Missouri court lets redistricting initiative go to voters
Court Watch | 2018/09/21 04:49
A Missouri appeals court panel cleared the way Friday for voters to decide a November ballot initiative that could shake up of the state Legislature by requiring districts to be drawn to achieve "partisan fairness" and imposing new lobbying limits.

The ruling overturned a decision issued a week ago by a state judge who said the so-called Clean Missouri initiative violated the state constitution by addressing multiple topics.

The Western District appeals panel disagreed, ruling that the "multiple provisions all relate to a single central purpose: regulating the legislature to limit the influence of partisan or other special interests."

Republican-aligned attorneys for those opposing the measure said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court. But time is running short. Missouri law sets a Tuesday deadline to make changes to the Nov. 6. ballot. The state's high court previously turned down a chance to hear the case in place of the appeals panel.

As it stands, the measure would appear on the ballot as Constitutional Amendment 1.

"We hope this brings an end to it and that the people can vote in November on whether they want to adopt these changes," said attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represents Clean Missouri.

The initiative has been opposed in court by the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a Republican voter who was represented by the law firm of Missouri Republican Party Chairman Todd Graves.



Guatemala court orders UN anti-graft chief be readmitted
Court Watch | 2018/09/17 19:16
Guatemala's Constitutional Court has ordered President Jimmy Morales to allow the head of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission to return to the country.

Ivan Velasquez is the head of the commission known as CICIG for its initials in Spanish. It has led a number of high-profile graft investigations, including one that is pending against Morales.

Earlier this month the president announced that he would not renew CICIG's mandate for another two-year term, effectively giving it a year to wind down and end its activities.

He later said that Velasquez, who was traveling in Washington, would be barred from re-entering the Central American nation. Morales called Velasquez "a person who attacks order and public security in the country."


Nebraska’s top court: Voters to decide on expanding Medicaid
Court Watch | 2018/09/13 04:43
The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that voters will decide in November whether to expand Medicaid in the state.

The court’s rejection of a Republican-led lawsuit Wednesday is a victory for advocates who say a vote favoring expansion would ensure coverage for about 90,000 low-income residents who earn too much to qualify for regular Medicaid but too little to be eligible for assistance under the Affordable Care Act.

Nebraska’s Republican-dominated Legislature rejected six previous attempts to expand Medicaid. Utah and Idaho have similar ballot measures pending. Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot measure last year.

The lawsuit was filed by state Sen. Lydia Brasch and former state Sen. Mark Christensen, both Republicans who helped derail similar bills in the Legislature.


Indiana high court to consider city rental registration fee
Court Watch | 2018/09/10 20:01
The Indiana Supreme Court is preparing to review the constitutionality of a 2015 state law targeting the city of Hammond's rental registration revenue.

The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports that the state's high court will hear oral arguments Thursday about a law limiting housing rental registration fees to $5 per unit per year. The law exempts Bloomington and West Lafayette due to their unique rental market as college towns, but applies to Hammond, which charges rental registration fees of $80 per unit.

The state Court of Appeals struck down the law in February, concluding that lawmakers violated the constitutional ban on special laws "relating to fees or salaries" by allowing only the two college towns to charge a rental registration fee distinct from what applies across the rest of Indiana.



The Latest: Authorities: Officer arrested for manslaughter
Court Watch | 2018/09/10 20:00
The Texas Department of Public Safety says a white Dallas police officer has been arrested on a manslaughter warrant in the shooting of a black man at his apartment.

The department said in a news release Sunday night that Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail and that the investigation is ongoing. It said no additional information is available at this time. The 30-year-old Guyger killed 26-year-old Botham Jean on Thursday.

Police say Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and she told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean's apartment for her own.

The lawyer for the family of a 26-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer who said she mistook his apartment for hers is calling for her to be charged.

S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said Saturday that the family isn't calling on the authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Officer Amber Guyger her right to due process.

But he says they want Guyger "to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they've committed a crime, that there's a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made."

Online records show that Guyger hadn't been charged as of Sunday morning.



Rancorous, partisan start for Kavanaugh high court hearin
Court Watch | 2018/09/03 20:58
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared fervently at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday the court "must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution." But that was at the end of a marathon day marked by rancorous exchanges between Democrats and Republicans, including dire Democratic fears that he would be President Donald Trump's advocate on the high court.

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the first day of the new term, Oct. 1, and little more than a month before congressional elections.

However, the first of at least four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee began with partisan quarreling over the nomination and persistent protests from members of the audience, followed by their arrests.

Strong Democratic opposition to Trump's nominee reflects the political stakes for both parties in advance of the November elections, Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign and the potentially pivotal role Kavanaugh could play in moving the court to the right.

Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings in a dispute over Kavanaugh records withheld by the White House. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus.

Trump jumped into the fray late in the day, saying on Twitter that Democrats were "looking to inflict pain and embarrassment" on Kavanaugh.

The president's comment followed the statements of Democratic senators who warned that Trump was, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, "selecting a justice on the Supreme Court who potentially will cast a decisive vote in his own case."

In Kavanaugh's own statement at the end of more than seven hours of arguing, the federal appeals judge spoke repeatedly about the importance of an independent judiciary and the need to keep the court above partisan politics, common refrains among Supreme Court nominees that had added salience in the fraught political atmosphere of the moment.


Cooper, GOP lawmakers back in court on altered amendments
Court Watch | 2018/08/30 23:02
Gov. Roy Cooper is seeking to persuade a judicial panel a second time to keep questions for two proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution off the November ballot.

Attorneys for the Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers are expected in a Raleigh courtroom Friday, when three trial judges will hear arguments on Cooper's request to block those amendments.

A majority on this same judicial panel last week prevented referendums for two previous versions of the amendments the General Assembly approved from going on ballots. That prompted GOP legislators to submit slightly different amendments and questions. Cooper argues those questions are misleading to the public, like the earlier ones.

The amendments would swing control over judicial vacancies and state election board membership from the governor to the legislature.


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