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Weekend Circuit: North Carolina Voting Law Struck Down, Porn Star Gets Mad

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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This is Weekend Circuit, a review of the serious and the silly in federal appellate courts in the last week.

Fourth Circuit Torpedoes North Carolina Voting Regulations

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit showed little patience and less leniency with North Carolina Friday, striking down the state’s voting law in a display of raw judicial brawn. The Court found that North Carolina acted with discriminatory intent in adopting the law, raising the prospect of a Voting Rights Act section 3 petition, which could place the state’s voting laws back under federal supervision.

“Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist,” the court wrote. “Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation.”

In what may be a first in a federal court, the three-judge panel cited the “The Daily Show” in a footnote on page 47 of the ruling, quoting a Republican precinct chair who testified before the North Carolina legislature (and later interviewed on the Comedy Central program) to corroborate their intentional discrimination finding. “If [SL 2013-381] hurts the whites so be it,” the precinct chair told “The Daily Show” in 2013. “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Menendez Loses Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit declined to dismiss a corruption indictment against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez Friday, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonnell v. U.S. raised the prospect of a quick acquittal for the embattled Democrat. (RELATED: Supreme Court: Disgraced Republican Governor’s ‘Tawdry’ Deeds Aren’t Corruption)

At issue in the litigation is the senator’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist and Menendez financier. The government argues Melgan showered Menendez with lavish gifts in exchange for his intercession on various matters relevant to his medical practice, including Medicare billing disputes. Menendez has argued his conduct is protected by the Constitution’s speech and debate clause.

“Members of Congress are not to be ‘super-citizens’ immune from criminal liability,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote for a three-judge panel.

Ninth Circuit OKs Porn Star’s Libel Claim

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is allowing Leah Manzari, a retired porn star, to proceed with a libel claim against a British newspaper that ran a picture of her in a story concerning a prominent webcam cocotte who tested positive for HIV.

Manzari does not have HIV.

She brought a claim against the Daily Mail, alleging that using her photo in the context of the article was a libelous assertion that she has a sexually-transmitted disease. The Mail claims it simply relied on a stock photo and included a note at the end of the article the individual pictured was not the actress in question. Still, the Ninth Circuit found that a reasonable reader would probably infer the piece was about Manzari, and allowed the litigation to proceed.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. A photograph, especially when coupled with text, can convey a powerful message: in this case, a potentially defamatory one,” the panel said.

Manzari performed under the name “Danni Ashe.”

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