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The Supreme Court is taking up its second big partisan redistricting case of the term amid signs the justices could place limits on drawing maps for political gain.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in an appeal filed by Republicans in Maryland. They complain that Democrats who controlled the state government in 2011 drew a congressional district for the express purpose of ousting the Republican incumbent and replacing him with a Democrat.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are challenging legislative districts drawn by Republicans statewide. Those districts gave Republicans a huge majority in a state that otherwise is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts for being too partisan.

A decision in favor of opponents of partisan gerrymandering could cut into the political power of the dominant party in states in which one party controls the state government.

The court is expected to issue decisions in both cases by late June.

Maryland's 6th Congressional District had been centered in rural, Republican-leaning northwestern Maryland and had elected a Republican to Congress for 20 years. Incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett won re-election in 2010 by 28 percentage points.

But in the 2011 redistricting, Democrats altered the district to take in some Democratic suburbs of Washington, D.C. The new district had 62,000 fewer Republicans and 33,000 more Democrats. Bartlett lost the 2012 election by 21 percentage points.

Republican voters who sued over the changes said the state violated their First Amendment rights.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is defending the district as competitive for both parties. Frosh said the district has elected a moderate Democrat, and in 2014, a friendlier year for Republican candidates, the victory margin of Democratic Rep. John Delaney dropped to less than 2 percentage points, though it rose again in 2016.



Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson were not scheduled to speak at Julius Randle’s wedding. It was an elegant affair, bathed in white roses to celebrate a love that began almost instantly when Randle met Kendra Shaw at a friend’s party in college.

The friend who introduced them spoke at the reception. A coach who grew to be like a brother to Randle spoke. So did some childhood friends.

Then Young and Clarkson, lubricated by wedding wine and the firm belief that the wedding guests expected their shenanigans, got an idea. They loved Randle. The people needed to hear them, they presumed. Together, they took the microphone.

Clarkson, then Randle’s teammate with the Lakers, declared he couldn’t stand Randle when they first met. Randle’s punishing style of play in high school irked Clarkson’s friends who played against him back in Texas. Just as Randle’s mother reared up to protect her sweet baby boy, Clarkson finished, saying as he got to know Randle as part of the same Lakers rookie class in 2014, he learned Randle would do anything for his friends and loved ones.




The Supreme Court has already heard a major case about political line-drawing that has the potential to reshape American politics. Now, before even deciding that one, the court is taking up another similar case.

The arguments justices will hear Wednesday in the second case, a Republican challenge to a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Maryland, could offer fresh clues to what they are thinking about partisan gerrymandering, an increasingly hot topic before courts.

Decisions in the Maryland case and the earlier one from Wisconsin are expected by late June. The arguments come nearly six months after the court heard a dispute over Wisconsin legislative districts that Democrats claim were drawn to maximize Republican control in a state that is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never thrown out electoral districts on partisan grounds and it’s not clear the justices will do so now. But supporters of limits on partisanship in redistricting are encouraged that the justices are considering two cases.

“In taking these two cases, the Supreme Court wants to say something about partisan gerrymandering. It’s clear the Supreme Court is not walking away from the issue,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the New York University law school’s Brennan Center for Justice.

The justices’ involvement in partisan redistricting reflects a period of unusual activity in the courts on this topic. Over the past 16 months, courts struck down political districting plans drawn by Republicans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Federal judges threw out a state legislative map in Wisconsin and a congressional plan in North Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court invalidated the state’s congressional districts and replaced them with a court-drawn plan.



Lawyers for the state of Arkansas argued Friday that the state prison director has long had the power to determine a death row inmate's sanity and that now isn't the time to change the way it moves the prisoners closer to their executions.

The arguments came in the case of Jack Greene, whose November execution was halted by the Arkansas Supreme Court so it could review his attorneys' arguments that the state correction director, Wendy Kelley, should not be deciding whether he is competent enough to be executed.

Greene's lawyers say doctors have found Greene delusional but Kelley has chosen to rely on outdated assessments of Greene's mental health in determining whether he's eligible to be executed. Greene's lawyers also have argued that Kelley shouldn't be making the determination because her boss, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, sets execution dates.

In papers filed at the state Supreme Court on Friday, assistant attorney general Kathryn Henry wrote that states are entitled to set the guidelines for review, as long as there is a "basic fairness." She also claims that, under the Arkansas Constitution, Greene cannot sue Kelley.

While previous court decisions didn't define "basic fairness," the presumption is that an inmate who is sane at his trial is sane until his execution, Henry wrote. "Only after 'a substantial threshold showing of insanity'" can an inmate win a review — and that review can be "far less formal than a trial," she wrote.

Against his lawyers' advice, Greene has insisted in a number of venues that he is not insane. State lawyers say that is reason enough for justices to dissolve the stay that was issued shortly before Greene's scheduled execution last Nov. 9.

A week before the execution date, a circuit judge said she couldn't hold a hearing on Greene's competence because, under state law, Kelley had the "exclusive authority" to determine whether the inmate was sane enough to be executed. The Arkansas Supreme Court later voted 5-2 to issue a stay and take Greene's case for review, rejecting state arguments.



The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't have to reimburse attorneys who defended Nebraska landowners against the company's efforts to gain access to their land, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court's ruling resolves a dispute that was triggered when TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain lawsuits against 71 Nebraska landowners in 2015, only to drop them later amid uncertainty over whether the process it used was constitutional.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha attorney Dave Domina argued that TransCanada owes his clients about $350,000 to cover their attorney fees. Domina said the landowners clearly asked for representation in the eminent domain cases, and TransCanada should pay their attorney fees because the company effectively lost those cases.

A TransCanada attorney, James Powers, argued that the landowners failed to prove that they actually paid or were legally indebted to Domina or his law partner, Brian Jorde.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday. Domina said he respected the decision but was disappointed for his clients.


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