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Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Court Line News | 2018/02/07 23:34
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.




Malaysia's top court annuls unilateral conversions of minors
Court Line News | 2018/01/28 10:09
Malaysia's top court in a landmark decision says both parents must consent to the religious conversion of a minor, ruling in favor of a Hindu woman whose ex-husband converted their three children to Islam.

M.Indira Gandhi became caught in a high-profile dispute after her former husband became a Muslim and converted their three children without telling her in 2009. He also snatched their daughter, then 11 months old, from the family home.

Malaysia has a dual court system, secular and religious. Gandhi challenged her children's conversions through the civil courts.

The Court of Appeal ruled that civil courts had no jurisdiction over Islamic conversions, but that decision was appealed to the nation's highest court.

The Federal Court on Monday annulled the children's conversions as they were done without Gandhi's consent.


Analysis: Outside groups may factor in Arkansas court race
Court Line News | 2018/01/26 10:12
Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson lost her bid to run the state's highest court two years ago after coming under fire from conservative groups that spent big on mailers and TV ads targeting her. Two years earlier, David Sterling was defeated in the race for the Republican attorney general nomination despite outside groups going after his rival in that race.

Now, the two are about to face off in what could wind up being another costly and heated fight for a state high court seat that could overshadow other races on the ballot this year. It could also turn into a proxy fight over the state's resumption of executions and the court's role in scaling back what had been an unprecedented plan to put eight men to death over an 11-day period.

Goodson quietly launched her campaign last week, with an adviser confirming that she planned to seek another term on the state's high court in the May judicial election. The same day, Sterling said he planned to challenge the incumbent jurist.

Neither candidate has laid out campaign arguments, but the past two election cycles offer some guide of what to expect. Goodson launched her bid for the chief justice seat ago vowing to represent "conservative values" on the court.

"The Supreme Court is supposed to represent your common sense, conservative values, to uphold the rule of law and to look out for your rights," Goodson said in a campaign video she posted in the fall of 2015.

A year earlier, Sterling was touting his conservative credentials in his campaign for attorney general and promised to use the office to protect Arkansans from "an overreaching federal government." Sterling lost in the runoff for the Republican nomination against Leslie Rutledge, who is now seeking re-election as the state's top attorney.



Top Pakistani court orders arrest of escaped police officer
Court Line News | 2018/01/23 10:10
Pakistan's Supreme Court gave police three days to arrest an absconding officer who is involved in killing an aspiring model in a 'fake shootout', a lawyer said Saturday.

Attorney Nazeer Mehsud says suspended police officer Rao Anwar did not appear at a hearing Saturday. Chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered his arrest and asked the Sindh police chief to summon him before him.

Anwar is accused killing of an aspiring social media model, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a controversial shootout earlier this month. Anwar had maintained that Mehsud was a militant belonging to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan group, without providing evidence to support the claim. He went into hiding when an investigation found Mehsud to be innocent and said the shootout was staged.

Sanaullah Abbasi, a senior police officer, earlier told The Associated Press that Naqeebullah Mehsud was not linked to militants as claimed by Anwar.

Anwar gained prominence in recent years for several shootouts with alleged terrorists in which neither him nor any of his team members were hurt. Mehsud, from Waziristan and a father of three, was the latest victim of Anwar's last shootout.

Mehsud's death triggered violent protests in his eastern Karachi and a protest sit-in by Mehsud tribe's is still ongoing. "My son Naqeeb was innocent, he was righteous. Rao Anwar is a tyrant who killed my son," said Muhammad Ahmed Mehsud, Mehsud's father, adding that he was overwhelmed by the support he received for his son.



Thai court drops royal insult charges against academic
Court Line News | 2018/01/20 10:04
A Thai military court on Wednesday dropped royal insult charges against an 84-year old historian who questioned whether a Thai king had actually defeated a Burmese adversary in combat on elephant-back over 500 years ago.

Sulak Sivaraksa was charged in October under the draconian lese majeste law that protects the monarchy from libel and defamation. The Bangkok military court had agreed to hear views from historians and experts before it decided to drop the charges for lack of evidence.

Sulak, a veteran academic and proclaimed royalist, said he had petitioned Thailand's new king, Vajiralongkorn, for help in dropping the charges against him.

"I contacted many people for help but no one dared to. So I petitioned the king. If it weren't for His Majesty's grace, this case would not have been dropped," he said.

His case stems from a 2014 university lecture when he told the audience to "not fall prey to propaganda" and questioned whether King Naraesuan had really won the 1593 battle by defeating a Burmese prince in solo combat mounted on a war elephant. The story is one of Thailand's most celebrated historical feats and the date of the combat is marked each year with a military parade on Jan. 18.

Insulting the monarchy is punishable by three to 15 years in prison. The law in writing appears to only protect the king, queen, and heir apparent but in practice the rules are more widely interpreted.



Hong Kong court to rule later on 3 activists' prison terms
Court Line News | 2018/01/10 10:05
Three Hong Kong activists will have to wait to learn the outcome of their final appeal Tuesday to overturn prison sentences for their roles in sparking 2014's massive pro-democracy protests in the semiautonomous Chinese city.

Judges at Hong Kong's top court said they would issue their decision at a later, unspecified date following the appeal hearing for Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow against the sentences of up to eight months. Bail for the three was extended.

The three were initially let off with suspended or community service sentences after they were convicted of taking part in or inciting an unlawful assembly by storming a courtyard at government headquarters to kick-off the protests.

But the case sparked controversy when the justice secretary requested a sentencing review that resulted in stiffer sentences, raising concerns about rule of law and fears that the city's Beijing-backed government is tightening up on dissent.

The trio's lawyers said the lower court overstepped its boundaries and put too much emphasis on the need for deterrence in handing down the revised harsher sentence.

"Laying down a heavy sentence will have a deterrent effect, but a balance has to be held between a deterrent and stifling young idealistic people," Law's lawyer, Robert Pang, told the judges.


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