[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases on Monday. In Wittman v. Personhuballah [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] regarding an election district plan for Virginia’s Third Congressional District. This district was altered in 2012 in a manner that increased the already majority-African American population, and the district court found the plan unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. This is the second time the case has come before the Supreme Court, as the court previously remanded the case back to the US Court for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] for reconsideration in light of its then-recent decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama [opinion, PDF; JURIST report], which held that courts must decide whether race predominated over nonracial considerations when planning districts. The district court again found the plan unconstitutional [opinion, PDF] in June. The Supreme Court now must decide whether the lower court erred in its holding as it never found that “race rather than politics” predominates in District 3 and never required the plaintiffs to prove the legislature could have changed the districting plan in another way that would have achieved more racial balance.
In RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. The European Community [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] on whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] applies extraterritorially. The European Community (EC) and 26 of its member states brought this suit claiming that Russian and Colombian organized crime rings smuggled drugs into Europe, then laundered the profits into a scheme that included the sale of RJR Nabisco cigarettes. RJR executives allegedly bribed border agents in South America and wired the cigarette payments into accounts in the US. The EC suffered injury in this scheme in the form of lost tax revenue and lost profits from state-owned tobacco businesses. The court must determine whether RICO rebuts the presumption against territoriality, which says that federal laws only apply within the US unless Congress clearly expressed a contrary intent. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] reversed [opinion, PDF] the district court’s decision to dismiss the suit. Justice Sonia Sotomayor will not take part in this case, and the 7-justice court will not face the possibility of a deadlock as was the circumstance with every other case arising after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia [JURIST report].