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The Supreme Court will take up a momentous fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans across the United States.

At issue is whether Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin drew legislative districts that favored their party and were so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.

It will be the high court's first case in more than a decade on what's known as partisan gerrymandering. A lower court struck down the districts as unconstitutional last year.

The justices won't hear the arguments until the fall, but the case has already taken on a distinctly ideological, if not partisan, tone. Just 90 minutes after justices announced Monday that they would hear the case, the five more conservative justices voted to halt a lower court's order to redraw the state's legislative districts by November, in time for next year's elections.

The four more liberal justices, named to the court by Democrats, would have let the new line-drawing proceed even as the court considers the issue.

That divide could be significant. One factor the court weighs in making such decisions is which side seems to have a better chance of winning.

Republicans who control the state legislature assured the court that they could draw new maps in time for the 2018 elections, if the court strikes down the districts. If the state wins, there'll be no need for new districts.

Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into Republican electoral majorities. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps.

Both parties have tried to get the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.




A Mississippi jurist can call herself "JudgeCutie" without ruffling the dignity of the legal profession.

That's what the Mississippi Supreme Court says in one of its speediest decisions in years.

Only two days after hearing arguments, the court — which often takes months for decisions — dismissed a complaint filed against Gay Polk-Payton. The justice court judge has gone by "JudgeCutie" on social media.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance sought to reprimand her, saying she had used her job on the bench and the online persona to promote herself as a motivational speaker and musical entertainer.

During arguments to the Supreme Court, her attorney Oliver Diaz pointed out that other Mississippi judges have used names that some might consider less than dignified. One was Noah "Soggy" Sweat, a circuit judge from 1966 to 1974.

Court papers say "Judge Cutie" is a play on the name of TV's "Judge Judy."




In an era of deep partisan division, the Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

A dispute over Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn boundaries for the state legislature offers Democrats some hope of cutting into GOP electoral majorities across the United States. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps. The justices could say as early as Monday whether they will intervene.

The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census. The issue of gerrymandering — creating districts that often are oddly shaped and with the aim of benefiting one party — is centuries old. The term comes from a Massachusetts state Senate district that resembled a salamander and was approved in 1812 by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.

Both parties have sought the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the Wisconsin case, a federal court struck down the districts as unconstitutional in November, finding they were drawn to unfairly minimize the influence of Democratic voters.

The challengers to the Wisconsin districts say it is an extreme example of redistricting that has led to ever-increasing polarization in American politics because so few districts are genuinely competitive between the parties. In these safe seats, incumbents tend to be more concerned about primary challengers, so they try to appeal mostly to their party’s base.



Bill Cosby, the comedian and actor once known as "America's Dad" for his TV role as paternal Dr. Cliff Huxtable, avoided a conviction on Father's Day weekend as a jury declared itself hopelessly deadlocked on charges he drugged and molested a woman more than a decade ago.

Prosecutors found themselves back to square one Saturday after the judge declared a mistrial following more than 52 hours of deliberations over six days.

Excoriated by the defense for charging Cosby in the first place, District Attorney Kevin Steele vowed to put him on trial a second time, saying accuser Andrea Constand supported the decision.

"She has shown such courage through this, and we are in awe of what she has done," Steele said. "She's entitled to a verdict in this case." Cosby's team declared victory, however temporary.

By sowing doubt among one or more jurors, Cosby's lawyers managed to overcome two years of unrelenting bad publicity for their client after the public release of his damaging testimony about drugs and sex, as well as a barrage of accusations from 60 women who came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

Constand told jurors Cosby gave her pills that made her woozy and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay paralyzed on a couch, unable to tell him to stop. The 2004 encounter at Cosby's suburban Philadelphia estate was the only one to result in criminal charges.

Constand is ready to go to trial again, said her lawyer, Dolores Troiani. "She's a very spiritual woman, she believes things happen for a purpose, and I think the purpose is ... it should encourage other women to come forward and have their day in court."

Troiani acknowledged the difficulty of the case, given the passage of time and the impact of the alleged drugging on Constand's ability to recall details. The jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three counts against the comedian, ending the trial without a verdict. Cosby's team immediately went on the attack.

The entertainer's wife of 53 years, Camille, slammed prosecutors for bringing the case to court, calling Steele "heinously and exploitively ambitious" in a statement released after the trial. She also criticized the judge, the accuser's lawyers and the media.

"How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant, collaborating with the district attorney," said her statement, which was tweeted by her husband and read by an associate of the public relations firm representing Cosby.

Cosby himself didn't comment, remaining stoic as the judge declared a mistrial, but Wyatt declared the star's "power is back. It has been restored." That seemed debatable.

Cosby's career and good-guy image were already in tatters by the time his chief accuser took the witness stand, and the prosecution's decision to pursue a second trial keeps him in legal limbo.

Michelle Carter text suicide trial verdict: Guilty

•  National News     updated  2017/06/15 09:44


A young Massachusetts woman accused of sending her boyfriend dozens of text messages urging him to kill himself when they were teenagers was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter Friday.

Michelle Carter was charged in the death of Conrad Roy III. Carter, then 17, cajoled Roy to kill himself in July 2014 with a series of texts and phone calls, prosecutors alleged. Roy died when his pickup truck filled with carbon monoxide in a store parking lot in Fairhaven. After he exited the truck, Carter told him to "get back in," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege Carter pushed Roy to commit suicide because she was desperate for attention and sympathy from classmates, reports CBS Boston, and wanted to play the role of a grieving girlfriend. Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, said Roy was intent on killing himself and took Carter along on his "sad journey."

Carter waived her right to a jury trial, so Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz decided the case. He began deliberating late Tuesday after closing arguments concluded and read his verdict Friday morning.

While Roy took "significant actions of his own" to take his own life, Carter's instruction to get back in the truck constituted wanton and reckless conduct, the judge said. Even though she knew he was in the truck, she didn't take action to help him by calling the police or his family, Moniz said.

"She called no one and finally she did not issue a simple additional instruction -- get out of the truck," Moniz said.

Carter cried as the judge read his verdict and sobs broke out in the courtroom.

The judge set sentencing for Aug. 3. He ruled that Carter, now 20, can remain free on bail but ordered her not to make any contact with Roy's family and not to leave the state. She faces a sentence of probation to 20 years in prison.






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