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Liberals eye 2020 takeover of Wisconsin Supreme Court
Court Center | 2019/02/08 18:37
Wisconsin liberals hope to take a key step this spring toward breaking a long conservative stranglehold on the state's Supreme Court, in an election that could also serve as a barometer of the political mood in a key presidential swing state.

If the liberal-backed candidate wins the April 2 state Supreme Court race, liberals would be in prime position to take over the court when the next seat comes up in 2020 — during a presidential primary when Democrats expect to benefit from strong turnout.

The bitterly partisan court, which conservatives have controlled since 2008, has upheld several polarizing Republican-backed laws, none more so than former GOP Gov. Scott Walker's law that essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public workers.

If liberals can win in April and again in 2020, they would have the majority until at least 2025.

"It is absolutely critical we win this race," liberal attorney Tim Burns, who lost a Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2018, said of the April election. "It does set us up for next year to get a court that's likely to look very differently on issues of the day like voters' rights and gerrymandering."

The court could face big decisions on several partisan issues in the coming years, including on the next round of redistricting that follows the 2020 Census, lawsuits challenging the massive Foxconn Technology Group project backed by President Donald Trump, and attempts to undo laws that Republicans passed during a recent lame-duck session to weaken the incoming Democratic governor before he took office.


Ginsburg makes 1st public appearance since cancer surgery
Court Center | 2019/02/05 03:17
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is making her first public appearance since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December.

The 85-year-old Ginsburg is attending a concert at a museum a few blocks from the White House that is being given by her daughter-in-law and other musicians. Patrice Michaels is married to Ginsburg’s son, James. Michaels is a soprano and composer.

The concert is dedicated to Ginsburg’s life in the law.

Ginsburg had surgery in New York on Dec. 21. She missed arguments at the court in January, her first illness-related absence in more than 25 years as a justice.

She has been recuperating at her home in Washington since late December.

Ginsburg had two previous bouts with cancer. She had colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009.

The justice sat in the back of the darkened auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The National Constitution Center, which sponsored the concert, did not permit photography.

James Ginsburg said before the concert that his mother is walking a mile a day and meeting with her personal trainer twice a week.

The performance concluded with a song set to Ginsburg’s answers to questions.

In introducing the last song, Michaels said, “bring our show to a close, but not the epic and notorious story of RBG.”


Model in Russian court apologizes for US election claim
Court Center | 2019/01/17 15:15
A Belarusian model and self-styled sex instructor who last year claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election said Saturday that she apologizes to a Russian tycoon for the claim and won't say more about the matter.

Anastasia Vashukevich made the statement in a Moscow court that was considering whether to keep her in jail as she faces charges of inducement to prostitution. The court extended her detention for three more days.

Vashukevich's statement appears to head off any chance of her speaking to U.S. investigators looking into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign.

Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka on social media, was arrested in Thailand last February on prostitution charges. She and several others were arrested in connection with a sex training seminar they were holding in Thailand.

After her arrest she claimed she had audio tapes of Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, who is close to President Vladimir Putin, talking about interference in the U.S. election.

She had shot to world attention a few weeks earlier when a Russian opposition leader published an investigation based on her social media posts that suggested corrupt links between Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The report featured video from Deripaska's yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich says she was having an affair with him.

She was deported from Thailand on Thursday after pleading guilty and was detained when her flight arrived in Moscow, along with three other deportees including mentor Alexander Kirillov.

She told journalists in the Moscow court that she has apologized to Deripaska and says "I will no longer compromise him."

Deripaska is among the Russian tycoons and officials who have been sanctioned in recent years by the United States in connection with Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. His business empire includes aluminum, energy and construction assets.

He also once was a client of Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for Trump. Manafort was convicted last year in the United States of tax and bank fraud.


Connecticut Supreme Court issues fewer rulings in 2018
Court Center | 2019/01/17 15:10
Connecticut officials say state Supreme Court rulings declined sharply in 2018, possibly a result of a major shakeup of the court over the past two years that included the appointments of a new chief justice and four new associate justices.

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports the seven-member high court decided 86 cases in 2018, a 17 percent decrease from the 104 cases decided in 2017.

Paul Hartan is the chief administrative officer for state appeals courts. He says the learning curve of new justices likely contributed to the decline in rulings.

New justices appointed to fill vacancies since March 2017 include Gregory D'Auria, Raheem Mullins, Maria Araujo Kahn and Steven Ecker. Justice Richard Robinson became chief justice last May, succeeded Chase Rogers, who retired.



Las Vegas police seeking soccer star's DNA in rape case
Court Center | 2019/01/12 23:40
Cristiano Ronaldo is being asked by police to provide a DNA sample in an investigation of a Nevada woman's allegation that he raped her in his Las Vegas hotel penthouse in 2009 and paid her to keep quiet, the soccer star's lawyer and Las Vegas police said Thursday.

Attorney Peter S. Christiansen downplayed the development, denied the rape allegation and called evidence collection common in any investigation.

Police said in a statement that an official request has been submitted to Italian authorities for a DNA sample from the superstar player. Officer Laura Meltzer, a department spokeswoman, said the request involved a warrant.

Ronaldo, 33, plays for the Turin-based soccer club Juventus.

"Mr. Ronaldo has always maintained, as he does today, that what occurred in Las Vegas in 2009 was consensual in nature," Christiansen said, "so it is not surprising that DNA would be present, nor that the police would make this very standard request as part of their investigation."

Former model and schoolteacher Kathryn Mayorga reported the alleged attack to police in June 2009 and underwent a medical exam to collect DNA evidence.

But the investigation ended a short time later because Las Vegas police say she only identified her attacker as a European soccer player - not by name - and did not say where the incident took place.


Court orders mediation in Maryland desegregation case
Court Center | 2019/01/07 00:57
A federal appeals court has ordered a fourth attempt at mediation in a long-running dispute over the state of Maryland’s treatment of its historically black colleges.

The black colleges say the state has underfunded them while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly compete with them and drain prospective students away.

In 2013, a judge found that the state had maintained an unconstitutional “dual and segregated education system.” The judge said the state allowed traditionally white schools to replicate programs at historically black institutions, thereby undermining the success of the black schools.

Despite three previous tries at mediation, the two sides have been unable to agree on a solution.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Maryland’s higher education commission and the coalition to begin mediation again to try to settle the 12-year-old lawsuit.


High court to take new look at partisan electoral districts
Court Center | 2019/01/02 09:00
The Supreme Court is plunging back into the issue of whether electoral districts can be too partisan.

Disputes have arisen in cases involving North Carolina's heavily Republican congressional map and a Democratic congressional district in Maryland, and the justices said Friday they will hear arguments in March.

The high court could come out with the first limits on partisan politics in the drawing of electoral districts, but also could ultimately decide that federal judges have no role in trying to police political mapmaking.

The court took up the issue of partisan gerrymandering last term in cases from Wisconsin and the same Maryland district, but the justices failed to reach a decision on limiting political line-drawing for political gain.

Justice Anthony Kennedy had said he was open to limits. He has since retired, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh has taken Kennedy's seat. He has no judicial record on the issue.

The court again has taken one case in which Democrats are accused of unfairly limiting Republicans' political power and one in which Republicans are the alleged culprits. The court also has the entire North Carolina congressional map before it, but only the one Maryland district.

In both cases, however, lower courts have found that the party in charge of redistricting — Republicans in North Carolina, Democrats in Maryland — egregiously violated the rights of voters in the other party.

The North Carolina map was redrawn in 2016 because federal courts determined two districts originally drawn in 2011 were illegal because of excessive racial bias.


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