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Supreme Court strikes down 2 NC congressional districts
Legal Career News | 2017/05/23 00:39
The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina Monday because race played too large a role in their creation.

The justices ruled that Republicans who controlled the state legislature and governor's office in 2011 placed too many African-Americans in the two districts. The result was to weaken African-American voting strength elsewhere in North Carolina.

Both districts have since been redrawn and the state conducted elections under the new congressional map in 2016. Even with the new districts, Republicans maintained their 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the state did not offer compelling justifications to justify its reliance on race in either district.

The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court and Kagan noted that one of the districts was "making its fifth appearance before this court."

States have to take race into account when drawing maps for legislative, congressional and a host of municipal political districts. At the same time, race can't be the predominant factor without very strong reasons, under a line of high court cases stretching back 20 years.

A three-judge federal court had previously struck down the two districts. The justices upheld the lower court ruling on both counts.

The court unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling on District 1 in northeastern North Carolina. Kagan wrote that the court will not "approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence."

The justices split 5-3 on the other district, District 12 in the southwestern part of the state. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices to form a majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not part in the case.

The state insisted that race played no role at all in the creation of one district. Instead, the state argued that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.

Court pauses criminal case against Texas' attorney general
Legal Career News | 2017/05/17 00:40
A state appeals court has temporarily halted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal case on securities fraud charges as he presses for a new judge.

The ruling Tuesday comes as Paxton is scheduled to stand trial in Houston in September on felony accusations that he misled investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals is now putting the case on hold while it considers Paxton's demand for a new judge. The Republican has sought to remove state District Judge George Gallagher after the trial was moved from Paxton's hometown near Dallas.

The court didn't indicate when it will make a final decision. If convicted, Paxton faces five to 99 years in prison.

Court likely to question if Trump's travel ban discriminates
Legal Career News | 2017/05/15 23:14
For the second time in a week, government lawyers will try to persuade a federal appeals court to reinstate President Donald Trump's revised travel ban — and once again, they can expect plenty of questions Monday about whether it was designed to discriminate against Muslims.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments in Seattle over Hawaii's lawsuit challenging the travel ban, which would suspend the nation's refugee program and temporarily bar new visas for citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Last week, judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether to affirm a Maryland judge's decision putting the ban on ice. They peppered Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall with questions about whether they could consider Trump's campaign statements calling for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., with one judge asking if there was anything other than "willful blindness" that would prevent them from doing so.

Monday's arguments mark the second time Trump's efforts to restrict immigration from certain Muslim-majority nations have reached the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit.

After Trump issued his initial travel ban on a Friday in late January, bringing chaos and protests to airports around the country, a Seattle judge blocked its enforcement nationwide — a decision that was unanimously upheld by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel.

Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying top court
Legal Career News | 2017/05/09 23:16
India's top court on Tuesday found wanted tycoon Vijay Mallya guilty of disobeying its order barring him from transferring $40 million to his children.

Mallya, who fled to London last year, is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and bank demands that he pay back more than a billion dollars in loans extended to his now-defunct airline. India has been seeking his extradition over the charges, which Mallya denies.

The Supreme Court in its ruling Tuesday acted on a plea by Indian banks, who said Mallya received $40 million from the British firm Diageo and transferred it to his son and two daughters illegally. The court asked Mallya to appear before it in July to decide the punishment.

Mallya was famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models and Bollywood stars. He was once hailed as India's version of British tycoon Richard Branson for his investments in a brewing and liquor company, an airline, a Formula One team and an Indian Premier League cricket club.

He ran into trouble when he failed to return millions of dollars of loans and left India last year amid attempts by a group of banks to recover the money.

India's External Affairs Ministry says Britain is still considering its request to issue a warrant for Mallya and to extradite him.

Court: Gay couple's suit against Kentucky clerk can proceed
Legal Career News | 2017/05/02 20:45
A federal appeals court says a gay couple's lawsuit seeking damages from a Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue them a marriage license can proceed. The ruling revives an issue that pulled the state into the center of a national debate over same-sex marriages following a historic Supreme Court ruling.

David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license in Rowan County, Kentucky, in June 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional. But Kim Davis, the county clerk, refused to issue them a license because she said it violated her religious beliefs.

Ermold and Moore sued, along with several other couples. Davis lost, and spent five days in jail for refusing to follow a court order. The dispute thrust the embattled clerk into the national limelight and prompted same-sex marriage opponents across the country to rally behind her. A Republican congressman from Ohio gave her a ticket to former President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. And she met with Pope Francis in Washington, although that encounter quickly sent the Vatican scrambling to distance itself from the controversy.

Davis has since changed her party affiliation to Republican, saying the Democratic Party had abandoned her. Ermold and Moore want Davis to pay damages for the emotional distress caused by her refusal to issue them a license. Ermold and Moore were not the first couple to be denied a license. But they filmed their rejection and uploaded it to YouTube, which has been viewed more than 1.8 million times.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious-liberty issues, has represented Davis throughout the case. The firm also represents former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who ordered state probate judges to continue to enforce that state's ban on same-sex marriage despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Moore was removed from his post because of his order. He is now running for U.S. Senate.

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