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Supreme Court seems divided over Texas redistricting
Court Issues | 2018/04/22 00:34
The Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over Texas' appeal to preserve congressional and legislative districts that a lower court struck down as racially discriminatory.

The justices heard arguments in the latest round of court action over Texas electoral districts that began in 2011.

At issue are two congressional districts and statehouse districts in four counties, and what the challengers say are efforts by Texas Republicans who control the state government to restrain the political influence of a growing Hispanic and African-American population.

The liberal justices seemed favorable to minority voters and civil rights groups that sued over the districts. The court's conservatives appeared to lean toward the state, which also has the support of the Trump administration. Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing to indicate where his potentially decisive vote would fall.

The justices last year kept the challenged districts in place, even after the lower court ruling. Texas held primary elections in those districts in March.

Max Renea, Hicks, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the justices Tuesday that even if his side wins at the high court, it is unlikely that new districts would be used before the 2020 elections, the last voting cycle before the next census.

The case is the third major dispute this term that is focused on redistricting, the drawing of electoral maps following the once-a-decade census. The high court's other cases, from Maryland and Wisconsin, focus on the drawing of political districts for partisan advantage.

The Texas situation is unusual. Based on the 2010 census, Texas was awarded four new congressional districts, attributable mainly to the influx of Hispanics.

After the state's original electoral maps were found to be probably unconstitutional, a three-judge federal court produced interim districting plans that were used in the 2012 elections.

In 2013, Republicans rushed to permanently adopt those maps to use for the rest of the decade.

But opponents criticized the adopted maps as a quick fix that didn't purge all districts of the impermissible use of race.

In 2017, the same judges who approved the interim maps in 2012 agreed with the challengers that the maps were the product of intentional discrimination.


Supreme Court again refuses to hear Blagojevich appeal
Court Issues | 2018/04/16 19:35
The Supreme Court for the second time has refused to hear an appeal by imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich of his corruption convictions.

The justices didn't comment Monday in letting stand the convictions and 14-year prison term the 61-year-old is serving. His scheduled release date is 2024.

Blagojevich's lawyers had wanted the high court to take up his case to make clear what constitutes illegal political fundraising. They argued that politicians are vulnerable to prosecution because the line between what's allowed and what's illegal is blurry.

His convictions included trying to extort a children's hospital for contributions and seeking to trade an appointment to the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he was elected president for campaign cash.

The court also refused to hear his 2016 appeal.



Lawyer tells Australian court Geoffrey Rush barely eating
Court Issues | 2018/04/11 02:10
Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has become virtually housebound, barely eats and wakes each morning with a "terrible sense of dread" since a Sydney newspaper alleged inappropriate behavior toward an actress, his lawyer swore in an affidavit.

Lawyer Nicholas Pullen's affidavit submitted to the Australian Federal Court in Sydney on Monday said the 66-year-old Australian actor had suffered "tremendous emotional and social hardship" since The Daily Telegraph accused him in December of inappropriate behavior toward actress Eryn Jean Norvill during the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "King Lear" in 2015.

Rush has denied the allegation. He is suing the newspaper over the articles, which he says portray him as a pervert and sexual predator. Details of the alleged behavior remain vague.

Rush "suffers lack of sleep and anxiety requiring medication" and believes his worth to the entertainment industry "is now irreparably damaged," his lawyer wrote.

He rarely left home in the three months after the articles and "has been virtually housebound," his lawyer said.

Rush "has lost his appetite and barely eats" and "wakes up every morning with a terrible sense of dread about his future career," Pullen added.

Rush has performed in the Sydney Theatre Company for 35 years. He won the 1997 best actor Academy Award for "Shine" and has three other Oscar nominations. He is perhaps best known as Captain Barbossa in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.


Justice Gorsuch confirms conservatives' hopes, liberals' fears
Court Issues | 2018/04/08 02:09
Neil Gorsuch became the Supreme Court’s newest member a year ago this Tuesday. President Donald Trump’s pick for the high court, its 113th justice, has now heard more than 60 cases on issues including gerrymandering, fees paid to unions and the privacy of certain cellphone records.

It’s generally unwise to predict anything about a justice so early into his or her tenure, with few opinions written and votes in a small number of cases. But so far Gorsuch has been what Republicans believed and hoped he would be — a reliably conservative vote.

Beyond that, the public has gotten a glimpse of what Gorsuch may be like as a justice, from chances to see him spar with lawyers in court arguments, speak to groups and even tackle his first issue on the cafeteria committee.

A look at what observers have seen from Gorsuch inside and outside the court in the past year: Frequent readers of Gorsuch’s writing as a justice say his style is designed to attract attention and reach an audience beyond law professors and experts.

So far, he’s written three opinions, two separate opinions where he agreed with the majority’s result and several dissents.

Earlier this year Gorsuch began a dissent by citing English writer G.K. Chesterton, an opening that drew mixed reviews. He started an opinion involving water rights with a humorous quote attributed to actor Will Rogers, who is said to have called the Rio Grande “the only river I saw that needed irrigation.”

In some cases, Gorsuch has been criticized for seemingly talking down to readers or to his colleagues on the opposite side of an issue, but he’s also won praise for being clear and engaging. Opinion writing isn’t new for Gorsuch, who spent a decade as a federal appeals court judge before joining the Supreme Court. Now, however, it comes with higher stakes and a broader audience.

Court observers caution against reading too much into Gorsuch’s first Supreme Court writings. “One year is not that much of a sample size on a justice,” said Dan Epps, who co-hosts the First Mondays podcast about the court.


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