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Judges Order New Voting Districts in Virginia

Judges ordered Virginia legislators to adopt new district lines that mostly likely will change the balance of political power in the state.

The new districts will tip the balance in favor of Democrats, who claim in a lawsuit that the traditional boundaries diluted votes of African Americans. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the gerrymandering case late last year.

With judicial oversight, lawmakers say the redistricting will change everything. It could happen even before the Supreme Court rules.

Court Tosses Mountain Valley Pipeline Permit

A federal appeals court threw out a critical permit for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, sending engineers back to the drawing board.

In Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said the defendants could not substitute one construction standard for another to push the pipeline project.

The decision was a setback for the pipeline and a win for environmentalists, and it didn't take long. The appeals court issued its opinion four days after hearing the parties' arguments.

Court: Coal Ash Pollution Doesn't Violate Clean Water Act

To the Sierra Club, Hurricane Florence is even more dangerous than has been reported.

That's because the environmentalists are watching coal ash ponds along Elizabeth River and Deep Creek in Virginia. In Sierra Club v. Virginia Electric & Power Company, they argue arsenic is leaching from the ponds into the rivers and groundwater.

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said that may be true, but it is not a violation of the Clean Water Act. Attorneys for the club say the hurricane will show just how "dangerous and irresponsible" it is.

Meet the 36-Year-Old Pick for 4th Circuit

President Trump has a plan to appoint younger judges, and Allison Jones Rushing fits that plan.

At 36, Rushing is the youngest nominee to a federal appeals court in 15 years. She also fits the generally youthful profile for potential judges who made the president's recent short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rushing will have to put in some years on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals before she makes that list. Of course, she has to make it to the appeals court first.

Court: North Carolina's Voting Map Must Be Redrawn -- Again

One vote can change an election, but three can put one in disarray.

At least, that's how it looks in North Carolina. With little more than two months before November elections, a federal appeals court said congressional voting districts there must be redrawn.

In Common Cause v. Rucho, the appellate judges said the state's congressional map is an unconstitutional gerrymander. It's bigger than the Tar Heel State, however, because the results could change the balance of power in Congress.

University Didn't Violate Students' Free Speech

College students often rally around the First Amendment, but sometimes lack the knowledge to go with it.

Ross Abbott, for example, helped organize a "Free Speech Event" at his university. It stirred controversy because some students were offended by a swastika display, a "wetback" poster, and other allegedly racist statements at the event.

In Abbott v. Pastides, the young organizer and others sued the university for violating their First Amendment rights. An appeals court said they lacked standing, not to mention they got to say everything they had planned.

4th Circuit Clogs Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Court opinions are like pipelines -- sometimes it takes a while for them to get through.

At least that's what's happening with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The appeals court finally got its message through to the contractors building the 600-mile pipeline.

Stop, the judges said in Sierra Club v. United States Department of the Interior. It wasn't the first time.

Trump Emoluments Case Can Proceed, Federal Judge Says

Don't expect President Trump to check out of his own hotel, but some of his foreign guests may have to following a court ruling.

A federal judge ruled that the emoluments case may proceed against the president, based on allegations that he has profited from foreign or state officials while in office. Maryland and Washington, D.C. filed suit against him for violating the emoluments clause by receiving income from the Trump International Hotel.

Trump's attorneys tried to throw out the lawsuit, but the judge said an emolument is "any profit, gain or advantage." The ruling was a big tip -- and a lot more than a $20 bill -- that the president might be in trouble.

Fourth Circuit Nominees Sail Through Judiciary Committee

Being in the right place at the right time does not usually describe a judicial nominee's position before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But it might apply for two nominees to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. and Jay Richardson "breezed" through their Senate hearings.

If not the right place at the right time, it was good place for a short time. The nominees might make it to the bench before the summer break.

Court Revives 'Ag Gag' Lawsuit in North Carolina

For all the attention on North Carolina's ag-gag law, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals saw the challengers' case as straightforward.

They have standing to sue, the appeals court said in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Stein. Basically, the plaintiffs alleged sufficient injury to proceed in their pre-emptive strike against the statute.

PETA and others had sued before the state enforced the law, which was designed to protect businesses from private undercover investigations. In an unpublished decision, the Fourth Circuit said it's enough that the plaintiffs feared the potential penalties.