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Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Sunday named a former foreign minister as his party’s candidate for a special gubernatorial election in the home state of his mentor, Hugo Chávez, that was scheduled after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified.

Maduro declared Jorge Arreaza as the ruling party’s candidate via a livestream connected to a gymnasium in the rural state of Barinas packed with supporters who erupted in cheers as their new candidate promised them a comprehensive review of their communities’ needs.

The announcement came less than a week after the country’s highest court disqualified Freddy Superlano as he was leading the vote count, a move that has become emblematic of what the opposition says are unfair election conditions. The state in northwest Venezuela has long been considered a bastion of Chávismo., which made Superlano’s potential win particularly hard to swallow for the ruling party.

Superlano was ahead by less than 1 percentage point in the Nov. 21 race against incumbent Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers, when he was disqualified. Argenis along with Adán Chávez and father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez have served as governors of the state of Barinas since 1998.

The opposition announced Saturday that Aurora Silva, Superlano’s wife, would take his place in the election. But Superlano’s campaign late Sunday said Silva appeared to have been disqualified but did not immediately provide details.

Leaders of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela convened in Barinas this week to decide on a new candidate after Argenis Chávez announced his decision to resign as governor and not enter the race again. They needed a unifying candidate after many blamed the election’s results on an internal rift.


Barely 24 hours after their passage, North Carolina’s newly drawn maps are facing another legal complaint that will likely determine how much Republicans can expand their political clout over the coming decade in a state that is slowly becoming more blue.

An organization formed by Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer, announced Friday that a group of voters who successfully challenged previous North Carolina maps will now make a similar appeal in state court contesting the latest congressional maps. They will argue that the boundaries approved by Republicans on Thursday were drawn for political gain in a way that violates several provisions of the North Carolina Constitution.

The stakes are high, as Republicans currently hold an 8-5 edge over Democrats in the U.S. House and would likely expand their advantages substantially if the maps prevail.

During a virtual event on Twitter, Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, called North Carolina’s maps “a grotesque partisan gerrymander” and “indefensible.”

“The Republican Party has lost all shame,” Elias said. “I mean, in the 2010 (redistricting process and) after 2010, they were still pretending that they cared about democracy and about voting rights, and now they no longer pretend.”

Last week, voters and advocacy groups sued in Wake County court to block the timetable for passing state legislative maps, accusing Republicans of breaking rules aimed at ensuring Black voters can elect their desired candidates.

The new legal challenge announced on Friday focuses on partisan gerrymandering.

“Expert analysis confirms that the 2021 Plan is an intentional, extreme partisan gerrymander that dilutes Democratic votes and prevents Democratic voters from electing candidates of their choice,” the complaint says.

If the maps hold up in court, Republicans would likely win 10 or 11 of the 14 available congressional seats for the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. Because of sizable population growth in the state over the past decade, North Carolina was awarded an additional district. Just one of the 14 districts is considered highly competitive.

Voting rights groups and Democrats argue the maps are unfair, given that the state has become bluer in recent years, though former President Donald Trump won North Carolina in 2016 and 2020. They also accuse Republicans of diminishing the voting power of racial minorities, including Black and Hispanic residents.


A federal judge in Mississippi has decided to take senior status beginning Monday.

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that he’s making the move after serving two decades on the federal bench.

Senior status opens a vacancy on the court for the Northern District of Mississippi and will allow Mills to handle a reduced caseload on the federal court. In his Oct. 13 letter to President Joe Biden, he stated he had attained the age and met the service requirements for that status. Still, he said, he intends to continue to carry a full case load until his replacement is sworn in.

“It’s been great,” Mills said.. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the other judges, lawyers, and staff and hope to continue to do so.”

Mills was nominated by former President George W. Bush to the seat after U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers decided to take senior status. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October 2001. Prior to his service on the federal level, Mills served on the Mississippi Supreme Court, in the state House representing Itawamba and Monroe counties.

Longtime friend and attorney Steve Farese told the newspaper that Mills is well versed in the law and applies that knowledge in his decision-making process.

“The Northern District of Mississippi has been blessed before and throughout my 44-year career with excellent Article 3 judges,” said Farese. “Judge Mills is certainly of that ilk. A true Renaissance Man, Judge Mills loves literature and the outdoors.”

Farese said Mills is empathetic when it’s called for and balances justice with mercy.

“His personality and demeanor give all participants a sense of understanding of his procedures,” he said. “I look forward to continuing practicing before him as he takes senior status.”

Attorney Rachel Pierce Waide said Mill’s presence in her life as well as on the bench has been a gift.

“I’m sad to hear this news. I have known Judge Mills my entire life and his presence both personally and professionally has truly been a gift,” Waide said. “His chief goal in life and on the bench is to be fair and he practices that routinely.”


A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina’s flagship public university can continue to consider race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions, rebuffing a conservative group’s argument that affirmative action disadvantages white and Asian students.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled late Monday that the University of North Carolina has shown that it has a compelling reason to pursue a diverse student body and has demonstrated that measurable benefits come from that goal.

“In sum, the Court concludes that UNC has met its burden in demonstrating that it has a genuine and compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity,” Biggs wrote.

