Issues to Watch

Assessing the Ability of Governor Hogan to De-Politicize Maryland’s Federal Redistricting Process


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Fixing the Broken-Winged Pterodactyl: Assessing the Ability of Governor Hogan to De-Politicize Maryland’s Federal Redistricting Process

In form, the original Massachusetts Gerrymander looks tame by comparison, as this is more reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the State. The Third District is rated at or near the bottom of all congressional districts in multiple measures of statistical compactness”

Stanley R. Carignan*

The 2010-midterm elections ushered in a new era of partisanship and legislative stalemate unprecedented in modern times.  Adam Bonica, Introducing the 112th Congress, Ideological Cartography (Nov. 5, 2010), http://ideologicalcartography.com/2010/11/05/ introducing-the-112th-congress/.  While the election was a national victory for Republicans, Democrats in Maryland retained their control over the Governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature.  2010 General Election Results, Md. State Board of Elections, http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2010/results/General/gen_results_2010_2_003-.html (last visited Aug. 27, 2015).  In October 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley called a special session of the state legislature to update Maryland’s congressional maps in compliance with the 2010 U.S. Census.  Jeff Newman, Redistricting 101: Democrats Positioning for 7-to-1 Capitol Hill Advantage, SoMd News (Sept. 30, 2011), http://www.somdnews.com/article/20110930/NEWS/709309923&template=southernMaryland.  Republicans, the minority party, faced considerable legislative obstacles to getting any favorable districts drawn in the new congressional maps.  2010 General Election Results, supra.  Indeed, the congressional districts ultimately produced by the special session are today considered some of the most blatantly partisan in the nation.  Christopher Ingraham, America’s Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts, Wash. Post: Wonkblog (May 15, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/.  Justifiably frustrated with the outcome of the partisan redistricting process, Republicans successfully petitioned for a voter referendum on the new congressional maps approved by the legislature.  Aaron C. Davis, Md. Voters Likely to Decide Congressional Map, Wash. Post (July 11, 2012), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/maryland-politics/post/md-voters-likely-to-decide-congressional-map/2012/07/11/gJQASWxidW_blog.html.  Despite the Republican outcry, Maryland voters approved of their new partisan congressional districts at a ratio of nearly two to one.  Official 2012 Presidential General Election Results for All State Questions, State Board of Elections, http://www.elections.state.md.us/elections/2012/results/general/gen_qresults_2012_4_00_1.html (last updated Nov. 28, 2012).  A similar process played out across the nation as state parties in the majority or supermajority leveraged their power to draw favorable districts.  Noah Litton, The Road to Better Redistricting: Empirical Analysis and State-Based Reforms to Counter Partisan Gerrymandering, 73 Ohio St. L.J. 839, 841 (2012). (more…)

Issues to Watch

First Amendment Challenges Threaten Funding Schemes For Public Sector Unions Could Shape The Upcoming National Election


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First Amendment Challenges Threaten Funding Schemes For Public Sector Unions Could  Shape The Upcoming National Election

Christian Piatt*

As politics returns to center stage with each party trying to find its next presidential candidate, the issue of public sector unions is coming before the Supreme Court.  Recently, the Supreme Court heard Harris where a small group of employees sought First Amendment protection from mandatory contributions to public sector unions.  Harris v. Quinn, 134 S. Ct. 2618 (2014).  The Court struck down aspects of the challenged scheme but limited the decision to a small class of employees.  A second suit now follows on the heels of the Court’s 5-4 decision in Harris.  In Friedrichs, a school teacher alleges that mandatory contributions to a union infringe her First Amendment rights by requiring her to fund a third party organization whose political agenda conflicts with her personal beliefs.  Friedrichs v. California Teachers Ass’n., No. 13-57095, 2014 WL 10076847 (9th Cir. Nov. 18, 2014) cert. granted, 135 S. Ct. 2933 (2015).  Whichever way the Court holds will certainly fuel passionate, widespread debate throughout the upcoming election season. (more…)

Issues to Watch

The Voting Rights Act Turns 50


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The Voting Rights Act Turns 50

Laura E. Cress

August 2015 marked the golden anniversary of a piece of civil rights legislation that is largely considered the most successful ever adopted by the United States Congress—the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).  Introduction to Federal Voting Rights Laws, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/crt/introduction-federal-voting-rights-laws-1 (last visited Oct. 11, 2015) [hereinafter VRA Intro].  Fifty years ago on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the VRA into law to combat a near century of racial discrimination that continually contaminated the voting process in parts of the country, even after the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to vote without discrimination.  Shelby v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 2633 (2013) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).  But in 2013, minority citizens protected by the Act suffered a setback when the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Act in its Shelby v. Holder decision.  Id.  The VRA today has a less profound effect on disenfranchised voters’ rights than the Act Congress enacted 50 years ago, and renewed as recently as 2006.  Shelby, 133 S. Ct. at 2621 (majority opinion); Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act, N.Y. Times (Jun. 25, 2013), http://nyti.ms/17zP82p. (more…)

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Maryland Court of Appeals Holds That Sustained Complaints Against Police Shielded From Public Disclosure


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Access to Governmental Records – Maryland Court of Appeals Holds That Sustained Complaints Against Police Shielded From Public Disclosure – State Police v. Dashiell, 117 A.3d 1 (Md. 2015)

Ben Weathers*

Following a spate of highly publicized killings of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers over the past year, relationships among law enforcement and minority communities have become increasingly volatile.  Nowhere is this more evident than in largely urban communities like Baltimore, where anger over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody, led to unrest this past April.  Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Baltimore Enlists National Guard and a Curfew to Fight Riots and Looting, N.Y. Times (Apr. 27, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/28/us/baltimore-freddie-gray.html.  Six Baltimore City police officers were charged in Gray’s death and are slated to go to trial in October.  Kevin Rector, Officers plead not guilty in Freddie Gray Case as Judge and Trial Date Selected, Balt. Sun (June 22, 2015), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-freddie-gray-trial-date-20150622-story.html.  However, had the officers not been criminally charged in Gray’s death, it remains unclear whether their alleged misconduct would have ever been brought to public light. (more…)

Issues to Watch

FIFA Gets the Mafia Treatment


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FIFA Gets the Mafia Treatment

Christopher Burns*

Members of the Hells Angels, Latin Kings, and the Gambino crime family were all prosecuted in Federal Court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  RICO, enacted in 1970, was drafted with the intention to take down various mafia organizations and crime syndicates located domestically by means of incorporating assorted federal crimes ranging from substance abuse to money laundering.  Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 (2012).  Additionally, RICO adds new criminal and civil consequences to the predicate offenses incorporated into the statute.  Id. § 1963.  Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) applied RICO to prosecute a different kind of crime syndicate – the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or as most people know it, FIFA.  Grand Jury Indictment, United States v. Webb, et al., 15 CR 0252 (E.D.N.Y. May 20, 2015), http://www.justice.gov/opa/file/450211/download [hereinafter Webb Indictment].  FIFA is the international body governing organized soccer, commonly known outside the United States as football.  The organization has long been accused of harboring corrupt members, whose prerogative consist of filling their deep pockets rather than “develop[ing] football everywhere and for all . . . and to build a better future through the power of the game.”  Fifa, http://www.FIFA.com/about-fifa/who-we-are/explore-fifa.html (last visited Aug. 27, 2015). (more…)