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North Carolina’s highest court on Wednesday pushed back the March election primaries for legislative, congressional and judicial seats to give state courts time to review lawsuits claiming the Republican-controlled legislature illegally gerrymandered some districts.

The decision by the state Supreme Court comes after a state Court of Appeals panel initially blocked filing for legislative and congressional candidates on Monday, only to have the decision reversed when the full 15-member intermediate appeals court was asked to weigh in on the matter. Filing began Tuesday for those races instead.

Wednesday’s order suspends all candidate filing in the state until the litigation is resolved and delays the March 8 primary for two months. The Supreme Court says three trial judges hearing a pair of lawsuits must rule by Jan. 11. The ruling will then likely be appealed.

The delay is being granted “in light of the great public interest” in the matter and “the need for urgency in reaching a final resolution ... at the earliest possible opportunity,” the order reads.

Primary elections for the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. House, General Assembly and judicial seats, along with elections for other local posts, will now be held May 17, according to the order.

The groups that filed the lawsuits — the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and math experts in one case and voters backed by an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in the other — have said voters would be irrevocably harmed if elections went forward under the approved lines.

The lawsuits claim the legislature manipulated the boundaries according to the political leanings of voters, the racial composition of voters, or both. In doing so, the suits say, lawmakers gave Republicans nearly unbreakable majorities in the state House and Senate and nearly assured victories in at least 10 of the 14 U.S. House seats starting with the 2022 elections. The state is closely divided in statewide elections.

Republicans hold eight of the 13 current House seats. North Carolina is getting an additional seat due to population growth, so the delegation’s partisan composition could affect whether the GOP regains the U.S. House next year.

The Ohio sheriff’s deputy charged with murder and reckless homicide in the death of a man he shot last year was not acting as a federal agent at the time and his case should remain in state court, prosecutors argued as they opposed the deputy’s efforts to have the case moved into federal court.

Casey Goodson Jr., who was Black, was shot as he entered his grandmother’s house following a dental appointment, according to his family and prosecutors who laid out a timeline following the indictment of Jason Meade last week. Meade, who is white, retired from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office on disability over the summer.

Meade had been on regular assignment with a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force immediately before the shooting. Although the Marshals have said Meade was not acting as a task force member when he shot Goodson, Meade’s attorneys say the opposite.

As soon as charges were filed against Meade Dec. 2, his attorneys filed a request in federal court to move the case there, arguing Meade was acting as a federal agent at the time.

Meade’s attorneys hope to have him covered by immunity provided federal officers, meaning his case couldn’t be tried in a state court and the charges would have to be dismissed, one of Meade’s attorneys, Steve Nolder, has said.

But two special Franklin County prosecutors on Tuesday said the case belongs in state court. They note that the shooting happened after Meade’s unsuccessful search for a fugitive had ended and while Meade was returning to his office. His work as a task force member “had concluded for the day and members of the task force were leaving the field,” prosecutors Gary Shroyer and Tim Merkle said in a court filing.

A state panel agreed Monday to spend nearly $2 million to settle two federal lawsuits brought against the University of Iowa in 2017 after a religious group denied a gay student a leadership role.

The Iowa State Appeal Board, made up of Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, Auditor Rob Sand and Department of Management Director Kraig Paulsen, approved the court ordered settlements.

Lawyers for the student group Business Leaders in Christ were awarded $1.37 million in fees and costs for litigating the case. A second student group, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, won their federal court case and will be paid $20,000 in damages and about $513,000 in attorney fees.

The monetary amounts were negotiated between the university and the plaintiffs in both cases and approved by a federal judge. Monday’s approval by the State Appeal Board authorizes the state to make the payments.

Both cases stem from actions the University of Iowa took after a gay student said he was turned down for a leadership role in Business Leaders in Christ because he would not accept the group’s position that marriage must be between only a man and a woman. After the student alleged violations of his civil rights, the university reviewed student organizations’ compliance with civil rights and began delisting some organizations that school officials said failed to comply.

The two Christian groups were delisted and sued the university. Both won judgments that the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. The university appealed and the lower court decisions were upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As the Supreme Court court weighs the future of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a resurgent anti-abortion movement is looking to press its advantage in state-by-state battles while abortion-rights supporters prepare to play defense.

Both sides seem to be operating on the assumption that a court reshaped by former President Donald Trump will either overturn or seriously weaken Roe.

“We have a storm to weather,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. “We have to weather the storm so that in the future — five, 10, 15 years from now — we’re talking about how we managed to repeal all these abortion bans.”

The institute estimates that as many as 26 states would institute some sort of abortion-access restrictions within a year, if permitted by the court. At least 12 states have “trigger bans” on the books, with restrictions that would kick in automatically if the justices overturn or weaken federal protections on abortion access.

The current case before the court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, concerns a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roe v. Wade, which was reaffirmed in a subsequent 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, allows states to regulate but not ban abortion up until the point of fetal viability, at roughly 24 weeks.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Sunday named a former foreign minister as his party’s candidate for a special gubernatorial election in the home state of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, that was scheduled after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified.

Maduro declared Jorge Arreaza as the ruling party’s candidate via a livestream connected to a gymnasium in the rural state of Barinas packed with supporters who erupted in cheers as their new candidate promised them a comprehensive review of their communities’ needs.

The announcement came less than a week after the country’s highest court disqualified Freddy Superlano as he was leading the vote count, a move that has become emblematic of what the opposition says are unfair election conditions. The state in northwest Venezuela has long been considered a bastion of Chávismo., which made Superlano’s potential win particularly hard to swallow for the ruling party.

Superlano was ahead by less than 1 percentage point in the Nov. 21 race against incumbent Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers, when he was disqualified. Argenis along with Adán Chávez and father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez have served as governors of the state of Barinas since 1998.

The opposition announced Saturday that Aurora Silva, Superlano’s wife, would take his place in the election. But Superlano’s campaign late Sunday said Silva appeared to have been disqualified but did not immediately provide details.

Leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela convened in Barinas this week to decide on a new candidate after Argenis Chávez announced his decision to resign as governor and not enter the race again. They needed a unifying candidate after many blamed the election’s results on an internal rift.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and several other Mississippi politicians make clear that they don’t think the government should mandate vaccination against COVID-19. They take a different stance on bodily autonomy when it comes to a woman or girl deciding whether to have an abortion.

In arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1, the Mississippi attorney general’s office defended a 2018 state law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. The state solicitor general, Scott Stewart, also tried to persuade justices to overturn the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the United States and its 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe.

Reeves was lieutenant governor when the 15-week ban was pushed into law, and he has said repeatedly that he wants to restrict abortion. When Reeves appeared on “Meet the Press” days before the Supreme Court arguments, the show played a video clip of Reeves saying COVID-19 vaccine mandates were a “power grab” by the federal government.

Federal regulators say Spire Inc. will be allowed to continue operating a natural gas pipeline in the St. Louis region until a long-term decision is made about the project’s future.

The 65-mile pipeline, which runs through parts of Missouri and Illinois, was granted a temporary operating permit Friday by leaders of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The order will last as long as it takes for the agency to determine the project’s future, as it was ordered to do in June when a court revoked the line’s approval, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Spire sent emails to its 600,000 customers in November warning that natural gas service could be disrupted this winter if the pipeline was shut down.

Political leaders and the Environmental Defense Fund, which filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the pipeline, criticized the utility for creating undue panic.

In June, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that FERC had not adequately demonstrated a need for the project.

The ruling vacated approval of the pipeline, and ordered to FERC to determine what to do with the project.

Also on Friday, Spire filed an appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling that struck down the pipeline’s authorization.

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