02/03 19:14
Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, rejected the request from GOP legislative leaders and voters to put on hold an order from the state Supreme Court intended to produce new congressional districts in the coming two weeks.

The Pennsylvania high court ruled last month that the current map of 18 districts violates the state constitution because it unfairly benefits Republicans.

The decision comes just four days before the Republican-controlled Legislature's deadline for submitting a replacement map for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to consider. So far, there has been a notable lack of bipartisan movement on getting such a deal.

Pennsylvania's congressional delegation has been 13-5 in favor of Republicans during the three election cycles since the GOP-drawn 2011 map took effect, and experts have said those 13 seats are several more than would have been produced by a nonpartisan map.

Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans and hold all three elected statewide row offices, but Republicans enjoy solid majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Under the process laid out two weeks ago by four of the seven Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, all Democrats, the Legislature has until Friday to approve a new map, after which Wolf will have until Feb. 15 to decide whether to endorse it and submit it to the justices.

Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman said Monday he's had "zero" discussions with Wolf and legislative leaders about new district boundaries and could not guarantee he will meet the deadline.

The state Supreme Court said it expects new districts to be in place by Feb. 19, and the new map is expected to be in play for the May 15 congressional primaries.



Suspect in U Penn student's murder due in California court
Court News | 2018/02/02 09:43
A Southern California man charged in the killing of a University of Pennsylvania student is due in court Friday.

Authorities say Samuel Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach killed 19-year-old sophomore Blaze Bernstein and buried his body in a shallow grave at a neighborhood park not far from the Bernstein family's home in Lake Forest.

Bernstein, who grew up in Orange County and was visiting his family on winter break, was missing for a week after going out with Woodward the night of Jan. 2, according to authorities. Authorities searched for him with help from drone pilots and found his body at the park after rain partially exposed it.

Woodward is charged with murder and an enhancement for use of a knife. He is being held without bail. Bernstein was gay and Jewish and authorities are investigating the possibility of a hate crime.

Authorities say the two men both attended the Orange County School of the Arts but they did not know if they were friends at the time.

According to a court filing obtained by the Orange County Register, Woodward told investigators that he became angry after Bernstein kissed him the night they went to the park.

At college, Bernstein was studying psychology and was recently chosen to edit a campus culinary magazine. Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil for Bernstein and his funeral.

If convicted of the charge and enhancement, Woodward could face as much as 26 years to life in prison.


UN court: Nicaragua must pay Costa Rica environmental costs
Attorney News | 2018/02/02 09:43
The International Court of Justice has ordered Nicaragua to compensate Costa Rica for damage Nicaragua caused with unlawful construction work near the mouth of the San Juan River, in the court's first foray into assessing costs for environmental damage.

Friday's order by the United Nations' principle judicial organ follows a December 2015 ruling that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica's sovereignty by establishing a military camp and digging channels near the river, part of a long-running border dispute in the remote region on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

In total, Nicaragua was ordered to pay just over $378,890 for environmental damage and other costs incurred by Costa Rica.

Later Friday, the court is set to demarcate parts of the maritime and land borders between the two Central American neighbors.



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