Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Court News | 2018/02/07 16:49
The U.S. Supreme Court told North Carolina officials late Tuesday they must use some but not all of the state's legislative districts that other federal judges redrew for this year's elections.

The justices partially granted the request of Republican lawmakers who contend the House and Senate maps they voted for last summer were legal and didn't need to be altered.

A three-judge panel determined those GOP-approved boundaries contained racial bias left over from maps originally approved in 2011 and violated the state constitution. So the lower-court judges hired a special master who changed about two dozen districts in all. The judges approved them last month.

The Supreme Court's order means more than half of those districts redrawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily will revert to their shapes from last summer. The order said House district changes made in the counties that include Charlotte and Raleigh because of state constitutional concerns are blocked while the full case is appealed, but changes made elsewhere to alleviate racial bias must be used.

The maps containing the partial changes will be used when candidate filing for all 170 General Assembly seats begins next Monday.

Boundaries approved by the General Assembly last August kept Republicans in a position to retain veto-proof majorities in the chambers, which has helped them advance their conservative-leaning agenda this decade. But Democrats are bolstered after successful elections in other states last year. Tuesday's ruling means Democrats could find it harder to win more House districts than they hoped.

Dozens of North Carolina voters originally were successful in overturning the 2011 districts as racial gerrymanders. They subsequently asked Chief Justice John Roberts, who receives appeals from the state, to allow the lower court's directive and require the changes approved by the three judges be used.

The Republicans' request was considered by the entire court and the order reflected division among the justices. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have agreed to block all of the changes to the maps approved by the lower-court panel. Yet Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the GOP's request entirely, according to the order.


Court allows Pennsylvania to redraw GOP-favored district map
Headline Legal News | 2018/02/06 16:55
Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, rejected the request from GOP legislative leaders and voters to put on hold an order from the state Supreme Court intended to produce new congressional districts in the coming two weeks.

The Pennsylvania high court ruled last month that the current map of 18 districts violates the state constitution because it unfairly benefits Republicans.

The decision comes just four days before the Republican-controlled Legislature's deadline for submitting a replacement map for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to consider. So far, there has been a notable lack of bipartisan movement on getting such a deal.

Pennsylvania's congressional delegation has been 13-5 in favor of Republicans during the three election cycles since the GOP-drawn 2011 map took effect, and experts have said those 13 seats are several more than would have been produced by a nonpartisan map.

Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans and hold all three elected statewide row offices, but Republicans enjoy solid majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Under the process laid out two weeks ago by four of the seven Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, all Democrats, the Legislature has until Friday to approve a new map, after which Wolf will have until Feb. 15 to decide whether to endorse it and submit it to the justices.

Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman said Monday he's had "zero" discussions with Wolf and legislative leaders about new district boundaries and could not guarantee he will meet the deadline.

The state Supreme Court said it expects new districts to be in place by Feb. 19, and the new map is expected to be in play for the May 15 congressional primaries.



Greek court postpones decision in Turkish extradition case
Court News | 2018/02/06 00:55
A Greek court postponed ruling Tuesday on a Turkish extradition request for the second of nine Turkish citizens alleged to be left-wing militants and arrested in November, days before an Athens visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Naci Ozpolat, 48, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, is wanted by Turkey on charges of assisting a terrorist organization. He attended the hearing the court ended up adjourning until March 6, saying it needed more information from Turkey.

The nine suspects were arrested for alleged links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union have deemed a terrorist organization.

Turkey has charged them with terrorism-related offenses, forgery, arms and explosives possession and resisting arrest. All deny the charges.

A Greek court last week rejected a similar extradition request for the first of the nine on grounds he had been granted refugee status in France. The court said he was at risk of facing torture or other inhumane treatment if he were returned to Turkey.


Prosecutor asks for prison terms in Paris terror trial
Court News | 2018/02/04 19:56
A French prosecutor has requested four years in prison for a man accused of harboring killers in the 2015 Islamic State attacks on Paris, less than the maximum term.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Nicolas Le Bris said Jawad Bendaoud knew he was hiding criminals, but that there wasn't sufficient evidence he knew they were involved in the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks.

However, he called for the maximum 5-year sentence for co-defendant Youssef Ait-Boulhacen, arguing that Ait-Boulhacen knew who the men were, what they had done, and that they were plotting another attack.

