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North Carolina legislative districts are back in court again as federal judges must decide whether to accept proposed alterations by their appointed third-party expert.

A three-judge panel scheduled a hearing Friday in Greensboro to listen to why a Stanford University law professor they hired redrew boundaries the way he did. House and Senate districts drawn by Republican legislators have been in courts since 2011.

The same judicial panel previously struck down 28 districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, ultimately leading GOP legislators last summer to retool their maps. But the judges said there seemed to be lingering problems with race and constitutional violations and brought in a special master.

GOP lawyers already have said they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the judicial panel approves the professor's proposal.



A British banker sentenced to life in prison for the gruesome slayings of two Indonesian women appeared in a Hong Kong court on Tuesday to appeal his conviction.

Lawyers for Rurik Jutting made their case in the semiautonomous Chinese city's Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial judge gave incorrect instructions to the jury on deciding their verdict.

The nine-person jury last year convicted Cambridge University-educated Jutting of the 2014 killings of Seneng Mujiasih, 26, and Sumarti Ningsih, 23.

The case shocked residents of Hong Kong, while also highlighting wide inequality and seedy aspects usually hidden below the surface.

Jutting, 32, watched the proceedings from the dock Tuesday, wearing a blue dress shirt and often leafing through a bundle of court documents as he followed along. During a break he chatted with the three uniformed court officers sitting alongside him.

Jutting worked for Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, while Seneng and Sumarti arrived in Hong Kong as foreign maids but ended up as sex workers. During the trial, jurors were shown graphic iPhone videos shot by Jutting of him torturing Sumarti and snorting cocaine.

Jutting attempted at the trial to plead guilty to manslaughter, which the court rejected. His defense argued that he was under diminished responsibility.

On Tuesday, lawyer Gerard McCoy told the three-judge appeal panel that the trial judge made a "fatal error" in his directions to the jurors on how to assess Jutting's psychiatric disorders and whether they constituted a mental abnormality.

Under Hong Kong law, an "abnormality of mind" that substantially impairs mental responsibility can be used as a defense against a murder conviction.




Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."

Vice President Mike Pence says "now the ball is in the Senate's court," after the House voted Thursday to approve a $1.5 trillion overhaul of the nation's tax code.

At the Tax Foundation's 80th annual dinner in Washington, Pence said, "The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they're going to be a challenge." But he said, "we're going to get it done" before the end of the year. Pence was being awarded the foundation's distinguished service award.

Pence is endorsing the Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate as part of its own tax reform plan.

He said: "While we're at it, we're going to cut taxes on working Americans when we repeal the Obamacare individual mandate tax in this tax reform bill."



Steve Mostyn, a prominent Houston trial attorney and a top Democratic Party donor, has died. He was 46.

In a statement, his family confirmed Thursday his death on Wednesday "after a sudden onset and battle with a mental health issue."

"Steve was a beloved husband and devoted father who adored his children and never missed any of their sporting events," the statement reads. "He was a true friend, and a faithful fighter for those who did not have a voice."

"Steve touched countless lives. Many friends and colleagues in Texas and throughout the country have reached out during this painful time. Our family is requesting privacy . . . The details of a celebration of Steve's life will be announced at a later date."

"In honor of Steve's life and legacy,  please consider supporting the important work of the Mostyn Moreno Foundation or the Special Olympics of Texas. If you or a loved one are thinking about suicide, or experiencing a health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right now."

Born John Steven Mostyn  in Whitehouse, a small town in East Texas, just southeast of Tyler, Mostyn graduated from the South Texas College of Law in 1996 and joined a Houston firm. Soon, he went on his own to create what he called "a uniquely different Texas law firm" -- Mostyn Law -- that focused on corporate negligence and wrongdoing.



Electronic filing is transforming the way Indiana's judicial system works.

Fifty-five of the state's 92 counties have adopted mandatory electronic filing for most new criminal and civil lawsuits over the past 15 months, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. The state's appellate division has also adopted the electronic system.

The Supreme Court's Office of Court Technology says more than 2.1 million documents have been electronically filed in the state since July 1, 2016.

E-filing makes judges and lawyers more efficient and improves court services for Indiana residents, said Justice Steven David. Non-confidential court documents are also available online.

E-filing has been adopted quickly through the state because may counties are using the same case management system called Odyssey, said Justice Mark Massa.

The system is paid for by a $20 automated record keeping fee that's attached to every case filed in Indiana court.

"It's the best deal for counties," Massa said. "It carries with it state funding of that technology and that support, and we're getting closer and closer to that complete statewide coverage with each passing year."

The system also allows the judicial branch to generate comprehensive data about crimes, courts, dispositions, children in need of services, protection orders and other information that the legislative and executive branches need when enacting new laws, David said.

"In the old days, you might get data from one court and try to extrapolate, or determine if that court is representative of the rest of the state or not, and that's no longer the case," David said.


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