Supreme Court strikes down 2 NC congressional districts

Court News 2017/05/23 00:15   Bookmark and Share
The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina Monday because race played too large a role in their creation.

The justices ruled that Republicans who controlled the state legislature and governor's office in 2011 placed too many African-Americans in the two districts. The result was to weaken African-American voting strength elsewhere in North Carolina.

Both districts have since been redrawn and the state conducted elections under the new congressional map in 2016. Even with the new districts, Republicans maintained their 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the state did not offer compelling justifications to justify its reliance on race in either district.

The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court and Kagan noted that one of the districts was "making its fifth appearance before this court."

States have to take race into account when drawing maps for legislative, congressional and a host of municipal political districts. At the same time, race can't be the predominant factor without very strong reasons, under a line of high court cases stretching back 20 years.

A three-judge federal court had previously struck down the two districts. The justices upheld the lower court ruling on both counts.

The court unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling on District 1 in northeastern North Carolina. Kagan wrote that the court will not "approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence."

The justices split 5-3 on the other district, District 12 in the southwestern part of the state. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices to form a majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not part in the case.

The state insisted that race played no role at all in the creation of one district. Instead, the state argued that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.


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High court could soon signal view on Trump immigration plans

Court News 2017/05/15 21:36   Bookmark and Share
Supreme Court decisions in a half-dozen cases dealing with immigration over the next two months could reveal how the justices might evaluate Trump administration actions on immigration, especially stepped-up deportations.

Some of those cases could be decided as early as Monday, when the court is meeting to issue opinions in cases that were argued over the past six months.

The outcomes could indicate whether the justices are retreating from long-standing decisions that give the president and Congress great discretion in dealing with immigration, and what role administration policies, including the proposed ban on visits to the United States by residents of six majority Muslim countries, may play.

President Trump has pledged to increase deportations, particularly of people who have been convicted of crimes. But Supreme Court rulings in favor of the immigrants in the pending cases “could make his plans more difficult to realize,” said Christopher Hajec, director of litigation for the Immigration Reform Litigation Institute. The group generally supports the new administration’s immigration actions, including the travel ban.

For about a century, the court has held that, when dealing with immigration, the White House and Congress “can get away with things they ordinarily couldn’t,” said Temple University law professor Peter Spiro, an immigration law expert. “The court has explicitly said the Constitution applies differently in immigration than in other contexts.”

Two of the immigration cases at the court offer the justices the possibility of cutting into the deference that courts have given the other branches of government in this area. One case is a class-action lawsuit brought by immigrants who’ve spent long periods in custody, including many who are legal residents of the United States or are seeking asylum. The court is weighing whether the detainees have a right to court hearings.
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South Dakota and Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe clash in court

Court News 2017/05/14 21:36   Bookmark and Share
The Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe is suing South Dakota over the state's interpretation that contractors working on an expansion of the Royal River Casino are required to pay contractor excise taxes to the state.

The Argus Leader reported that the lawsuit alleges it's an intrusion into tribal sovereignty and is conflicting with U.S. laws that regulate commerce on reservations.

"The economic burden and the intrusion into tribal sovereignty interfere and are incompatible with the federal and tribal interests in promoting tribal self-government, self-sufficiency and economic development," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is the latest clash between the tribe and the state. The tribe's casino has often been a flashpoint for disputes.

The Flandreau started expanding the casino after Gov. Dennis Daugaard agreed to allow the tribe to double the number of slots it had there. The tribe agreed to increase payments to Moody County to offset law enforcement expenses.

Daugaard's chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, said the tribe doesn't collect the contractors' excise tax.

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Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying top court

Court News 2017/05/10 21:37   Bookmark and Share
India's top court on Tuesday found wanted tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying its order barring him from transferring $40 million to his children.

Mallya, who fled to London last year, is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and bank demands that he pay back more than a billion dollars in loans extended to his now-defunct airline. India has been seeking his extradition over the charges, which Mallya denies.

The Supreme Court in its ruling Tuesday acted on a plea by Indian banks, who said Mallya received $40 million from the British firm Diageo and transferred it to his son and two daughters illegally. The court asked Mallya to appear before it in July to decide the punishment.

Mallya was famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models and Bollywood stars. He was once hailed as India's version of British tycoon Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

He ran into trouble when he failed to return millions of dollars of loans and left India last year amid attempts by a group of banks to recover the money.

India's External Affairs Ministry says Britain is still considering its request to issue a warrant for Mallya and to extradite him.
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Trump 'absolutely' considered breaking up 9th Circuit Court

Court News 2017/05/03 08:37   Bookmark and Share
President Donald Trump, still chafing over rulings blocking his travel ban early this year, says he's considered breaking up the West Coast-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Asked during a White House interview by the Washington Examiner if he'd thought about proposals to break up the court, Trump replied, "Absolutely, I have." He added that "there are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous."

The comments echoed his Twitter criticism of the court Wednesday morning.

Trump called U.S. District Judge William Orrick's preliminary injunction against his order stripping money from sanctuary cities "ridiculous" on Twitter. He said that he planned to take that case to the Supreme Court. But an administration appeal of the district court's decision would go first to the 9th Circuit.

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Court: Gay couple's suit against Kentucky clerk can proceed

Court News 2017/05/02 08:37   Bookmark and Share
A federal appeals court says a gay couple's lawsuit seeking damages from a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue them a marriage license can proceed. The ruling revives an issue that pulled the state into the center of a national debate over same-sex marriages following a historic Supreme Court ruling.

David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, in June 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. But Kim Davis, the county clerk, refused to issue them a license because she said it violated her religious beliefs.

Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other couples. Davis lost, and spent five days in jail for refusing to follow a court order. The dispute thrust the embattled clerk into the national limelight and prompted same-sex marriage opponents across the country to rally behind her. A Republican congressman from Ohio gave her a ticket to former President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. And she met with Pope Francis in Washington, although that encounter quickly sent the Vatican scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.

Davis has since changed her party affiliation to Republican, saying the Democratic Party had abandoned her. Ermold and Moore want Davis to pay damages for the emotional distress caused by her refusal to issue them a license. Ermold and Moore were not the first couple to be denied a license. But they filmed their rejection and uploaded it to YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues, has represented Davis throughout the case. The firm also represents former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered state probate judges to continue to enforce that state's ban on same-sex marriage despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore was removed from his post because of his order. He is now running for U.S. Senate.

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