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Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Court Press News | 2018/02/07 23:43
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.


Top Pakistani court orders arrest of escaped police officer
Court Press News | 2018/01/29 10:37
Pakistan's Supreme Court gave police three days to arrest an absconding officer who is involved in killing an aspiring model in a 'fake shootout', a lawyer said Saturday.

Attorney Nazeer Mehsud says suspended police officer Rao Anwar did not appear at a hearing Saturday. Chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered his arrest and asked the Sindh police chief to summon him before him.

Anwar is accused killing of an aspiring social media model, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a controversial shootout earlier this month. Anwar had maintained that Mehsud was a militant belonging to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan group, without providing evidence to support the claim. He went into hiding when an investigation found Mehsud to be innocent and said the shootout was staged.

Sanaullah Abbasi, a senior police officer, earlier told The Associated Press that Naqeebullah Mehsud was not linked to militants as claimed by Anwar.

Anwar gained prominence in recent years for several shootouts with alleged terrorists in which neither him nor any of his team members were hurt. Mehsud, from Waziristan and a father of three, was the latest victim of Anwar's last shootout.

Mehsud's death triggered violent protests in his eastern Karachi and a protest sit-in by Mehsud tribe's is still ongoing. "My son Naqeeb was innocent, he was righteous. Rao Anwar is a tyrant who killed my son," said Muhammad Ahmed Mehsud, Mehsud's father, adding that he was overwhelmed by the support he received for his son.


Warrant dropped for professor who spoke Hawaiian in court
Court Press News | 2018/01/23 10:38
A judge dropped an arrest warrant Thursday for a University of Hawaii professor who refused to respond in court to English and spoke Hawaiian instead.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo was in court Wednesday facing a trial for charges connected to his participation in a 2017 protest against the construction of a solar telescope on top of Haleakala, a volcano on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported .

When Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked Kaeo to confirm his identity, he repeatedly responded in Hawaiian instead of English.

Kobayashi said he couldn't understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for Kaeo's arrest, saying "the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo."

Kaeo, an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, said he has appeared before the judge before and complained that "it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn't like."

Kobayashi recalled the bench warrant Thursday, the state Judiciary said in a statement. Judiciary spokesman Andrew Laurence declined to answer questions about the recall, including what prompted it.

Kaeo faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. Kaeo, who also speaks English, requested a Hawaiian interpreter in the courtroom but prosecutors had objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense that would have caused delays.


Supreme Court: Water rule suits should begin in trial courts
Court Press News | 2018/01/14 10:40
Opponents of an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution now know which courts should be hearing their lawsuits.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that litigation over the rule should begin in the lowest level of federal courts, not in the federal courts of appeal. The rule has never taken effect because of lawsuits and is now under review by President Donald Trump's administration.

The 2015 rule sought to settle a debate over which waterways are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate has dragged on for years and remained murky despite two Supreme Court rulings.

President Barack Obama's administration redefined "waters of the United States" protected under the act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.



Greek court backs extraditing Russian bitcoin suspect to US
Court Press News | 2017/12/11 11:05
Greece's Supreme Court has ruled in favor of extraditing a Russian cybercrime suspect to the United States to stand trial for allegedly laundering billions of dollars using the virtual currency bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik made his final appearance at an Athens court Wednesday amid an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. and Russia, who are both seeking his extradition.

Greece's justice minister will ultimately decide on whether Vinnik will be sent to Russia or the U.S.

The case was heard amid growing global interest in virtual currencies and their underlying blockchain technology, fuelled by the ongoing boom in the price of bitcoin.

The 38-year-old former bitcoin platform operator denies any wrongdoing but is not contesting the Russian request on less serious charges.

U.S. authorities accuse Vinnik of laundering $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.

Garrick Hileman, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, said bitcoin's growing acceptance by mainstream markets makes criminal cases surrounding the currency more significant.

"For bitcoin to continue to attract regulated and institutional investors it will need to operate within the law," he told the AP.

"The United States, with the support of evidence from various cyber sleuths, is arguing that Vinnik and BTC-e were two of the biggest bad actors in the crypto-currency industry. Bringing bad actors to justice will help bitcoin move beyond its tainted history."

Vinnik was arrested at a northern Greek holiday resort in July and a lower court has already approved his extradition to the U.S.

Ilias Spyrliadis, a lawyer for Vinnik's defense, said they would formally respond after Wednesday's decision is published, in about one week.

"The Supreme Court has in essence accepted that our client should be sent to the United States," the lawyer said. "Our client has not made any response. He listened to the ruling as it was read out ... It is now up to the justice minister to decide when and where our client will be sent."


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