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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.


Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Legal Network | 2018/09/06 06:08
Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.



High court pick Kavanaugh and his carefully constructed life
Legal Network | 2018/09/01 13:09
Judge Brett Kavanaugh's life seems as carefully constructed as the Supreme Court arguments he will hear if he is confirmed to the high court. He checks all the boxes of the ways of Washington, or at least the way Washington used to be.

He's a team player — the conservative team — stepping up to make a play at key moments in politics, government and the law dating to the Bill Clinton era and the salacious dramas of that time.

Yet in a capital and a country where politics has become poisonously tribal, Kavanaugh has tried to cover his bases, as Washington insiders have long done. He's got liberal friends, associates and role models. He was a complicated figure in the scandal-ridden 1990s, by turns zealous and restrained as an investigator.

If he wins confirmation, he'll be seated with Justice Elena Kagan, the Obama-era solicitor general who hired him to teach at Harvard when she was law school dean, as well as with his prep school mate, Justice Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh's law clerks have gone on to work for liberal justices. He's served with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in mock trials of characters in Shakespeare plays, a night out from the real-life dramas.

Amateur athlete, doer of Catholic good works, basketball-coaching dad, Yale degrees, progression from lawyer to White House aide to judge — it's all there in a rarefied life of talent and privilege, though strikingly not one of great personal wealth.

The only skeleton in Kavanaugh's closet that the White House has owned up to is as American as apple pie.

Spending on baseball games helped drive him into debt one year, the White House said. He's also been ribbed for hoarding gummy bears when he worked as an aide to President George W. Bush. Because Republicans are not releasing critical documents for the hearings, it remains to be seen if anything else is rattling around.

With some ideological mashup, Kavanaugh's judicial record has been conservative in the main, reflecting views that could swing the court right on abortion, gay rights, executive power and more for decades to come.

Kavanaugh heads into the confirmation hearings, which begin Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, representing the hopes of President Donald Trump and the right that he will do just that.

Kavanaugh, who's 53, has seen a steady career progression: law clerk for federal appeals judges, fellowship with then-Solicitor General Starr, law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (with Gorsuch), associate counsel in the Starr investigation, law-firm partner, Bush White House associate counsel, White House staff secretary, judge. He first dated Ashley Estes, then Bush's personal secretary, Sept. 10, 2001; they married in 2004 and have two daughters.


Iran goes to UN's highest court over re-imposed US sanctions
Legal Network | 2018/08/28 03:11
Iran went to the United Nations' highest court Monday in a bid to have U.S. sanctions lifted following President Donald Trump's decision earlier this year to re-impose them, calling the move "naked economic aggression."

Iran filed the case with the International Court of Justice in July, claiming that sanctions the Trump administration imposed on May 8 breach a 1955 bilateral agreement known as the Treaty of Amity that regulates economic and consular ties between the two countries.

At hearings that started Monday at the court's headquarters in The Hague, Tehran asked judges at the world court to urgently suspend the sanctions to protect Iranian interests while the case challenging their legality is being heard — a process that can take years.

In a written statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the legal move an attempt by Tehran "to interfere with the sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions, including re-imposition of sanctions, which are necessary to protect our national security."

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Trump said in May that he would pull the United States out of a 2015 agreement over Iran's nuclear program and would re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Washington also threatened other countries with sanctions if they don't cut off Iranian oil imports by early November.

Iranian representative Mohsen Mohebi told the court the U.S. decision was a clear breach of the 1955 treaty as it was "intended to damage, as severely as possible, Iran's economy."

Iran's 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran.



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