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Photo: thinkprogress.org

Photo: www.thinkprogress.org

If you need something to bolster your resolve to keep battling for justice this afternoon, check out this story on the U.K.-based news site, The Guardian about one of the driving forces in the court challenge to North Carolina’s “monster voting law.” The story profiles 93-year-old Rosanell Eaton — an African-American woman and NAACP activist with vivid memories from her younger days of previous efforts by conservative, white politicians to deny her the right to vote.

And then there was the day in 1939 when Rosanell turned 18 and gained the right to vote. She was a vibrant young woman, eager to learn and engage with the world, and determined to have her electoral say at the first chance. But when she arrived at Franklin County courthouse, she was met by three white officials.

“What are you here for, young lady?” one of them asked.

“I’m here to register to vote,” she said.

The men looked at each other, then back at her. “Stand in front of us,” she was instructed. “Look directly at us. Don’t turn your head to the right, nor to the left. Now repeat the preamble to the constitution of the United States.” Read More

News

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled today that Ohio’s attempts to limit early voting — a subject that will be argued tomorrow in front of the Fourth Circuit when it considers North Carolina’s recently enacted voting restrictions — are in fact unconstitutional. This is from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a district court decision restoring early voting cuts and expanding early voting hours.

The ruling from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is a setback for Secretary of State Jon Husted, who had appealed a lower court’s order that he expand early voting hours.

The three-judge panel previously rejected a request to delay the court order pending Husted’s appeal. Husted then expanded statewide early, in-person voting hours while the case proceeded.

Civil rights groups and several African-American churches sued state officials in May over a new state law eliminating “Golden Week,” a week-long window when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot in Ohio, and a statewide early, in-person voting schedule that did not include Sundays. Attorneys led by the American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued in U.S. Southern District Court that the reduced number of days burdened low-income and African-American Ohioans who are more likely to take advantage of Golden Week and Sunday voting.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus agreed. He ruled that once Ohio granted a broad scheme of early, in-person voting, state officials could not reduce it in a way that burdened certain groups of voters.

Read the court’s unanimous ruling by clicking here.

Uncategorized

Gun violenceBuying a gun for someone else while claiming on federal forms to be the intended owner is a crime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision.

“We hold that such a misrepresentation is punishable under the statute, whether or not the true buyer could have purchased the gun without the straw,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority in Abramski v. U.S., joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The case before the court involved a purchase by a former police officer who, when buying  a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle, falsely claimed that he would be the actual owner of the gun.

In a challenge to his subsequent indictment and conviction, the officer claimed that his misrepresentation was immaterial because his uncle met the legal requirements to own a gun and that in any event, a false response about the gun buyer is never a violation of the law, regardless of whether the intended true owner is or is not eligible to buy a gun.

The majority on the court rejected those arguments, affirming the Fourth Circuit. Justice Kagan wrote:

Contrary to his contention, the information [the question] requests —“[a]re you the actual transferee/buyer[?]” or, put conversely, “are [you] acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person[?]”— is relevant to the lawfulness of a gun sale. That is because, for all the reasons we have given, the firearms law contemplates that the dealer will check not the fictitious purchaser’s but instead the true purchaser’s identity and eligibility for gun ownership. By concealing that [the uncle] was the actual buyer, [the straw purchaser] prevented the dealer from transacting with [the uncle] face-to-face, recording his name, age, and residence, inspecting his photo ID, submitting his identifying information to the background check system, and determining whether he was prohibited from receiving a firearm. In sum, [the straw] thwarted application of essentially all of the firearms law’s requirements. We can hardly think of a misrepresentation any more material to a sale’s legality.

For more on the decision, read the analysis by Scotusblog’s  Lyle Denniston here.

Uncategorized

This morning a panel of three judges on the 4th U.S. Court of AppealsPaul V. Niemeyer (presiding at the argument), Roger L. Gregory and Henry F. Floyd — will hear arguments in the same-sex marriage case out of Virginia, Bostic v. Schaefer.  In February 2014, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that the state’s 2006 ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Niemeyer got his start on the federal bench as a U.S. District Judge in 1988, after his appointment by President Ronald Reagan, and ascended to the Fourth Circuit in 1990 via President George H.W. Bush.  Gregory, the first African American to sit on the Fourth Circuit, was originally a Clinton recess appointee who was then reappointed by President George W. Bush. Floyd was initially appointed the U.S. District Court in South Carolina by President George W. Bush in 2003 and then to the Fourth Circuit by President Barack Obama in 2011.

A recording of the argument will be available after 2 p.m. at this link.

At the same time, a different panel will hear argument in the case concerning the fate of the Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, Defenders of  Wildlife v. N.C. Dep’t of Transportation.  In September 2013, U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan ruled that North Carolina could move forward with a newly-conceived plan which Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental groups say is short-sighted and environmentally unsound.

The judges hearing the Bonner Bridge appeal are Allyson K. Duncan, James A. Wynn Jr. and J. Michelle Childs (sitting by designation from South Carolina). Duncan, a Durham, N.C. native, was appointed to the Fourth Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2003 to the seat vacated by Samuel J. Ervin III, and is the first African American woman to sit on the court.  Wynn, also a North Carolina native, served on the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court before his appointment to the Fourth Circuit by President Barack Obama in 2010, the same year the President also appointed Childs to the court.

On an unrelated note, late last week the President nominated Pamela Harris to serve on the Fourth Circuit, filling the Maryland slot left open when U.S. Circuit Judge Andre Davis took senior status at the end of February.

Read more about Harris here.