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Maryland redistricting case comes before Supreme Court
Headline Topics | 2018/03/19 16:08
The Supreme Court is taking up its second big partisan redistricting case of the term amid signs the justices could place limits on drawing maps for political gain.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in an appeal filed by Republicans in Maryland. They complain that Democrats who controlled the state government in 2011 drew a congressional district for the express purpose of ousting the Republican incumbent and replacing him with a Democrat.

In Wisconsin, Democrats are challenging legislative districts drawn by Republicans statewide. Those districts gave Republicans a huge majority in a state that otherwise is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts for being too partisan.

A decision in favor of opponents of partisan gerrymandering could cut into the political power of the dominant party in states in which one party controls the state government.

The court is expected to issue decisions in both cases by late June.

Maryland's 6th Congressional District had been centered in rural, Republican-leaning northwestern Maryland and had elected a Republican to Congress for 20 years. Incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett won re-election in 2010 by 28 percentage points.

But in the 2011 redistricting, Democrats altered the district to take in some Democratic suburbs of Washington, D.C. The new district had 62,000 fewer Republicans and 33,000 more Democrats. Bartlett lost the 2012 election by 21 percentage points.

Republican voters who sued over the changes said the state violated their First Amendment rights.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, is defending the district as competitive for both parties. Frosh said the district has elected a moderate Democrat, and in 2014, a friendlier year for Republican candidates, the victory margin of Democratic Rep. John Delaney dropped to less than 2 percentage points, though it rose again in 2016.


California court body has paid $500K to settle sex claims
Headline Topics | 2018/03/17 16:09
The policymaking body for California's courts says it has paid more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds since 2011 to settle five complaints of sexual harassment against judges and court employees.
   
The Judicial Council released the figures on Friday. They were first reported by the legal publication, the Recorder.
   
The council said three of the complaints were against judges and two were against court employees.
   
The council said it has paid another roughly $80,000 since 2010 to investigate sexual harassment allegations against five judicial officers.
   
It did not disclose any names or details of the individual cases.
   
The Judicial Council's figures come as California's Legislature has been embroiled in sexual misconduct scandals that have brought down several lawmakers.



Cambodian court denies opposition leader release on bail
Headline Topics | 2018/03/08 20:53
Cambodia's Supreme Court has denied bail for an opposition leader charged with treason who is seeking to be released for medical treatment abroad.

The court ruled Friday that Kem Sokha must remain in pretrial detention for his own safety and because the investigation into his case is ongoing. His Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved last November by a court ruling on a complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Kem Sokha's case is widely regarded as a political setup by the government to cripple its opponents ahead of a general election this July. The party's dissolution was linked to the treason charge against Kem Sokha, for which he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

Kem Sokha's lawyers say he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, and has fallen sick in prison since being detained last September.

The court said if Kem Sokha is sick, the prison will arrange for a doctor to examine him inside the prison facility.

"If Kem Sokha is not allowed to have medical treatment at a hospital and in case he dies inside the prison, who will take responsibility? Are all of you responsible?" one of Kem Sokha's lawyers, Chea Cheng, asked the court.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court this month granted a six-month extension for Kem Sokha's pre-trial detention period after the expiration of the initial six months. He has now been denied bail three times.

Kem Sokha was arrested last September on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from U.S. pro-democracy groups. The opposition party has denied the treason allegation, saying the charge is politically motivated.

In the past several years the opposition party has faced an onslaught of legal challenges from Hun Sen's government with the support of the courts, which are generally seen as favoring his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Court rulings forced Sam Rainsy, Kem Sokha's predecessor as opposition leader, to remain in exile to avoid prison and pressured him into resigning from his party. Other top opposition party leaders fled Cambodia after Kem Sokha's jailing and the party's dissolution.


Organized labor case goes in front of Supreme Court
Headline Topics | 2018/02/27 20:54
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could deal a painful financial blow to organized labor.

All eyes will be on Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday when the court takes up a challenge to an Illinois law that allows unions representing government employees to collect fees from workers who choose not to join. The unions say the outcome could affect more than 5 million government workers in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The court split 4-4 the last time it considered the issue in 2016. Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. Organized labor is a big supporter of Democratic candidates and interests. Unions strongly opposed Gorsuch's nomination by President Donald Trump.

Illinois government employee Mark Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees. Janus and the conservative interests that back him contend that everything unions representing public employees do is political, including contract negotiations.

The Trump administration is supporting Janus in his effort to persuade the court to overturn its 1977 ruling allowing states to require fair share fees for government employees.

The unions argue that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. People can't be compelled to contribute to unions' political activities.


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