U.S. Supreme Court Allows Arizona To Enforce Ban On Ballot-Collecting November 5, 2016 12:56 PM

Democrats argued that the ban on what critics call "ballot harvesting" would suppress the vote, particularly among minorities. Sky Schaudt/KJZZ

Democrats argued that the ban on what critics call “ballot harvesting” would suppress the vote, particularly among minorities.
Sky Schaudt/KJZZ

Reversing a one-day-old appeals court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court says Arizona can enforce its law banning the collection of early-voting ballots by political campaigners. The ruling means that in Arizona, the practice that critics call “ballot harvesting” will be a felony in Tuesday’s election.

The law was enacted earlier this year; since then, it’s been in a tug-of-war between Republicans and Democrats — as on Friday, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 6-5 to block the law. Today’s ruling changes that.

Here’s how member station KJZZ in Phoenix explained it Friday:

“Critics, mostly Republicans, call the practice “ballot harvesting” and say it invites voter fraud. Republican lawmakers tried to halt it by passing a state law that made it a felony to turn in someone else’s ballot, with an exception for relatives, caregivers and roommates.

“Democrats sued, saying ballot collection is key way to get out the vote, especially from minority households. They argued the law violated the Voting Rights Act.”

The state of Arizona immediately sought a stay on the 9th Circuit’s ruling that blocked the law, H.B. 2023, Friday.

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50 Republicans Who Tweeted Tributes To MLK But Don’t Support Restoring The Voting Rights Act – BY JOSH ISRAEL JAN 18, 2016 2:47 PM

CREDIT: LBJ LIBRARY PHOTO BY YOICHI OKAMOTO President Lyndon Johnson presents Martin Luther King, Jr. with a pen used to sign the Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson presents Martin Luther King, Jr. with a pen used to sign the Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson presents Martin Luther King, Jr. with a pen used to sign the Voting Rights Act

Scores of Congressional Republicans took to Twitter on Monday to highlight their appreciation for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fight for civil rights for all. But since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling gutted much of the Voting Rights Act that King helped pass, their caucus has refused to move even bipartisan legislation to restore the law’s key provisions.

Just 14 Republicans in the U.S. House have signed onto H.R.885, officially the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015, even though its lead sponsor is Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

The House GOP’s official Twitter feed celebrated King at 6:45 AM on Monday.

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Redistricting Reform Gains Steam – By Gabrielle Levy Dec. 1, 2015 | 12:01 a.m. EST

Voters are fed up with the unfair way some states redraw districts – and the courts seem to agree.

Maryland residents Stephen Shapiro, right, and John Benisek stand in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, after a hearing in their case involving redistricting heard by the high court. Shapiro and Benisek are two of three Maryland residents who initially sued claiming the state's Congressional districts, as they were redrawn in 2011, violated their First Amendment and other rights.

Maryland residents Stephen Shapiro, right, and John Benisek stand in front of the Supreme Court after a hearing in their case involving redistricting on Nov. 4, 2015.

State legislatures are constitutionally obligated to redraw congressional districts every 10 years. But now, with an increased awareness of the potential for unfairness and abuse, voters are starting to push back.

Most states make the redistricting decisions themselves, and accusations of gerrymandering – drawing the maps to unfairly preserve majority advantage – are frequent.

Since the most recent census in 2010, lawsuits challenging congressional, state Senate or state legislature redistricting maps have been filed in 38 states; there were 37 such challenges following the 2000 round of redistricting.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court considered arguments over whether the Democrat-designed map in Maryland could be reviewed and potentially thrown out by a state panel.

At the heart of that dispute is the fact that the state’s political affiliation, currently 54.3 percent Democrat and 25.8 percent Republican, has changed only marginally since Democrats held a 57 percent to 29.7 percent advantage in 2000. And yet Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation has gone from being evenly split between the parties 15 years ago to a 7-1 Democratic advantage now after two rounds of redistricting under Democratic governors and legislatures. One of the districts, which have survived reviews by federal courts, was recently described by a federal judge as resembling “a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”

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What’s Left For The Supreme Court: Same-Sex-Marriage, Obamacare And More – Ron Elving JUNE 15, 201512:18 AM ET

A Tea Party supporter rings a bell in protest to the health care law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as Obamacare supporters shout slogans and raise signs behind her.

A Tea Party supporter rings a bell in protest to the health care law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, as Obamacare supporters shout slogans and raise signs behind her. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Major decisions are expected as soon as Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court works its way through several cases still pending before it closes out its calendar for the 2014-2015 term.

Among the biggest issues hanging fire: the status of same-sex marriages, subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare and the drugs that states may use to administer the death penalty by lethal injection. But the court is also expected to weigh in on the drawing of lines for congressional elections, the right to put the Confederate flag on license plates and the right of a municipality to regulate outdoor signage.

“Decision days” are scheduled for each Monday this month, along with Thursday, the 18th — and there could be yet another day announced as well. The court has not gone beyond June in more than 20 years.

It is typical for the court to issue its most important and controversial rulings in the final days of its annual session. Many expect the same-sex marriage and Obamacare decisions to come later in the month. But many court observers are expecting the lethal-injection decision sooner, along with more than a dozen cases that carry considerable significance of their own.

The court meets at 10 a.m. Monday and on the other decision days of the month. NPR will be covering the proceedings and report on the decisions as soon as they become available, on our regular radio programs, on NPR.org, NPR One and other platforms.

Lethal Injection (Glossip v. Gross)
As traditional methods such as hanging, firing squad and electrocution have fallen from favor, states with the death penalty have been injecting a “protocol” or series of drugs to execute death-row prisoners. But pharmaceutical companies now refuse to provide sodium thiopental, the drug used at the beginning of the series to make the prisoner lose consciousness.

