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Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map
Lawyer Blog Post | 2017/06/19 09:00
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.


Court: 'JudgeCutie' nickname doesn't ruffle judicial dignity
Attorney News | 2017/06/17 08:59
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."


Court filing: Marsh seeks OK to sell 26 grocery stores
Legal News | 2017/06/15 13:41
A bankruptcy court document says two Ohio-based grocery chains have agreed to buy 26 of Marsh Supermarkets' 44 remaining stores for a total of $24 million.

The court filing posted Tuesday says Fishers-based Marsh is seeking court approval to sell 11 stores to Kroger Co. subsidiary Topvalco Inc. for $16 million and 15 stores to Findlay, Ohio-based Fresh Encounter parent Generative Growth LLC for about $8 million.

Topvalco agreed to buy three stores in Bloomington; two each in Indianapolis, Muncie and Zionsville, and single stores in Fishers and Greenwood.

Generative Growth agreed to buy two Indianapolis stores; other Indiana stores in Columbus, Elwood, Greensburg, Hartford City, Marion, New Palestine, Pendleton, Richmond and Tipton; and Ohio stores in Eaton, Middletown, Troy, and Van Wert.



Groups sue seeking court oversight of Chicago police reforms
Lawyer Blog Post | 2017/06/14 13:42
Several leading community groups filed a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago Wednesday in a bid to bypass or even scuttle a draft agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice that seeks to reform the nation's second largest police force without federal court oversight.

The more than 100-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago argues that an overhaul of Chicago's 12,000-officer force in the wake of a damning civil rights report in January can't work without the intense scrutiny of a court-appointed monitor answerable to a judge.

"Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve," the lawsuit says. "It is clear that federal court intervention is essential to end the historical and on-going pattern and practice of excessive force by police officers in Chicago."

While President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has expressed skepticism about court involvement, President Barack Obama's administration saw it as vital to successful reforms. Obama's Justice Department typically took a city reform plan to a judge to make it legally binding in the form of a consent decree.

Wednesday's lawsuit — which names Black Lives Matters Chicago among the plaintiffs — asks for a federal court to intervene and order sweeping reforms to end the "abusive policies and practices undergirding the alleged constitutional and state law violations."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration said earlier this month that a draft deal negotiated by the city and the Justice Department — one that foresees a monitor not selected by a court — is being reviewed in Washington. Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malle cautioned last week that "there is no agreement at this time."

A lead attorney in the new lawsuit, Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and outspoken advocate for far-reaching police reforms, said in a telephone interview that reports about the draft influenced the decision to sue now.


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