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Arkansas court hears challenge over reworked voter ID law
Court Feed News | 2018/09/21 05:14
An Arkansas attorney told state's highest court on Thursday it should strike down a law that requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, saying the measure circumvents a 2014 ruling against a nearly identical voter ID requirement.

The Arkansas Supreme Court heard arguments from the state, which is defending the law, and Jeff Priebe, who represents a Little Rock voter challenging the measure as unconstitutional. Justices in May halted a state judge's ruling preventing Arkansas from enforcing the voter ID law, keeping it in place while they consider the case.

The high court in 2014 struck down a previous version of the voter ID law as unconstitutional. The revived voter ID law, which was approved last year, requires voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot. Unlike the previous measure, the new law allows voters to cast provisional ballots if they sign a sworn statement confirming their identities.

"It's closing the ballot booth doors," Priebe said during the roughly hour-long hearing.

Arkansas officials argue the new law complies with part of the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the 2013 measure. Justices in 2014 unanimously struck down the previous voter ID law, with a majority of the court ruling it unconstitutionally added a qualification to vote. Three justices, however, ruled the measure didn't get the two-thirds vote needed to change voter registration requirements. A majority of the court has changed hands since that ruling, and more than two-thirds of the House and Senate approved the new measure last year.

Deputy Secretary of State A.J. Kelly told the justices the lower court "has usurped the power of the Legislature to amend the Constitution" by blocking the law. "A single man has a driver's license and refuses to show it to vote, and he alone has put a constitutional amendment in jeopardy," Kelly said.

Justices did not indicate when they would rule. If they strike the law, it wouldn't affect a separate proposal on the ballot in November that would put a voter ID requirement in the state's constitution.

The court is considering the case weeks before voters head to the polls in an election where national Democrats are trying to flip a Little Rock-area congressional seat currently held by a Republican. Justice Courtney Goodson, who wrote the concurring opinion four years ago citing the two-thirds vote as the reason for striking the previous law, is seeking re-election in November in a race that has already drawn heavy spending from conservative groups opposing her bid.


Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets
Court Feed News | 2018/09/06 05:53
Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws.

It comes as many places across the West Coast are struggling with homelessness brought on by rising housing costs and income inequality.

When the Boise lawsuit was filed, attorneys for the homeless residents said as many as 4,500 people didn't have a place to sleep in Idaho's capital city and homeless shelters only had about 700 available beds or mats. The case bounced back and forth in the courts for years, and Boise modified its rules in 2014 to say homeless people couldn't be prosecuted for sleeping outside when shelters were full.

But that didn't solve the problem, the attorneys said, because Boise's shelters limit the number of days that homeless residents can stay. Two of the city's three shelters also require some form of religious participation for some programs, making those shelters unsuitable for people with different beliefs, the homeless residents said.

The three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit found that the shelter rules meant homeless people would still be at risk of prosecution even on days when beds were open. The judges also said the religious programming woven into some shelter programs was a problem.


German court mulls jail for some over Munich air pollution
Court Feed News | 2018/08/28 03:09
A German newspaper reports that judges are considering jailing senior Bavarian officials for failing to take action against air pollution in Munich, home to automaker BMW.

Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Monday that the southern German state's administrative court believes jailing officials may be the most effective way of forcing the Bavarian government to enforce emissions-cutting measures.

Munich topped the ranks of 65 German cities that exceeded levels of harmful particles last year. Bavarian officials have refused to impose measures in the state capital — such as limited bans on driving diesel vehicles — despite heavy fines.

According to the report, Bavarian judges want to seek legal guidance from the European Court of Justice on whether jailing officials — including state Environment Minister Marcel Huber and Governor Markus Soeder — would be permissible.


California high court rules for immigrant kids in visa fight
Court Feed News | 2018/08/17 20:05
The California Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for some immigrant children who are abused or abandoned by a parent to seek a U.S. visa to avoid deportation in a ruling that advocates said would help thousands of children.

State judges cannot require that children drag an absentee parent living abroad into court in their visa application process, the justices said in a unanimous decision. Immigration rights advocates had warned that such a requirement would make it nearly impossible for the children to fight deportation. That's because courts in California cannot establish authority over a foreign citizen and the parent may want nothing to do with a child claiming abuse, and would refuse to participate in a court proceeding in the U.S., immigration groups said.

The ruling overturned a lower court decision. The California Supreme Court said it was sufficient to adequately notify the absent parent of the court proceedings, but that parent did not have to be a party to the case.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in court documents that the case had implications for a "substantial portion" of the thousands of children who have fled to the U.S. from Central America and Mexico and settled in California. Kristen Jackson, an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, estimated the ruling would affect thousands of children.



Ugandan pop star, a government critic, faces military court
Court Feed News | 2018/08/15 20:05
A pop singer and prominent critic of Uganda's government was charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition in a military court on Thursday for his alleged role in clashes in which the longtime president's motorcade was attacked by people throwing stones.

Lawmaker Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, whose stage name is Bobi Wine, was arrested in the northwestern town of Arua earlier this week. In a court session closed to reporters, he was remanded and will reappear on Aug. 23, the military said in a statement.

Ssentamu's wife insisted he doesn't know how to handle a weapon, and rights activists demanded his release. In a suburb of the capital, Kampala, small groups of his supporters took to the streets and burned tires in protest but police quickly dispersed them, national police spokesman Emilian Kayima said.

Three other lawmakers arrested alongside Ssentamu were charged earlier on Thursday with treason in a magistrates' court in the northern town of Gulu, where he was detained.

Many Ugandans expressed concern for Ssentamu's safety after Uganda's deputy prime minister told lawmakers he had been hospitalized in custody, without giving details.

The clashes broke out on Monday when Ssentamu and other politicians, including President Yoweri Museveni, were in Arua campaigning in a by-election to choose a lawmaker after the previous one was shot dead near Kampala in June.

Ssentamu's driver was shot dead in the clashes. The lawmaker later posted a picture of the dead man on Twitter, saying he had been killed by the police "thinking they've shot at me."

A group of lawmakers authorized by the parliamentary speaker to investigate the situation told reporters on Thursday that they had been unable to see the pop star.



Zimbabwe's opposition challenges election results in court
Court Feed News | 2018/08/13 23:41
Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.

Zimbabwe's main opposition party on Friday filed a legal challenge to the results of the country's first election without Robert Mugabe on the ballot, alleging "gross mathematical errors" and calling for a fresh vote or a declaration that their candidate Nelson Chamisa was the winner.

The filing brings more uncertainty to a country that had hoped the peaceful vote would begin a new era but has been rocked since then by scenes of military in the streets and opposition supporters harassed and beaten.

The court now has 14 days to rule, and Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the inauguration, once planned for Sunday for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is "on hold' until then.



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