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The Supreme Court struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina Monday because race played too large a role in their creation.

The justices ruled that Republicans who controlled the state legislature and governor's office in 2011 placed too many African-Americans in the two districts. The result was to weaken African-American voting strength elsewhere in North Carolina.

Both districts have since been redrawn and the state conducted elections under the new congressional map in 2016. Even with the new districts, Republicans maintained their 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the state did not offer compelling justifications to justify its reliance on race in either district.

The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court and Kagan noted that one of the districts was "making its fifth appearance before this court."

States have to take race into account when drawing maps for legislative, congressional and a host of municipal political districts. At the same time, race can't be the predominant factor without very strong reasons, under a line of high court cases stretching back 20 years.

A three-judge federal court had previously struck down the two districts. The justices upheld the lower court ruling on both counts.

The court unanimously affirmed the lower court ruling on District 1 in northeastern North Carolina. Kagan wrote that the court will not "approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence."

The justices split 5-3 on the other district, District 12 in the southwestern part of the state. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices to form a majority. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not part in the case.

The state insisted that race played no role at all in the creation of one district. Instead, the state argued that Republicans who controlled the redistricting process wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so that the surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans.


One of Neil Gorsuch's sharpest dissents as an appeals court judge came just six months before he was nominated for the Supreme Court.

That's when he sided with a New Mexico seventh-grader who was handcuffed and arrested after his teacher said the student had disrupted gym class with fake burps.

Nearly a year later, Gorsuch sits on the nation's higher court and the boy's mother is asking the justices to take up her appeal. She's using Gorsuch's words to argue that she has a right to sue the officer who arrested her son.

The court could act as early as Monday, either to deny the case or take more time to decide.

Justices typically withdraw from cases they heard before joining the Supreme Court, which means Gorsuch probably would not have any role in considering this one. But that hasn't stopped lawyers for the mother from featuring his stinging dissent prominently in legal papers. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."

"If a seventh-grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what's a teacher to do?" Gorsuch wrote. "Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal's office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that's too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen-year-old to the principal's office, an arrest would be a better idea."

Whether the Supreme Court ultimately takes the case or not may have nothing to do with Gorsuch. The justices have repeatedly turned away disputes over school disciplinary policies. Or they may decide it's not important enough for the court to intervene.

The appeal comes as some school districts have been rolling back "zero tolerance" discipline policies that expanded in the 1990s. The shift is aimed at preventing students from getting caught up in the criminal justice system.



Wondering when Supreme Court nominations became so politically contentious? Only about 222 years ago — when the Senate voted down George Washington's choice for chief justice.

"We are in an era of extreme partisan energy right now. In such a moment, the partisanship will manifest itself across government, and there's no reason to think the nomination process will be exempt from that. It hasn't been in the past," University of Georgia law professor Lori Ringhand said.

This year's brouhaha sees Senate Democrats and Republicans bracing for a showdown over President Donald Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch. It's the latest twist in the political wrangling that has surrounded the high court vacancy almost from the moment Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.

Each side has accused the other of unprecedented obstruction. Republicans wouldn't even hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee. Democrats are threatening a filibuster, which takes 60 votes to overcome, to try to stop Gorsuch from becoming a justice. If they succeed, Republicans who control the Senate could change the rules and prevail with a simple majority vote in the 100-member body.

As she lays out in "Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change," the book she co-wrote, Ringhand said, "There were more rejected nominees in the first half of the nation's history than in the second half. That controversy has been partisan in many cases, back to George Washington."

"Confirmations have been episodically controversial," said Ringhand, who is the Georgia law school's associate dean. "The level of controversy has ebbed and flowed."

John Rutledge, a South Carolinian who was a drafter of the Constitution, was the first to succumb to politics. The Senate confirmed Rutledge as a justice in 1789, a post he gave up a couple of years later to become South Carolina's chief justice.

In 1795, Washington nominated Rutledge to replace John Jay as chief justice. By then, Rutledge had become an outspoken opponent of the Jay Treaty, which sought to reduce tensions with England. A year after ratifying the treaty, the Senate voted down Rutledge's nomination.


The Supreme Court says a former top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board served in violation of a federal law governing temporary appointments.

The 6-2 ruling on Tuesday limits the president's power to fill vacant government posts while nominations are tied up in partisan political fights.

The justices said that Lafe Solomon was not allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the agency that enforces labor laws while he was at the same time nominated to fill that role permanently.

President Barack Obama named Solomon acting general counsel in June 2010 and he held the office until Nov. 4, 2013. But he never won Senate confirmation because Republicans viewed him as too favorable to labor unions.



North Carolina Republican legislative leaders want the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the new Democratic state attorney general's bid to dismiss their appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a voting law based on racial bias.

Lawyers the General Assembly hired to defend the 2013 law approved by the GOP objected Monday to Attorney General Josh Stein's petition last week and want the justices to continue considering their previously filed appeal.

They say Stein lacks authority to step in because previous Attorney General Roy Cooper stopped defending the law last summer after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the law unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit found the law targeted minority voters. The legislature's private lawyers continued the appeal.


The measure required photo identification to vote in person, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during the early-voting period. Republicans said the changes were designed to improve public confidence in elections and weren't racially discriminatory.

Another state law allows legislative leaders to hire their own attorneys to defend challenged laws, the lawyers wrote in their formal objection filed with the justices.

The legislators' lawyers also said Stein has a conflict of interest that should disqualify him from representing the state because he testified against the law at trial while a state senator. Stein was elected attorney general in November and took office Jan. 1.

Stein's "motion is nothing less than a politically-motivated attempt to hijack a ... petition in a major Voting Rights Act case, in violation of the plain terms of North Carolina law and the canons of professional ethics," said the objection, signed by Washington-based attorney Kyle Duncan.

Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for Stein's Department of Justice, said in an email Stein "disagrees with the arguments and believes they are without merit. We will wait for further direction from the Supreme Court."


Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent.

In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment.

"Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war," Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it's "unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment."

"It's a very strong opinion, and it has national significance, both because it's en-banc and for the strength of its decision," Frosh said, noting that all of the court's judges participated.

Judge William Traxler issued a dissent. By concluding the Second Amendment doesn't even apply, Traxler wrote, the majority "has gone to greater lengths than any other court to eviscerate the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms." He also wrote that the court did not apply a strict enough review on the constitutionality of the law.



A federal judge has given Democrats a partial victory in the presidential battleground of Florida, extending the state's voter registration deadline one day and agreeing to consider a longer extension in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

The initial deadline was Tuesday, but Florida Democrats, with the support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, argued that would-be voters deserved more time. Republican Gov. Rick Scott last week urged 1.5 million residents to evacuate as the storm approached the southeastern United States.

District Judge Mark Walker issued a temporary order Monday afternoon extending the deadline through the close of business Wednesday. He set a hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. for arguments for a longer extension. Judges grant temporary restraining orders in cases where a petitioner demonstrates irreparable harm would occur if the court took no action. The orders often portend victory once a judge considers the merits of the case.

Clinton had called on Scott, before the suit was filed, to extend the deadline himself using his emergency authority. The governor declined, saying Floridians "had enough time to register" before the Oct. 6 evacuation orders.

Though the case involves the highest stakes in a perennial presidential battleground, the judge called it "poppycock" to claim that "the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics." The case, he wrote, "is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register to have their votes counted."

The case comes as the two presidential campaigns try to resume their full activities in Florida and North Carolina, the two battlegrounds where Matthew left fatalities and wracked widespread damage.


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