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Arkansas court hears challenge over reworked voter ID law
Legal Network | 2018/09/19 12:14
An Arkansas attorney told state's highest court on Thursday it should strike down a law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, saying the measure circumvents a 2014 ruling against a nearly identical voter ID requirement.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments from the state, which is defending the law, and Jeff Priebe, who represents a Little Rock voter challenging the measure as unconstitutional. Justices in May halted a state judge's ruling preventing Arkansas from enforcing the voter ID law, keeping it in place while they consider the case.

The high court in 2014 struck down a previous version of the voter ID law as unconstitutional. The revived voter ID law, which was approved last year, requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Unlike the previous measure, the new law allows voters to cast provisional ballots if they sign a sworn statement confirming their identities.

"It's closing the ballot booth doors," Priebe said during the roughly hour-long hearing.

Arkansas officials argue the new law complies with part of the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the 2013 measure. Justices in 2014 unanimously struck down the previous voter ID law, with a majority of the court ruling it unconstitutionally added a qualification to vote. Three justices, however, ruled the measure didn't get the two-thirds vote needed to change voter registration requirements. A majority of the court has changed hands since that ruling, and more than two-thirds of the House and Senate approved the new measure last year.

Deputy Secretary of State A.J. Kelly told the justices the lower court "has usurped the power of the Legislature to amend the Constitution" by blocking the law. "A single man has a driver's license and refuses to show it to vote, and he alone has put a constitutional amendment in jeopardy," Kelly said.

Justices did not indicate when they would rule. If they strike the law, it wouldn't affect a separate proposal on the ballot in November that would put a voter ID requirement in the state's constitution.

The court is considering the case weeks before voters head to the polls in an election where national Democrats are trying to flip a Little Rock-area congressional seat currently held by a Republican. Justice Courtney Goodson, who wrote the concurring opinion four years ago citing the two-thirds vote as the reason for striking the previous law, is seeking re-election in November in a race that has already drawn heavy spending from conservative groups opposing her bid.


Sotomayor tells kids: Reading helped me reach Supreme Court
Court Issues | 2018/09/17 21:02
Justice Sonia Sotomayor says reading helped her reach the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor on Sunday celebrated the release of her two children's books by speaking to parents and children at the Newark Public Library in New Jersey.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reports she said she never dreamed she would become a Supreme Court justice because she didn't know what one was when she was a child. She says her mother made sure books were part of her upbringing.

Sotomayor's books, "Turning Pages: My Life Story" and "The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor!" examine how her family and her determination moved her through life.




Belgian court rules out extradition for Spanish rapper
Topics | 2018/09/17 04:03
A Belgian court on Monday ruled that Spanish rapper Valtonyc should not be sent back to Spain, where he was sentenced to prison accused of writing lyrics that praise terror groups and insult the royal family.

The rapper, whose real name is Jose Miguel Arenas Beltran, was supposed to turn himself in voluntarily in May to authorities in Spain, where he faces prison sentences totaling three and a half years, but instead fled to Belgium.

"The judge has decided there will be no extradition and discarded all three charges," his lawyer, Simon Bekaert, told reporters near the court in the city of Ghent.

Bekaert said the judge ruled "there is no terrorism involved, there is no incitement of terrorism, so there is no question of a crime according to Belgian law." He said the judge also found that there is no crime to answer to over insulting the Spanish king and that no threat was made that could warrant extradition.

"I feel good, I am happy. But I am sad for the people in Spain, who unlucky, they don't have justice like me here," Arenas told reporters, in English."

The ruling could re-ignite tensions between Belgium and Spain over extradition demands.

Late last year, Spain dropped a European arrest warrant against former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont after it became clear that Belgian justice authorities were unlikely to recognize some of the Spanish charges against him.


Egypt court returns ex-president Mubarak's 2 sons to prison
Court Watch | 2018/09/16 04:03
Acting on a judge's order, Egyptian police detained the sons of former president Hosni Mubarak on Saturday along with three others in connection with insider trading charges for which the five are on trial, security officials said.

They said the arrests were ordered by judge Ahmed Aboul-Fetouh before he adjourned the case's hearings until Oct. 20. The Mubarak sons - wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak's one-time heir apparent Gamal - were taken to a prison south of Cairo after the hearing, according to the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

The detention of the two brothers came as something of a surprise given that the trial has been proceeding without incident. It was not immediately clear if their detention has anything to do with a recent warning to Gamal Mubarak by a newspaper editor close to the government to abandon any political ambitions.

The two sons and their father were sentenced to three years in prison following their conviction of embezzling funds set aside for the restoration and maintenance of presidential palaces, using the money to upgrade their private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free last year. The trio paid back to the state the money they embezzled.

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The three were first detained in April 2011, two months after a popular uprising forced Mubarak to step down after nearly 30 years in power. After a long trial, Mubarak was acquitted of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising against his autocratic rule.

The ongoing insider trading trial centers on the buying by the two brothers of a large number of shares in a local Egyptian bank that they allegedly knew was to become the target of a takeover by an Arab Gulf investor, a move that was virtually certain to dramatically drive up share prices.




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