What Is Gerrymandering? Supreme Court Looks At Case In Wisconsin

The Supreme Court of the United States announced Monday they would take on a Wisconsin gerrymandering case. A Wisconsin lower court ruled the state’s Republican-drawn electoral districts were unconstitutionally partisan. But what is gerrymandering? Gerrymandering is the process by which political boundaries, like voting districts, are drawn in a way that advantage one group over another. Often that advantage is motivated by political party or is racially motivated. Politicians can draw lines that pack most Democrats or Republicans into one or more district, diluting their power in other districts, like this court case alleges. Gerrymandering has a long history and is done by both parties.  READ: Workers In The US: Is Supreme Court With Gorsuch 'Bad News' For Labor Rights In America? “Wisconsin’s maps reliably delivered massive Republican majorities. In 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly despite winning only 48.6 percent of the two-party state-wide vote; in 2014, they won 63 seats with only 52 percent of the state-wide vote,” reported New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice Monday. The Wisconsin court ordered the lines be redrawn by the 2018 election, but the Supreme Court has ordered a stay on that order, pausing it while the case is active. In May the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving race-based gerrymandering in North Carolina. Two districts were drawn in 2011 after the 2010 census that grouped a large number of black voters together in oddly shaped districts. This packed black voters into these districts and diluted their power in other districts. Districts that are redrawn typically happen after the census determines population shifts.  A Supreme Court case in 1986 provides case law about how majority-minority districts are supposed to be drawn. “Those conditions are the compactness or coherence of the minority group in Continue Reading

Oops! CNN and FOX blow Supreme Court health care ruling coverage – and Obama briefly thought Obamacare had been overturned

Whoops! For several painful minutes Thursday morning, President Barack Obama thought the Supreme Court had overturned his signature health care law. BIG WIN FOR BAM: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS OBAMACARE Like many Americans, Obama was watching CNN and FOX News Channel as they flashed graphics saying his law’s central health care mandate was found unconstitutional, ABC News reported. It wasn’t until White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler gave him two thumbs up that Obama realized that the cable news shows had got it wrong. The complex Supreme Court decision found that the law’s individual mandate, which requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, was not allowed under the Commerce Clause. Chief Justice John Roberts preserved the mandate, however, by finding that the penalty is valid as a tax. CNN gets health care ruling wrong live on TV. (CNN) The stunning decision - which leaves the law in place to bring health coverage to about 30 million uninsured Americans - shocked many who expected the conservative-majority court to strike down the mandate. RELATED: CNN RATINGS DROP TO LOWEST LEVELS SINCE 1991 A CNN Breaking News tweet just moments after the landmark health care ruling was released dropped the apparent bombshell: "Supreme Court strikes down individual mandate portion of health care law." Citing producer Bill Mears, CNN's Kate Bolduan also made the faulty pronouncement on the air. "Wow, that's a dramatic moment," CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer responded, "if in fact the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual mandate is in fact unconstitutional, that would be history unfolding right now." FOX News was also forced to backtrack from its initial interpretation of the decision. As its reporters struggled to decipher the ruling on the air, text flashed on screen declaring the mandate was found “unconstitutional.” CNN’s website also had to eat crow, publishing a correction. (cnn.com) According Continue Reading

Queens Supreme Court reporter Alan Kimbarow moonlights as stand-up comic

YOU HEAR the one about how many people in traffic accidents lie about wearing seatbelts? Yeah, probably not. Alan Kimbarow, a Queens court reporter who moonlights as a stand-up comic, cut that one out of his act a few years back when just one guy in the audience got the joke. “It went over everyone’s head, except one lawyer came up to me and said, ‘That was great,’ ” Kimbarow recalls. “I said, ‘Oh, yeah? You’re the only one who thought so.’ ” Kimbarow, 51, has learned from those dead silences that mining his day job for laughs isn’t the way to go. In the criminal trials part of Queens Supreme Court where Kimbarow has worked for 17 years, it’s a predictable stream of mayhem. Cop killings. Rapes. Drive-by shootings. None of it is funny. Marriage. Kids. His prodigious waist line. That’s where the yucks are. “Sure, you like me now, but wait ’til I get on the Long Island Rail Road and the only empty seat is the one next to you,” Kimbarow boomed to a Saturday night comedy crowd. It’s a voice honed hawking peanuts and hot dogs at Yankee Stadium while a teen in the late ’70s and timing perfected by years on the birthday party circuit. “I used to be a birthday party clown. I just don’t know if this is a step up.” Kimbarow didn’t get on the stage until a few months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, when he started wondering what he would do if he had only one weekend left to live. “I was always the funniest guy in the crowd,” Kimbarow says. “I would watch people on TV and say, ‘I can do this.’ And I decided this is what I would do with my last weekend.” Kimbarow works firehouse fundraisers, political gatherings and comedy clubs on Long Island two or three times a month. But any romantic visions he may have had of an HBO special quickly melted away after 12 hours spent Continue Reading