States have looked for substitutes, including midazolam, which is a sedative and not an anesthetic. Inmates, who have brought this case, say they may remain conscious after receiving this drug and when they receive the subsequent drugs. Some members of the court were clearly sympathetic to this viewpoint in the oral argument earlier this year. But some of the court’s conservatives seemed to regard it as a “back door” means to undermine the death penalty itself.

If the court sides with the inmates, states will have to scramble to find alternative means of execution, which may include a return to the more traditional methods.

Obamacare (King v. Burwell)
Plaintiffs have argued that only those states that have set up their own exchanges for the purchase of health care insurance are entitled to give subsidies to lower income people. States that let the federal government set up their exchanges for them, they contend, may not accept the federal tax credits that subsidize those eligible in state-run exchanges. The administration argues that the intent of the legislators was clear whatever the exact wording of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and that all exchanges are eligible for the subsidies.

If the court rules for the plaintiffs, subsidies could go away for more than six million current recipients, although the timetable for them losing their insurance is somewhat uncertain. Congress would be under pressure to act.

Taking this many people out of the system would also affect the private health-insurance market and the amount people pay in insurance premiums. The degree of impact would depend on how sweeping the justices’ ruling was. But it could affect individuals, small business, large business, the insurance industry, doctors and hospitals.

Same-Sex Marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges and related cases)
A series of recent rulings by the high court has led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in three dozen states that are home to more than 70 percent of the U.S. population. This has happened despite many states’ efforts to enact bans on such marriages, either by legislation or referenda.

These laws and state constitutional amendments have been consistently struck down by federal courts at the district and appellate levels — except for the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. This one court, sitting in Cincinnati, Ohio, upheld the ban enacted in that state and several others and said states did not have to recognize marriages performed legally in other states. This “circuit split” between appeals judges brought the case before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

The court now has the opportunity to clarify the legal situation by legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states or to adopt any of several more complicated resolutions — leaving some states with legal same-sex marriage but others — perhaps most — without. The court is also deciding a related case regarding the right of a state to refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage that took place legally in another state.

Other cases to watch…

Arizona state legislature v. Arizona independent redistricting commission
Are state laws that put redistricting in the hands of independent commissions unconstitutional? Arizona voters created a commission by constitutional amendment, and some state legislators say that strips them of their redistricting power in violation of the federal constitution.

Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of the Confederacy
May states constitutionally ban the Sons of the Confederacy from displaying the confederate battle flag on vanity license plates?

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Ariz.
What should be the constitutional rules for municipalities seeking to limit sign clutter? Here, a church had signs that the town wanted to regulate or remove.

Michigan v. EPA
Environmental case tests at what point the federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to take into account the costs that factory owners face in complying with EPA regulation. Should it be before or after deciding to regulate hazardous pollutants?

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project
The most significant race-related case of the term involves so called “disparate impact” in housing. Must plaintiffs have proof of someone’s intent to discriminate?

The new clash over cannabis – By Jonathan Topaz 1/11/15 5:24 PM EST Updated 1/11/15 5:24 PM EST

DENVER - APRIL 20:  An man smokes marijuana during a pro-marijuana rally at Civic Center Park with the Colorado State Capitol Building in the background April 20, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  April 20th has become a de facto holiday for marijuana advocates, with large gatherings and

The Obama administration and many congressional Republicans have been loath to go anywhere near the experiment with marijuana legalization in Colorado and other states. But pressure is mounting on Washington to take a stand on pot, and perhaps soon.

In a lawsuit filed last month with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that Colorado’s marijuana initiative is spilling over into their neighboring, more conservative states. Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are up over the past year, they say, straining law enforcement budgets as more overtime is paid to handle the uptick in activity. And drugged driving is a growing problem, they contend.

But the neighbor states are also taking aim at a federal government that seems highly reluctant to tackle the issue. And with several more states considering legalizing recreational marijuana, the Justice Department and Congress may be forced to clarify what’s OK or not when it comes to marijuana, experts say.

“It’s gone from a slow burn to a hot, cauldron bubble,” Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said of tensions over cannabis policy.

(Also on POLITICO: Obama’s drug-sentencing quagmire)

The issue is emerging as a major test for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, who will have to decide whether to embrace the hands-off approach to marijuana in the states that the Justice Department has adopted under Eric Holder — or take more decisive action to regulate it.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/the-new-clash-over-cannabis-114158.html#ixzz3Ob5uFpnS

Supreme Court rejects BP challenge to Gulf spill settlement – December 8, 2014 1:00PM ET

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at Dec 8, 2014 2.46

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected BP’s challenge to a multibillion-dollar settlement agreement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The oil giant complained that under the deal certain businesses were entitled to payouts despite them not being unable to trace losses to the disaster.

But justices decided to keep the details of the agreement in place. The court’s decision not to hear the London-based company’s appeal is the latest setback for BP, which is trying to limit payments over a disaster that killed 11 people and triggered the largest US offshore oil spill.

The court’s action, disclosed in an unsigned order, means BP will have to make the payments as it continues to deal with the spill’s aftermath.

BP signed a settlement agreement in 2012 to compensate businesses that claim they suffered financial losses due to the spill. The company has since argued the agreement has been interpreted improperly by the administrator of the settlement fund, forcing it to pay businesses that could not show damages.

The challenge involved so-called business economic loss claims, a key part of the settlement. So far, BP has paid $2.3 billion in such claims out of $4.25 billion in total compensation to individuals and businesses, according to statistics maintained by Patrick Juneau, the administrator appointed by the courts to handle claims.

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