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Supreme Court takes up cases about race in redistricting
Headline News | 2016/12/05 16:47
The Supreme Court is taking up a pair of cases in which African-American voters maintain that Southern states discriminated against them in drawing electoral districts.

The justices are hearing arguments Monday in redistricting disputes from North Carolina and Virginia.

The claim made by black voters in both states is that Republicans created districts with more reliably Democratic black voters than necessary to elect their preferred candidates, making neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.

A federal court struck down two North Carolina districts as unconstitutional because they relied too heavily on race. In Virginia, a court rejected a constitutional challenge to 12 state legislative districts. The justices have frequently considered the intersection of race and politics.


UK Supreme Court hears landmark challenge to Brexit plans
Headline News | 2016/12/04 16:48
Britain's Supreme Court began hearing a landmark case Monday that will decide who has the power to trigger the U.K.'s exit from the European Union — the government or Parliament.

The legal battle has major constitutional implications for the balance of power between the legislature and the executive, and has inflamed Britain's already raw wound over how and whether to leave the EU.

The court's most senior justice, David Neuberger, opened the four-day hearing by condemning the "threats of serious violence and unpleasant abuse" directed at Gina Miller, one of the claimants trying to ensure Parliament gets a say.

"Threatening and abusing people because they are exercising their fundamental right to go to court undermines the rule of law," Neuberger said, banning publication of the addresses of Miller and other parties in the case.

Neuberger and 10 other justices at the country's top court must decide whether Prime Minister Theresa May's government can invoke Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, the trigger for two years of divorce talks, without the approval of lawmakers.

May plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, using centuries-old government powers known as royal prerogative. The powers — traditionally held by the monarch but now used by politicians — enable decisions about joining or leaving international treaties to be made without a parliamentary vote.

Financial entrepreneur Miller and another claimant, hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, went to court to argue that leaving the EU would remove some of their rights, including free movement within the bloc, and that shouldn't be done without Parliament's approval.



Philippine court urged to order Marcos' remains exhumed
Headline News | 2016/11/20 18:20
Human rights victims who suffered during the rule of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos filed petitions Monday asking the Supreme Court to order the exhumation of his remains that were buried last week at the country's Heroes' Cemetery.

They also want the court to hold officials and his heirs in contempt for carrying out the burial before the court heard final appeals against it.

Former President Fidel Ramos, who played a key role in the peaceful army-backed revolt that ousted Marcos in 1986, called the former leader's burial at the military-run cemetery "an insult" to the sacrifices of soldiers and veterans.

Left-wing former lawmaker Saturnino Ocampo and other activists urged the court to hold Marcos' widow Imelda, their three children, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and two military officials in contempt for "the hasty, shady and tricky" burial on Friday of the long-dead president at the Heroes' Cemetery.

The petition said they should be fined and detained for mocking the legal process that gave petitioners 15 days to appeal the court's Nov. 8 ruling allowing the burial.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman, who represents another group of petitioners, sought a court order to have the remains exhumed "because the hasty and surreptitious interment was premature, void and irregular."

He asked that the remains be examined to determine if they are not a wax replica. The secrecy-shrouded burial at the cemetery reserved for presidents, soldiers and national artists shocked democracy advocates and human rights victims, prompting street protests in Manila and other cities.

Marcos's rule was marked by massive rights violations and plunder. After being ousted in 1986, he flew to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children until he died in 1989.


French court restores far-right candidate's ties to father
Headline News | 2016/11/16 18:20
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen thought she had cut the political cord with her controversial father by expelling him from the far-right party he founded, but a court ruled Thursday Jean-Marie Le Pen still is the National Front's honorary president.

While campaigning in next spring's presidential election, Marine Le Pen has worked to smooth her image and distance herself from her father's extremist views and anti-Semitic comments. Kicking him out of the party was part of her strategy.

The civil court outside that heard Jean-Marie Le Pen's reinstatement claim upheld the National Front's decision last year to expel him as a rank-and-file member. But the court also ruled that the 88-year-old firebrand can remain the party's honorary president.

As a result, the court ordered the National Front to summon the elder Le Pen to any high-level party meetings and to give him voting rights as an ex-officio member of all the party's governing bodies.

"No statutory provisions specify that the honorary president must be a member of the National Front," the judges said.

The court sentenced the party to pay Jean-Marie Le Pen 23,000 euros ($24,500) in damages and lawyers' fee.

"This can be called a success," his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, told reporters after the ruling was returned.

Joachim had asked the court for 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in damages because "it's a political life they tried to destroy at home and to cast scorn on abroad."

The party's lawyers didn't immediately comment on the ruling, which both sides can appeal.

The National Front ousted the party patriarch for a series of comments, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II history.

Le Pen contends his comments were protected by freedom of expression, though he has been sentenced repeatedly in France for inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity.


2 teens killed in Atlanta suburb: Man accused due in court
Headline News | 2016/08/19 17:57
A man accused of killing two teenagers near Atlanta is set to appear in court for a preliminary hearing.

Jeffrey Hazelwood is scheduled to appear Friday morning in Fulton County Magistrate Court.

The 20-year-old is charged with murder and theft in the killings of Carter Davis and Natalie Henderson in Roswell. The 17-year-olds were shot in the head. An autopsy report says their bodies were found behind a grocery store and had been placed in distinct poses.

Police have declined to discuss a possible motive for the slayings, or whether Hazelwood knew the teens.

Hazelwood's attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, has said he'll provide a vigorous defense.

Henderson and Davis, who used to live in Rapid City, South Dakota, would have been seniors this year at their Georgia high schools.


Obama rebukes Poland over paralysis of constitutional court
Headline News | 2016/07/04 17:25
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern Friday about the state of democracy in Poland, publicly rebuking a right-wing government that has paralyzed the constitutional court and taken steps to control state run media.

Obama said he shared his worries with Polish President Andrzej Duda in a one-on-one meeting before the opening of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

"I expressed to President Duda our concerns about certain actions and the impasse around Poland's constitutional tribunal," Obama told reporters. "I insisted that we are very respectful of Poland's sovereignty and I recognized that parliament is working on legislation to take important steps but more needs to be done."

Poland has been stuck for months in controversy over the 15-member Constitutional Tribunal, a body that rules on the constitutionality of legislation, playing a role similar to that of the U.S. Supreme Court. The dispute concerns both appointments to the court and the rules that govern how it functions.

Opponents say the government's actions undermine democracy and have held several large street protests in recent months. The government's leaders say it is only trying to correct an imbalance, with appointments by the previous centrist government dominating the court.



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