Even Osama Bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, a man believed to have witnessed the planning of Sept. 11 and received weapons training at Al Qaeda camps, has his rights, the U.S. Supreme Court declared yesterday in ruling that President Bush had not extended every procedural consideration that the court felt the U.S. owes a gentleman. We exaggerate - slightly. The majority in the court's long-awaited decision regarding the use of military tribunals to adjudicate the futures of prisoners captured on the Afghanistan field took offense that Bush did what he felt he had to in defense of the U.S. No, Mr. Commander in Chief, the justices said, the history of military jurisprudence places a higher value on prosecuting Osama's buds with full legal protections as recognized down through the ages. And that's where they went wrong. Not that it wouldn't be nice, if it were possible, to give every prisoner a full-dress "Law and Order" trial. What five justices failed to comprehend is that America is at war with an enemy unlike any other we have faced, one that does not abide by the Geneva Conventions or wear uniforms or represent any one nation or limit themselves to killing only opposing forces. And so the court concluded even that the U.S. charge against Salim Hamdam - conspiracy - was not a proper war crime. After all, he hadn't fueled the planes for 9/11 or anything like that. Generals are often accused of fighting yesterday's wars. Justice John Paul Stevens and his fellow thinkers yesterday fell into the same trap even while specifically assuming that Hamdam "is a dangerous individual whose beliefs, if acted upon, would cause great harm and even death to innocent civilians." Far more apt was the thinking of Justice Antonin Scalia, who pointed out that Bush had stated that forming the tribunals was necessary to "prevent terrorist attacks." Wrote Scalia: "It is not clear where the Court derives the authority - or the audacity - to contradict this determination." The Continue Reading

Supreme Court upholds key tool for fighting housing bias

The Supreme Court handed a surprising victory to the Obama administration and civil rights groups on Thursday when it upheld a key tool used for more than four decades to fight housing discrimination. The justices ruled 5-4 that federal housing laws prohibit seemingly neutral practices that harm minorities, even without proof of intentional discrimination. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote, joined the court’s four liberal members in upholding the use of so-called “disparate impact” cases. The ruling is a win for housing advocates who argued that the 1968 Fair Housing Act allows challenges to race-neutral policies that have a negative impact on minority groups. The Justice Department has used disparate impact lawsuits to win more than $500 million in legal settlements from companies accused of bias against black and Hispanic customers. “The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” Kennedy said. In upholding the tactic, the Supreme Court preserved a legal strategy that has been used for more than 40 years to attack discrimination in zoning laws, occupancy rules, mortgage lending practices and insurance underwriting. Every federal appeals court to consider it has upheld the practice, though the Supreme Court had never previously ruled. Civil rights groups and the Obama administration had tried for years to keep the issue out of the Supreme Court, fearing that conservatives wanted to end the strategy. Two previous cases that reached the court were settled or strategically withdrawn just weeks before oral argument. The latest case involved an appeal from Texas officials accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods. A federal appeals court said a Dallas-based fair housing group, The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., could use Continue Reading

Before Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, pop culture struggled with subject

Well before the Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage Friday, the issue has been under deliberation in American pop culture with mixed results. "We know that from polling data that one of the biggest determinants of whether someone supports marriage equality, is if they know someone in their own life who is a member of LGBT community," says Matt Kane, director of entertainment media at the advocacy group GLAAD, "in the absence of that (personal connection), it's influenced (by) images they see in the media and entertainment." While the May 2014 episode of "Modern Family" wasn't the first depiction of gay marriage on television, the fact that 10.2 million viewers tuned in to watch proved to be a major milestone. "We know that pop culture matters, and when we watch Cam and Mitch on 'Modern Family' every week it has an impact — they're lovable and apolitical," said a veteran entertainment industry watcher, who wished to remain anonymous. Times are changing all over. Two days before the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Nintendo quietly announced that its new game, Fire Emblem Fates — on sale now in Japan, arriving on this side of the Pacific next year — would allow gamers a same-sex marriage option. The 3DS role-playing game is a milestone for the company, which drew criticism for leaving out a similar option in previous titles, Eurogamer.net reported. But not all mediums have been as progressive, says Kane, whose organization has given a big thumbs down to Hollywood. Part of the lack of representation of same-sex marriage on the big screen may stem from the adversity to risk in a business where major movies cost tens of millions of dollars or more and rely on alienating as few potential ticket-buyers as possible. The most recent GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index study found that most movies from major studios that include LGBT characters tend to be comedies, where Continue Reading

Most Americans expect Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage: study