Students for Fair Admissions sued UNC in 2014, arguing that using race and ethnicity as a factor in college admissions violates the equal protection cause of the Constitution and federal civil rights law. The group contended that UNC had gone too far in using race as a factor in admissions and had thus “intentionally discriminated against certain of (its) members on the basis of their race, color, or ethnicity.”

The group’s president, Edward Blum, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that it would appeal by day’s end to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. His group already appealed a denial in a similar lawsuit against Harvard University. Blum said he hopes both cases get bundled together so that the U.S. Supreme Court rules simultaneously on private and public universities.

“Shame on Harvard, shame on UNC and shame on all universities who take federal funds from considering race as an element,” said Blum, who has long sought to rid college admissions of race-based admissions policies.

The Supreme Court in June asked the Justice Department to weigh in on Blum’s Harvard lawsuit, which was supported by former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump’s Justice Department also challenged Yale University ’s admissions practices in a suit President Joe Biden’s administration dropped earlier this year.

UNC countered in court that its admission practices are legally and constitutionally permissible and that race-neutral alternatives would not enable it to achieve its diversity goals. Of roughly 20,000 undergraduate UNC students this fall 2021 semester, approximately 56% are white, nearly 13% Asian, about 10% Hispanic, and 8.5% Black, the university said.

“This decision makes clear the University’s holistic admissions approach is lawful,” said an emailed statement from Beth Keith, a spokesperson for the university. “We evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to a vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive.”

Judge Biggs wrote that she applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s University of Texas precedent, which established that schools may consider race in admissions in ways narrowly tailored to promote diversity.

She noted that UNC “offered a principled and reasoned explanation,” supported by research, for its pursuit of a diverse student body, citing a 2005 report by a UNC task force that its academic goals depend on “a critical mass” of students from underrepresented groups.

“The University has presented substantial evidence demonstrating its good faith in pursuing the educational benefits that flow from diversity,” the judge concluded.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represented a racially diverse group of students who intervened in the case demanding that the university to even more to support minorities. Its statement said considering race in admissions helps ensure that talented applicants from historically marginalized groups aren’t overlooked.

“As our clients demonstrated with their trial testimony and evidence, race is an integral part of a students’ identity, and must be treated as such during the admissions process,” attorney Genevieve Bonadies-Torres said.


An Arizona judge on Tuesday ordered the state Senate to immediately provide text messages and emails related to the Senate Republicans’ partisan review of the 2020 vote count.

Maricopa County Superior Court judge John Hannah said he will review the records and decide whether they must be given to The Arizona Republic, which has requested them under the state’s public records law. The Senate’s GOP leaders say the records don’t have to be publicly disclosed because of legislative privilege, which is meant to promote frank and honest debate among lawmakers.

The Republic has good reason to believe that legislative privilege does not apply to at least some of the records, Hannah wrote in a 13-page ruling.

Kory Langhofer, a lawyer representing the Senate, said the records were given to the court. The judge’s ruling did not say how long he would take to review them and decide whether they should be given to the newspaper.


A federal appeals court has dismissed a judge’s ruling that threw out Gov. Tom Wolf’s sweeping COVID-19 restrictions, saying the issue is now moot because statewide mitigation measures have expired and Pennsylvania voters have since constrained a governor’s emergency powers.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since Wolf’s stay-at-home order, limits on crowd size and business closures are no longer in effect, there is “consequently no relief that this court can grant.”

The Philadelphia-based appeals court also noted that Pennsylvania voters in May approved amendments to the state constitution that give lawmakers much more power over disaster declarations.

The appeals court’s order instructed U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV to vacate his nearly year-old ruling that Wolf’s pandemic restrictions were overreaching and arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights. The appeals court had previously put the ruling on hold while the Wolf administration appealed.

Stickman, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, had sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders in their lawsuit against Wolf, a Democrat, and his health secretary.

Writing separately, 3rd Circuit Judge Kent Jordan said that while he agreed with the majority that the case is legally moot, he noted the Wolf administration has said the constitutional amendments do not affect a state health secretary’s disease-prevention authority to issue mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders or shut down schools and nonessential businesses.

At the same time, Wolf administration officials have said they have no intention of restoring such statewide mitigation measures, even as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has led to sharply rising infections and hospitalizations.


State workplace safety officials plan to fine the Los Angeles County Superior Court system more than $25,000 for alleged violations involving the COVID-19 pandemic.

The system shut down all but the most essential services in early 2020 but resumed many in-person proceedings in the final months of the year. About 16 interpreters were exposed to COVID-19 and one died in January 2021, followed by two other court employees that month and another interpreter in February.

The California Division of Occupational Health and Safety, known as Cal/OSHA, found three violations, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

One alleged that the court failed to immediately notify Cal/OSHA that an employee was seriously ill and hospitalized with COVID-19 in early January.

Cal/OSHA also alleged the court failed to implement an effective illness and injury prevention program and correct unhealthy practices, including a lack of COVID-19 prevention training to interpreters.

The third violation alleged a failure to ensure physical distancing in the interpreters’ lounge.

Ann E. Donlan, the court’s communications director, disputed the alleged violations.

“The court will be appealing these alleged violations because we do not believe Cal/OSHA has complete information,” Donlan said in a statement.

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