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Court hears case alleging unconstitutional 6th District gerrymander
Court Issues | 2018/03/25 06:14
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed frustration with partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

The case, which alleges a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the same time justices are considering the constitutionality of an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, has some legal experts wondering whether the justices might be on the verge of establishing a standard that would allow judicial intervention in partisan gerrymandering cases for the first time in the court’s history.

The 6th District challenge was brought by seven Maryland residents, including three from Frederick County, who argue that the district — which includes southwestern parts of Frederick County and the city of Frederick — was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Democrats and punish Republicans during the reapportionment process after the 2010 census.

The justices heard arguments in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case in October, but have not yet released an opinion.

The Maryland and Wisconsin cases both focus on unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.

The two cases also allege different violations of voters’ rights: The Maryland case claims retaliation against Republican voters under a First Amendment framework, while the Wisconsin plaintiffs are alleging a violation of the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment.


Utah teen appears in court in school backpack bomb case
Court Watch | 2018/03/23 06:16
A 16-year-old is facing attempted murder and other charges after prosecutors say he tried to ignite an explosive device in a backpack at his southern Utah high school.

The teen also was charged Monday in juvenile court in St. George with misdemeanor graffiti and abuse of a flag for allegedly cutting up an American flag and spray-painting words including "ISIS" on a wall at a different high school in nearby Hurricane.

The FBI determined the group was not involved. The Deseret News reports the boy remains in juvenile detention pending another court appearance. No explosion resulted and no one was hurt March 5 after the backpack was found emitting smoke in a common area of Pine View High School.

Charging documents say the boy told police that if someone got hurt, he probably wouldn't care.


California court body has paid $500K to settle sex claims
Topics | 2018/03/20 06:16
The policymaking body for California's courts says it has paid more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds since 2011 to settle five complaints of sexual harassment against judges and court employees.
   
The Judicial Council released the figures on Friday. They were first reported by the legal publication, the Recorder.
   
The council said three of the complaints were against judges and two were against court employees.
   
The council said it has paid another roughly $80,000 since 2010 to investigate sexual harassment allegations against five judicial officers.
   
It did not disclose any names or details of the individual cases.
   
The Judicial Council's figures come as California's Legislature has been embroiled in sexual misconduct scandals that have brought down several lawmakers.



Courts weighing numerous challenges to political boundaries
Court Watch | 2018/03/18 06:17
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on a lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering in the drawing of a Maryland congressional district. Eight years after the 2010 Census provided the basis for legislative redistricting, several other cases alleging unconstitutional gerrymandering in various states also are still working their way through the court system.

In Pennsylvania, a recent court ruling reshaped congressional districts for this year's elections. But many of the other cases could have a greater impact in the years to come. That's because they could set precedents that states must follow during the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census.

Here's a look at some key redistricting cases ruled upon recently or still pending in courts: A federal court in November 2016 struck down Wisconsin's state Assembly districts enacted in 2011 by the Republican-led Legislature and Republican governor as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters' rights to representation. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in October 2017 and has yet to rule in the case. It could set a precedent for whether and how courts can determine if partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.


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