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Expensive, partisan Wisconsin high court race nears end
Headline Court News | 2018/04/03 16:03
An expensive and openly partisan race for Wisconsin's Supreme Court neared an end Tuesday, with voters choosing between a conservative appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a liberal who drew support from former Obama administration officials.

The race between Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet was nonpartisan in name only, with both sides eager to win the 10-year seat on a high court whose ideological split has been on public display in recent years.

Conservatives held a 5-2 majority going into the election, so control wasn't at stake. But Democrats hoped to build on a surprising victory in January in a special state Senate election, especially with two more special legislative elections coming this summer.

The race was closely watched as a potential bellwether of voter attitudes in Wisconsin ahead of the fall midterms, although results of past Supreme Court elections have not consistently proven to be predictive of what will happen in November. President Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2016.

Screnock, 48, was appointed circuit judge by Walker in 2015 and counted the conservative state chamber of commerce, a variety of anti-abortion groups and the National Rifle Association among his supporters.

Dallet, 48, was elected judge in 2008 after working 11 years as a prosecutor. She benefited from spending by a group started by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and was endorsed by trade and teacher unions, Planned Parenthood and more than 200 Wisconsin judges.

Both candidates argued the other couldn't be trusted to serve as an independent voice on the state's highest court because of partisan campaign support.

Spending on TV ads in the race was expected to approach $4.5 million, about what was spent on the 2016 race, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks spending on court races nationwide.

Dallet ran with a tough-on-crime message, focusing on her prosecutorial experience followed by 10 years working as a judge in Milwaukee. She argued that the conservative-controlled Supreme Court is "broken," and criticized the justices for not adopting a recusal rule forcing them to step down from cases involving large campaign donors.

Screnock said he was devoted to the rule of law and a strict interpretation of the Constitution, arguments that winning conservative candidates have used in recent state Supreme Court elections


Court hears case alleging unconstitutional 6th District gerrymander
Headline Court News | 2018/03/21 16:07
U.S. Supreme Court justices expressed frustration with partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday as they heard arguments in a case challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

The case, which alleges a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the same time justices are considering the constitutionality of an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, has some legal experts wondering whether the justices might be on the verge of establishing a standard that would allow judicial intervention in partisan gerrymandering cases for the first time in the court’s history.

The 6th District challenge was brought by seven Maryland residents, including three from Frederick County, who argue that the district — which includes southwestern parts of Frederick County and the city of Frederick — was unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Democrats and punish Republicans during the reapportionment process after the 2010 census.

The justices heard arguments in the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case in October, but have not yet released an opinion.

The Maryland and Wisconsin cases both focus on unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, but there are some important differences. The Maryland case challenges the redrawing of a single federal district to favor Democrats, while the Wisconsin case is based on the statewide redrawing of Wisconsin State Assembly districts to favor Republicans.

The two cases also allege different violations of voters’ rights: The Maryland case claims retaliation against Republican voters under a First Amendment framework, while the Wisconsin plaintiffs are alleging a violation of the equal protection clause under the 14th Amendment.


Hong Kong court to rule later on 3 activists' prison terms
Headline Court News | 2018/01/16 22:48
Three Hong Kong activists will have to wait to learn the outcome of their final appeal Tuesday to overturn prison sentences for their roles in sparking 2014's massive pro-democracy protests in the semiautonomous Chinese city.

Judges at Hong Kong's top court said they would issue their decision at a later, unspecified date following the appeal hearing for Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow against the sentences of up to eight months. Bail for the three was extended.

The three were initially let off with suspended or community service sentences after they were convicted of taking part in or inciting an unlawful assembly by storming a courtyard at government headquarters to kick-off the protests.

But the case sparked controversy when the justice secretary requested a sentencing review that resulted in stiffer sentences, raising concerns about rule of law and fears that the city's Beijing-backed government is tightening up on dissent.

The trio's lawyers said the lower court overstepped its boundaries and put too much emphasis on the need for deterrence in handing down the revised harsher sentence.

"Laying down a heavy sentence will have a deterrent effect, but a balance has to be held between a deterrent and stifling young idealistic people," Law's lawyer, Robert Pang, told the judges.


Court: Colorado county wrongly OK’d asphalt plant near homes
Headline Court News | 2017/11/25 14:06
A Colorado court has overturned Weld County’s approval of a $20 million concrete and asphalt plant currently under construction, saying the county had evidence the plant would violate noise standards.

The Greeley Tribune reports the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday the county commissioners improperly approved the Martin Marietta Materials plant near a residential neighborhood.

The site is also near an organic farm and a planned wedding venue along U.S. 34 between Greeley and Loveland.

Officials for Martin Marietta and Weld County said they were reviewing the decision before deciding their next steps. County commissioners approved the plant in August 2015 and neighbors filed suit a month later.

Construction began in October of 2015, and Martin Marietta regional vice president David Hagerman says the plant is nearly complete.



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