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A federal appeals court has ordered a fourth attempt at mediation in a long-running dispute over the state of Maryland’s treatment of its historically black colleges.

The black colleges say the state has underfunded them while developing programs at traditionally white schools that directly compete with them and drain prospective students away.

In 2013, a judge found that the state had maintained an unconstitutional “dual and segregated education system.” The judge said the state allowed traditionally white schools to replicate programs at historically black institutions, thereby undermining the success of the black schools.

Despite three previous tries at mediation, the two sides have been unable to agree on a solution.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Maryland’s higher education commission and the coalition to begin mediation again to try to settle the 12-year-old lawsuit.



A civil rights attorney elected to North Carolina's highest court is taking office.

Anita Earls is being sworn into office as a state Supreme Court associate justice on Thursday. The Democrat defeated Republican incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson in November.

Earls founded and led the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She was a deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

Earls also served the state elections board and taught at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Maryland. She earned her law degree from Yale.




North Carolina's top court says the state is responsible, not the counties, when schools are so underfunded that some children don't get the constitutionally required sound basic education.

In a decision issued Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against parents and children in Halifax County, who contended county commissioners haven't fairly distributed tax money, hurting some students.

The Supreme Court decision says only the state has "the power to create and maintain a system of public education." The case was the first to address whether local governments have a duty to provide every child an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. In a landmark 1997 case known as Leandro, the court determined the state has that duty.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision by the state Court of Appeals.



Attorneys for a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on religious grounds — a stand partially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court — argued in federal court Tuesday that the state is punishing him again over his refusal to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition.

Lawyers for Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in suburban Denver, are suing to try to stop the state from taking action against him over the new discrimination allegation. They say the state is treating Phillips with hostility because of his Christian faith and pressing a complaint that they call an "obvious setup."

"At this point, he's just a guy who is trying to get back to life. The problem is the state of Colorado won't let him," Jim Campbell, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said after the hearing. The conservative Christian nonprofit law firm is representing Phillips.

State officials argued for the case to be dismissed, but the judge said he was inclined to let the case move forward and would issue a written ruling later.

The Colorado Civil Rights Commission said Phillips discriminated against Denver attorney Autumn Scardina because she's transgender. Phillips' shop refused to make a cake last year that was blue on the outside and pink on the inside after Scardina revealed she wanted it to celebrate her transition from male to female.

She asked for the cake on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would consider Phillips' appeal of the previous commission ruling against him. In that 2012 case, he refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins.

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the Colorado commission showed anti-religious bias when it sanctioned Phillips for refusing to make the cake, voting 7-2 that it violated Phillips' First Amendment rights.



A Thai court ruled Tuesday that a soccer player who holds refugee status in Australia can be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain, the homeland he fled four years ago on account of alleged political persecution and torture.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who was detained Nov. 27 upon entry at Bangkok's main airport, was denied release on bail during his court appearance. Thai officials said he was originally held on the basis of a notice from Interpol in which Bahrain sought his custody because he had been sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for vandalizing a police station, a charge he denies. He came to Thailand on vacation with his wife.

Al-Araibi says he fears being tortured if sent to Bahrain. Australia, which granted him refugee status and residency in 2017, has called for his release and immediate return to his adoptive home. He had played for Bahrain's national soccer team and now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club. He has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals.

He also has alleged he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012.

He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.

Thai officials insist they are following the letter of the law in holding him, but rights groups suggest he should not have been detained because of his refugee status, and that international law to which Thailand is a party bars sending him to Bahrain if he has a legitimate fear of persecution and even torture. The court can extend the 60-day detention by another 30 days on application of the prosecutor's office, but otherwise he is free to go if Bahrain does not finish its extradition application by then.



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