Nearly two-thirds of Americans expect the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide when it rules on the issue within the next few weeks, according to a new poll. Only 25% expect the high court to leave existing state bans on gay marriage intact, while 65% expect the bans to be overturned, according to the poll conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. Its nationwide survey of 1,009 adults was conducted from June 3 to June 7. Mirroring the findings of several other recent national polls, the new survey found 55% of Americans in favor of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, and 37 percent opposed. Among those who oppose same-sex marriage, 72% say the decision about its legality should be made at the state level. Among those who favor same-sex marriage, 59% say the issue should be decided at the national level. At the moment, same-sex marriages are allowed in 36 states. The survey found sharp divisions over same-sex marriage along religious lines. Majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (79 %), white mainline Protestants (60%) and Catholics (58%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. But gay marriage was supported by only 29% of white evangelical Protestants and 35% of nonwhite Protestants. The survey also asked about perceptions of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Three-quarters of Democrats, 61% of independents and 50% of Republicans said there is a lot of discrimination against transgender people. Overall, 69% of Americans — including 65% of Republicans and 60% of white evangelical Protestants — said they favored laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. And 60% of Americans opposed allowing small business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians, even if it violates their religious Continue Reading

How Republicans should wrestle with Obamacare after the Supreme Court ruling

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled for the Obama administration in the case of King vs. Burwell, perhaps Washington can finally turn to fixing the law’s acknowledged deficiencies. Chief Justice John Roberts, despite affirming the Obama administration’s position, remained quite critical of the Affordable Care Act itself, writing that it “contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting.” He also noted that the law “does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.” Rebukes aside, President Obama and supporters of the law were thrilled with the decision. But this is not the end of the conversation about the ACA. Overall, the law has many problems that need to be fixed, including the increasing lack of affordability for both public and private plans, limited quality and price transparency within the system, burdensome regulations and overall unsustainable coverage levels. Amidst all of these problems, there is an additional major challenge to come. Employer sponsored health care, a system from which 169 million Americans receive coverage, is increasingly at risk due to the high cost of average family premiums and deductibles as well as the looming health care excise tax. Employers are on the front lines of solving the challenges in health care, and unlike Congress, they cannot wait until the political storms settle. Congress should keep this population in mind when drafting health policy legislation and consider changes to ease the burden on employer-sponsored care, including repealing the excise tax, protecting wellness programs, expanding the ability to use health reimbursement arrangements, strengthening health savings accounts and simplifying the IRS reporting requirements. If Congress doesn’t make these changes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 8 million Americans will lose their health care by 2017. Even with these challenges, the Continue Reading

Louisiana, Texas governors vow to fight Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage while others pledge to comply

The Supreme Court’s ruling Friday set a precedent that 13 states are now required to recognize gay marriages and issue licenses to same-couples that wish to wed. Some governors in those Midwest and Southern states are mixed on how to go forward with the historic ruling. Some, like Governors Bobby Jindal and Greg Abbott, have promised to fight that ruling citing religious freedom and state rights that they believe should supersede a Supreme Court ruling. EDITORIAL: THE RIGHT RULING AT THE RIGHT TIME Jindal's administration is holding tight to Louisiana's ban. It could be nearly a month before gay couples can obtain a marriage license as the Attorney General’s Office asks clerks to not follow the Supreme Court’s ruling, local reports said. The Louisiana Clerks of Court Association also informed clerks to not issue licenses until a 25-day rehearing period ends for the Supreme Court, in case a challenged is filed, according to the New Orleans Advocate. "Current state law is still in effect until the courts order us otherwise," Mike Reed, Jindal's spokesman, told the Times-Picayune. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." In Texas, the Harris County Clerk’s Office briefly rejected a handful of couples trying to obtain a marriage license on orders of Clerk Stan Stanart. Other Texan counties such as Dallas and Bexar began issuing licenses without a hitch. After threats of legal repercussions, Stanart upended the order and made it possible for gay couples to obtain a license by Friday afternoon. The paperwork still described marriage parties as a man and a woman pending new documents from a state agency. Few hiccups were reported in states such as Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal promised to make good on the Supreme Court's ruling and would begin issuing marriage licenses immediately. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, whose state was plagued by racial tension in Continue Reading

Saudi Supreme Court upholds verdict against liberal blogger who was publicly flogged

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld an internationally condemned verdict against a liberal blogger who was publicly flogged after being found guilty of insulting Islam, state-linked news websites reported Sunday. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the sentence ofRaifBadawi, a 31-year-old father of three who was lashed in January in a public square, is final and cannot be overturned without a royal pardon. Badawi, imprisoned since 2012, initially was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures through a blog he created. After an appeal, a criminal court in Jiddah last year stiffened the punishment to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He also was banned from traveling abroad for 10 years after his prison term and fined $266,000. In January, security officials floggedBadawioutside a mosque in Jiddah. Saudi rights activists said it was meant as a warning to others who think to criticize the religious establishment, of which the ruling family derives much of its authority. Subsequent floggings were halted as the Supreme Court reviewed the case. A person close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said that becauseBadawi'sflogging has been halted since January, the Supreme Court ruling may exclude lashings. It was not immediately possible to clarify the details of the judges' ruling. The lashes had been scheduled to be administered over 20 weekly sessions, with 50 lashes each week, according to the London-based rights group Amnesty International. The rights group has launched a global campaign to call forBadawi'srelease and said Sunday that he remains at risk of being flogged. Saudi Arabia's Western allies, including Washington, have called on authorities to rescind the punishment. The kingdom maintains its judiciary is independent and has rejected Continue Reading