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Brazil court largely upholds law that some fear hurts Amazon
Court Issues | 2018/03/03 12:15
Brazil's Supreme Court has batted down challenges to key parts of a law that environmentalists say has contributed to increasing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

The 2012 law included an amnesty for illegal deforestation that occurred before July 2008, including releasing perpetrators from the obligation to replant areas in compensation. It also weakened protections for some preservation areas by expanding the sorts of activity allowed in them. It was backed by farming interests.

Wednesday's court ruling rejected most of the challenges to the law.

Brazil's non-governmental Socio-environmental Institute says researchers believe the law contributed to rising rates of Amazon deforestation starting in 2012 after years of decreases. However, the rate fell in 2017 as compared to 2016, which saw an exceptionally large swath of forest cut.

Organized labor case goes in front of Supreme Court
Court Issues | 2018/03/01 12:16
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor.

All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump.

Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations.

The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees.

The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can't be compelled to contribute to unions' political activities.

Catalan politicians in Spanish court in secession probe
Court Issues | 2018/02/20 07:11
Two prominent Catalan politicians are testifying before a Supreme Court judge for their roles in holding a banned independence referendum and making an illegal declaration of independence based on its results.

Judicial police have identified left-republican ERC party's secretary-general, Marta Rovira, and conservative PDeCAT's president, Marta Pascal, as key players in the secession bid in October.

The Spanish government responded by disbanding the regional government and calling a new Catalan election. Separatist parties have since been entangled in endless negotiations on how to form a new government.

Judge Pablo Llarena could decide after Monday's hearing whether to send the two politicians to jail while the investigation continues.

Other separatist leaders have been jailed and five former Catalan Cabinet members, including ex-president Carles Puigdemont, have fled to Belgium.

GOP to take new congressional map to court
Court Issues | 2018/02/17 15:11
Republicans say they’ll go to federal court this week to try to block new court-ordered boundaries of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts from remaining in effect for 2018’s elections.

Top Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton said Monday a separation of powers case will form the essence of the GOP’s argument. Crompton won’t say whether Republicans will go to a district court or the U.S. Supreme Court or what type of legal remedy they’ll seek.

But the case will involve making the argument the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures and governors, not courts, the power to draw congressional boundaries.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t stop the state court’s order to redraw congressional districts. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf calls the new map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is applauding the new boundaries of congressional districts being imposed by the state Supreme Court.

Wolf said in a statement Monday that Pennsylvanians “are sick and tired of gerrymandering.” He calls the court’s map an effort to remedy the state’s unfair and unequal congressional elections.

Wolf had backed the Democratic-majority state high court’s ruling last month to throw out Pennsylvania’s district boundaries. Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in three elections under the invalidated map, although statewide elections are often closely contested.

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