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High court halts electoral map redrawing in Michigan, Ohio
Legal Watch | 2019/05/24 22:14
The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold court orders in Michigan and Ohio to redraw electoral maps that federal judges found were too partisan.

The high court action comes as it is weighing cases from Maryland and North Carolina that raise similar issues and could affect redistricting everywhere.

The brief orders from the justices do not telegraph the outcome of the redistricting cases that are expected to be decided by the end of June. They more likely reflect that whatever the court decides probably will affect rulings that struck down legislative and congressional districts in Michigan and congressional districts in Ohio.

Ohio lawmakers faced a June 14 deadline to draw new congressional districts, or have the courts do it for them. The deadline in Michigan was Aug. 1.

Judges in both states ordered new maps for the 2020 elections after they found Republicans who controlled the redistricting process in 2011 unconstitutionally created districts that essentially guaranteed continued Republican dominance for the 10 years the political maps would be used.


South Africa's Zuma must wait 3 months for court decision
Court Center | 2019/05/24 05:14
Former South African president Jacob Zuma will hear in three months' time whether corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges against him might be dropped.

Pietermaritzburg High Court judges have reserved judgment on his application for a permanent stay of prosecution. No date was announced.

Zuma was president from 2009 until 2018, when his ruling African National Congress party forced him to resign amid persistent corruption allegations. The scandal was seen as damaging the reputation of the ANC, which has been in power since the end of the harsh system of apartheid in 1994.

Public frustration over government corruption contributed to the ANC's weakest-ever election showing earlier this month, and current President Cyril Ramaphosa has apologized and vowed to crack down .

The scandals also have damaged confidence in South Africa's economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuma is accused of receiving bribes related to a 1999 arms deal. The charges were raised more than a decade ago and later withdrawn, then reinstated after a court ruled there were sufficient grounds to bring him to trial.


Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime
Court Center | 2019/05/21 05:17
A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday.


Russian court extends arrest for American accused of spying
Legal Watch | 2019/05/19 05:18
A Russian court on Friday extended the arrest for a former U.S. Marine charged with espionage, who complained in court about abuse in custody.

Paul Whelan was arrested at the end of December in a hotel room in the Russian capital of Moscow where he was attending a wedding. He was charged with espionage, which carries up to 20 years in prison in Russia.

Whelan denies the charges of spying for the U.S. that his lawyers said stem from a sting operation. Whelan’s lawyer has said his client was handed a flash drive that had classified information on it that he didn’t know about.

The court ruled Friday to keep the Michigan resident, who also holds British, Irish and Canadian citizenship, behind bars for three more months.

Whelan told reporters in court that he has been threatened and subjected to “abuses and harassment” in prison.

“I haven’t had a shower in two weeks. I can’t use a barber, I have to cut my own hair,” a visibly agitated Whelan said from the defendant’s dock. “This is typical prisoner of war isolation technique. They’re trying to run me down so that I will talk to them.”

Andrea Kalan, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, said Friday that they are disappointed with the ruling, arguing there is “no evidence of any wrongdoing.”



Residents sue Tennessee city over code violations court
Law Firm Business | 2019/05/16 20:59
Residents of Nashville, Tennessee, are suing to close the city's environmental code enforcement court, saying it was improperly implemented and unfairly affects poor citizens.

The Tennessean reports the lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the city and state Attorney General Herbert Slatery. The court has collected just over $1.8 million in fines since 2008. The lawsuit focuses on a state constitution provision that says local acts or laws targeting a specific county must include provisions approved by the local legislative body.

The code enforcement court was created by state lawmakers in 1993. In 1994, the City Council voted to enable the court's creation. However, the provision says local acts that don't include the council vote are void, thereby negating the council's later vote.



NC’s highest court hears arguments about Blackbeard flagship
Legal Watch | 2019/05/16 04:00
A lawsuit over the rights to photos and video from the wreckage of the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship is still winding its way through North Carolina courts, four years after the legal conflict began.

The New Bern Sun Journal reports the state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday about the ownership issue. The state’s highest court will decide which lower court should hear the case next.

A Florida-based company found the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge off the North Carolina coast in 1996. Intersal contends the state breached a contract giving the company some exclusivity to images.


An Intersal attorney argued the case should be heard in Business Court, where monetary damages can be awarded. State lawyers argue the case qualifies only for administrative court, where they say it’s been settled.


Feds: US Supreme Court should turn down 'Bridgegate' appeal
Top Legal News | 2019/05/14 04:01
The U.S. solicitor general's office has recommended that the U.S. Supreme Court not hear the appeal of two convicted defendants in the "Bridgegate" case, nudging the four-year legal saga of New Jersey's most famous traffic jam toward a conclusion.

"Further review is not warranted," the brief filed late Wednesday said. The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to hear the case by the end of its term next month.

Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni want the court to hear the appeal of their 2016 convictions for causing gridlock near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor for not endorsing their boss, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie wasn't charged, but the revelations from the scandal and conflicting accounts of when he knew about the plot combined to sabotage his 2016 presidential aspirations.

Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff at the time of the 2013 lane realignments in the town of Fort Lee, and Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had their sentences reduced this spring after a federal appeals court tossed some convictions last fall. Kelly petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the rest of the convictions, and Baroni joined in the appeal.

They argued that while their actions may have been ethically questionable, they weren't illegal because neither derived personal benefit, and the Port Authority, which operated the bridge, wasn't deprived of tangible benefits as a result of the scheme.


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