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High court questions courts’ role in partisan redistricting
Topics | 2019/03/27 02:03
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority sounded wary Tuesday of allowing federal judges to determine when electoral maps are too partisan, despite strong evidence that the political parties drew districts to guarantee congressional election outcomes.

The decisions in two cases the justices heard Tuesday, from Maryland and North Carolina, could help shape the makeup of Congress and state legislatures for the next decade in the new districts that will be created following the 2020 census.

In more than two hours of arguments over Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a single congressional district drawn to benefit Democrats in Maryland, the justices on the right side of the court asked repeatedly whether unelected judges should police the partisan actions of elected officials.

“Why should we wade into this?” Justice Neil Gorusch asked.

Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed out that voters in some states and state courts in others are imposing limits on how far politicians can go in designing districts that maximize one party’s advantage.

Gorsuch said the court’s 2015 ruling upholding Arizona voters’ decision to take redistricting away from the legislature and create an independent commission shows there are other ways to handle the issue. That case was decided by a 5-4 vote before Gorsuch joined the court, with four conservatives in dissent.


Supreme Court tosses $315 million award in USS Cole lawsuit
Court Watch | 2019/03/26 02:03
The Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a nearly $315 million judgment against Sudan stemming from the USS Cole bombing, saying Sudan hadn't properly been notified of the lawsuit.

The justices ruled 8-1 that notice of the lawsuit should have been mailed to Sudan's foreign ministry in the country's capital, Khartoum. The notice was instead mailed to Sudan's embassy in Washington.

The lawsuit in which the justices ruled involves sailors who were injured in the 2000 bombing of the Cole in Yemen. Sailors and their spouses sued Sudan in a U.S. court, arguing that Sudan had provided support to al-Qaida, which claimed responsibility for the Cole attack. Seventeen sailors died when the ship was struck by a bomb-laden boat. Dozens of others were injured.

In order to alert Sudan to the lawsuit, the group mailed the required notice to Sudan's embassy in Washington. Sudan didn't initially respond to the lawsuit in court, and a judge entered an approximately $315 million judgment against the country. Sudan then tried to get the judgment thrown out.

Sudan and the sailors who were suing disagreed about the requirements of a 1976 law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The statute lays out how to properly notify another country of a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court. If other agreements between the countries don't exist, the law says that notice should be "addressed and dispatched ... to the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of the foreign state concerned."

Lawyers for Sudan and for the U.S. government had argued that the best reading of that phrase is that it requires the notice to be sent to the foreign minister in the foreign country. The Supreme Court agreed.


High court won’t referee dispute over Michael Jordan images
Blog News | 2019/03/24 02:03
The Supreme Court said Monday it won’t step in to referee a copyright dispute between Nike and a photographer who took a well-known image of basketball great Michael Jordan. That means lower court rulings for the athletic apparel maker will stand.

Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester sued Nike after it used an image he took of Jordan in the 1980s as inspiration for a photograph it commissioned for its own ads. The company’s photo, which was used on posters and billboards, then became the basis for the “Jumpman” logo for Nike’s Air Jordan shoes. Rentmeester sued Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike in 2015 saying both the Nike photo and logo infringed on his copyright image.

Rentmeester’s original photo of Jordan was taken for Life magazine in 1984, while Jordan was a student at the University of North Carolina. It shows Jordan holding a basketball in his left hand and leaping, ballet-like toward a basketball hoop. At the time, Jordan was preparing for the upcoming Summer Olympics, which were being held in Los Angeles. In the photo, Jordan is wearing the U.S. Olympic team uniform.

Both Rentmeester’s photo and Nike’s photo involve a basketball hoop at the right side of the image and were taken from a similar angle. Jordan’s pose is similar in both photos. But in the Nike photo, Jordan is wearing the red and black of the Chicago Bulls, which he joined in 1984, and the Chicago skyline is the background. One other difference: In Rentmeester’s photo, Jordan is wearing Converse.

Rentmeester cried foul, argued that the differences between his photo and Nike’s were “minor,” and said that nearly every original element in his photo also appeared in Nike’s. Lower courts ruled for Nike.


Unions in court over laws limiting Wisconsin governor, AG
Press Release | 2019/03/22 02:03
Laws passed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature during a lame-duck session in December that weakened powers of the Democratic governor and attorney general were back before a circuit judge Monday, less than a week after another judge struck them down as unconstitutional.

Republicans appealed last week's ruling, and the state appeals court could rule as soon as Monday on that request to immediately reinstate the laws and put last week's ruling on hold.

Gov. Tony Evers moved quickly after last week's order to rescind 82 of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker's appointments that the state Senate confirmed during the lame-duck session. And Attorney General Josh Kaul, at Evers' order, moved to withdraw Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit seeking repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, a power taken away from him during the lame-duck session.

The judge last week ruled that the laws were illegally passed because the type of session lawmakers used to meet in December was unconstitutional. Republicans called themselves into "extraordinary session" to pass the bills, but Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess said there was no basis in state law to call such sessions.

The attorney for Republican lawmakers, Misha Tseytlin, argued that the ruling jeopardizes the validity of thousands of other laws passed during extraordinary sessions.

That case was brought by the League of Women Voters and other groups.

The lawsuit being heard Monday was filed by a coalition of five unions. They argue that the laws violate the state constitution's separation of powers doctrine because they take power from the executive branch and transfer them to the Legislature.

Republicans counter that the laws are constitutional and ensure a proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches.

The case is being heard by Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington. The judge held oral arguments on Monday, beginning the proceedings by informing all the parties that he's already drafted a written decision but wanted clarifications. He blocked off the entire day for the hearing.


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