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Supreme Court takes up cases about race in redistricting
Attorney News | 2016/12/05 13:19
The Supreme Court is taking up a pair of cases in which African-American voters maintain that Southern states discriminated against them in drawing electoral districts.

The justices are hearing arguments Monday in redistricting disputes from North Carolina and Virginia.

The claim made by black voters in both states is that Republicans created districts with more reliably Democratic black voters than necessary to elect their preferred candidates, making neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.

A federal court struck down two North Carolina districts as unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race. In Virginia, a court rejected a constitutional challenge to 12 state legislative districts. The justices have frequently considered the intersection of race and politics.



French court restores far-right candidate's ties to father
Attorney News | 2016/11/18 12:41
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen thought she had cut the political cord with her controversial father by expelling him from the far-right party he founded, but a court ruled Thursday Jean-Marie Le Pen still is the National Front's honorary president.

While campaigning in next spring's presidential election, Marine Le Pen has worked to smooth her image and distance herself from her father's extremist views and anti-Semitic comments. Kicking him out of the party was part of her strategy.

The civil court outside that heard Jean-Marie Le Pen's reinstatement claim upheld the National Front's decision last year to expel him as a rank-and-file member. But the court also ruled that the 88-year-old firebrand can remain the party's honorary president.

As a result, the court ordered the National Front to summon the elder Le Pen to any high-level party meetings and to give him voting rights as an ex-officio member of all the party's governing bodies.

"No statutory provisions specify that the honorary president must be a member of the National Front," the judges said.

The court sentenced the party to pay Jean-Marie Le Pen 23,000 euros ($24,500) in damages and lawyers' fee.

"This can be called a success," his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, told reporters after the ruling was returned.

Joachim had asked the court for 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in damages because "it's a political life they tried to destroy at home and to cast scorn on abroad."

The party's lawyers didn't immediately comment on the ruling, which both sides can appeal.

The National Front ousted the party patriarch for a series of comments, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II history.

Le Pen contends his comments were protected by freedom of expression, though he has been sentenced repeatedly in France for inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity.


Court to weigh appeal on Indiana's block on Syrian refugees
Attorney News | 2016/09/13 15:33
A federal appeals court in Chicago is set to hear arguments in Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's appeal of a ruling that blocked his order to bar state agencies from helping Syrian refugees resettle in Indiana.

The appeals court is considering the case Wednesday, about two months before voters decide if Pence will be the nation's next vice president.

After the November Paris attacks, Pence said he didn't believe the federal government was adequately screening refugees from war-torn Syria. In February, a federal judge found Pence's order discriminatory against refugees.

Pence administration attorneys say the directive is "narrowly tailored" in the interest of public safety. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana argues refugees are extensively vetted and the state's argument is "built on fear."


Appeals court sympathetic to voting rules challenge
Attorney News | 2016/09/11 23:44
A federal appeals court seems likely to side with voting rights groups trying to stop Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from making residents prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form.

Judges heard arguments in the case Thursday. At issue is whether to overturn a decision by a U.S. election official who changed the form's proof-of-citizenship requirements at the behest of the three states, without public notice.

People registering to vote in other states need only to swear that they are citizens, not show proof.

Two of the three judges hearing the case suggested the citizenship requirement can pose a tough hurdle for many eligible voters.

A federal judge in July refused to block the requirement while the case is being decided.



Judge in Stanford swimmer case switching to civil court
Attorney News | 2016/08/25 14:47
A judge whose six-month sentence in the sexual assault case of a former Stanford swimmer has removed himself from handling criminal matters, but efforts to recall him remain.

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky requested that he be assigned to civil court and that request was approved, the county's Presiding Judge Rise Pinchon said in a statement Thursday.

"While I firmly believe in Judge Persky's ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served," Pichon said. "Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment."

The move is not necessarily permanent. The assignment is subject to an annual review and takes effect Sept. 6.

Pichon said that another judge's desire to transfer to Palo Alto has made a quick swap with Persky possible. Normally such changes don't happen until a new year.

Persky ordered the six-month sentence for Brock Turner, a Dayton, Ohio, resident who had been attending Stanford on a swimming scholarship. The judge cited a probation department recommendation and the effect the conviction will have on Turner's life.


High Court won't hear dispute over birthright citizenship
Attorney News | 2016/06/12 12:45
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a group of American Samoans who say the United States should grant full citizenship to people born in the U.S. territory.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship does not extend to the islands that have been a part of the country since 1900.

Current law considers American Samoans to be "nationals," not full citizens like those born in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories. Nationals are allowed to work and live anywhere in the United States, but unlike citizens, they can't vote or hold elective office.

The challengers said that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last year that birthright citizenship does not automatically apply to the nation's unincorporated political territories.

The lawsuit was filed by a small group of American Samoans who did not have the support of the islands' government officials. The government of American Samoa has argued that automatic U.S. citizenship could undermine local traditions and practices, including rules that restrict land ownership to those of Samoan ancestry.



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