Ait-Boulahacen's sister, Hasna, found the hideout for the fugitives and died with them in a police standoff.

The trial is the first time a French court has heard a case related to the attacks, which killed 130 people.


Judge admonishes victims' dad who charged at Nassar in court
Legal Topics | 2018/02/03 23:48
A distraught father seething over sexual abuse suffered by three daughters tried to attack former sports doctor Larry Nassar in a Michigan courtroom Friday after a judge rejected his request to confront the "demon" in a locked room, a stunning rush that reflected the anguish felt by parents who trusted him with their children.

Randall Margraves was blocked by an attorney, tackled by sheriff's deputies and hauled out of court. He later apologized, saying he had lost control. Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham said there was "no way" she would fine him or send him to jail under her contempt-of-court powers.

"I don't know what it would be like to stand there as a father and know that three of your girls were injured physically and emotionally by somebody sitting in a courtroom. I can't imagine that," the judge said.

Nonetheless, she added, it is "not acceptable that we combat assault with assault."

The incident occurred during the third and final sentencing hearing for Nassar, who has admitted to sexually assaulting girls under the guise of medical treatment. This case focuses on his work at Twistars, an elite gymnastics club southwest of Lansing.

Nassar, 54, already will spend the rest of his life in prison. He was sentenced last week to 40 to 175 years in prison for assaults at Michigan State University and his home and was ordered in December to spend 60 years in a federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting nine victims in Eaton and Ingham counties, but the courts have been open to anyone who says she was assaulted during his decades of work at Michigan State, Twistars and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. More than 200 accusers so far have spoken or submitted statements in the two counties, and at least 80 percent have agreed to be publicly identified.

Margraves' dramatic move occurred after he listened to two of his daughters speak in court for 10 minutes. Lauren Margraves, a college student, said her parents were "filled with regret" because they took three daughters to see Nassar for sports injuries.

"I see the look in their faces and I know they want to be able to do something but they can't," she told Nassar. "The guilt they have will never go away. All this is because of you."

Her father then stepped up and asked the judge if she would grant him "five minutes in a locked room with this demon." Cunningham declined and also turned down his request for "one minute." That is when Randall Margraves rushed toward Nassar.

There were gasps and tears in the courtroom. Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis turned to the gallery and told families to "use your words," not violence.




UN court lays down Costa Rica, Nicaragua maritime borders
Areas of Focus | 2018/02/03 07:48
The International Court of Justice laid down definitive maritime boundaries Friday between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and a small land boundary in a remote, disputed wetland.

As part of the complex ruling, the United Nations' highest judicial organ ruled that a Nicaraguan military base on part of the disputed coastline close to the mouth of the San Juan River is on Costa Rican territory and must be removed.

Ruling in two cases filed by Costa Rica, the 16-judge U.N. panel took into account the two countries' coastlines and some islands in drawing what it called "equitable" maritime borders that carved up the continental shelf underneath the Caribbean and Pacific.


Such rulings can affect issues including fishing rights and exploration for resources like oil.

Earlier, the court ordered Nicaragua to compensate Costa Rica for damage Nicaragua caused with unlawful construction work near the mouth of the San Juan River, the court's first foray into assessing costs for environmental damage.

The order by the United Nations' principal judicial organ followed a December 2015 ruling that Nicaragua violated Costa Rica's sovereignty by establishing a military camp and digging channels near the river, part of a long-running border dispute in the remote region on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

In total, Nicaragua was ordered to pay just over $378,890 for environmental damage and other costs incurred by Costa Rica— a small fraction of the $6.7 million sought by San Jose.





Nassar to face another sentence, victims in return to court
Court News | 2018/02/01 10:18
Sports doctor Larry Nassar's return to court to face another prison sentence for molesting gymnasts could unfold much the same as a hearing last week in another Michigan county.

Judge Janice Cunningham has set aside several days for roughly 60 people who want to confront Nassar or have their statement read in court. This time Nassar is to be confronted by gymnasts from an elite Michigan club run by an Olympic coach.

Last week Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. The hearing starting Wednesday in Eaton County centers on his assaults at Twistars, a Lansing-area gymnastics club that was run by 2012 Olympic coach John Geddert. Nassar admits penetrating three girls with his hands when he was supposed to be treating them for injuries.


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