Court leaves black judge on case against white officer
Court News | 2018/02/24 06:24
The Alabama Supreme Court is refusing to make a black judge quit the case of a white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man.

The justices without comment Friday turned down a request from officer Aaron Cody Smith of the Montgomery Police Department.

Smith is charged in the shooting death two years ago of 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who authorities say was walking in his neighborhood when Smith shot him.

Defense attorneys sought a new judge based on social media posts of Circuit Judge Greg Griffin, who wrote about being stopped by police because he is black.

Griffin refused to step aside and accused the defense of injecting race into the case. Smith's lawyers appealed.


Supreme Court sides with Chicago museum in terror case
Court News | 2018/02/22 14:24
The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.


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.


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.


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.


Pennsylvania GOP take gerrymandering case to US high court
Court News | 2018/01/28 07:42
Pennsylvania's top Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to stop an order by the state's highest court in a gerrymandering case brought by Democrats that threw out the boundaries of its 18 congressional districts and ordered them redrawn within three weeks.

Republicans who control Pennsylvania's Legislature wrote that state Supreme Court justices unconstitutionally usurped the authority of lawmakers to create congressional districts and they asked the nation's high court to put the decision on hold while it considers their claims.

The 22-page argument acknowledged that "judicial activism" by a state supreme court is ordinarily beyond the U.S. Supreme Court's purview. But, it said, "the question of what does and does not constitute a 'legislative function' under the Elections Clause is a question of federal, not state, law, and this Court is the arbiter of that distinction."

Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency appeals from Pennsylvania, could ask the registered Democratic voters on the other side of the case to respond. Alito could act on his own, though the full court generally gets involved in cases involving elections. An order could come in a matter of days, although there is no deadline for the justices to act.

Pennsylvania's congressional districts are criticized as among the nation's most gerrymandered. Its case is happening amid a national tide of gerrymandering cases from various states, including some already under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Election law scholars call the Republicans' request for the U.S. Supreme Court's intervention a long shot.

They say they know of no other state court decision throwing out a congressional map because of partisan gerrymandering, and the nation's high court has never struck down an electoral map as a partisan gerrymander.


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