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SCOTUS issues opinion, accepts case

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on April 5 issued an opinion in the case Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc. and accepted Brown v. Davenport for argument in October 2021.

In Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc., the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings by a 6-2 vote. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since she had not joined the court at the time of the case’s oral argument in October 2020. 

The case was brought because Google copied verbatim portions of copyrighted code from 37 Java API packages and the packages’ structure, sequence, and organization, and wrote its own, customized implementing code for use with mobile devices. In its ruling, SCOTUS held that Google’s use of the programming code constituted a fair use of that material under copyright law.

With the Google ruling, all cases that were argued during the 2020 term’s October sitting have been decided. To date, the court has issued opinions in 26 cases this term. Five cases were decided without argument.

SCOTUS accepted the case Brown v. Davenport for argument during its upcoming term. The case concerns the standard necessary to grant federal habeas relief to a person held in state custody. 

The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Throughout his 2008 trial for first-degree murder, Ervine Davenport was visibly shackled. Davenport was found guilty. Davenport challenged his conviction, arguing that being in shackles contributed to his conviction. The state of Michigan found that the shackling did not affect the verdict. Davenport filed a federal habeas corpus petition with the 6th Circuit. The court granted a conditional habeas writ, concluding that Michigan was not able to show that Davenport’s shackling did not have a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.” Mike Brown, as the acting warden of the prison where Davenport is being held, petitioned for an en banc review by the entire 16-judge 6th Circuit. The request was denied, and he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing cases for the 2021-2022 term on Oct. 4. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June. As of April 5, the court had agreed to hear 10 cases during its 2021-2022 term.

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Spring elections held in Wisconsin

The statewide nonpartisan general election for Wisconsin was held on April 6. The primary was held on February 16, and the filing deadline to run passed on January 5. Candidates ran in elections for special elections in the Wisconsin State Legislature, three judgeships on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and in municipal and school board elections.

Wisconsin State Legislature

• State Senate District 13: John Jagler (R) defeated four candidates to win the special election, winning 51.2% of the total (37,385) reported votes. The seat became vacant after incumbent officeholder Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House to represent Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District on Nov. 3. Fitzgerald vacated his seat on Jan. 1.

• State Assembly District 89: Elijah Behnke (R) defeated challenger Karl Jaeger (D) to win the special election. Behnke received 60.3% of the total (8,413) votes, while Jaeger received 39.7% of the votes. The seat became vacant on Dec. 2, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals

• In District 1, Judge Maxine A. White won re-election unopposed.

• In District 2, Judge Jeffrey Davis was defeated by challenger Shelley Grogan.

• In District 3, newcomer Greg Gill Jr. defeated Rick Cveykus.

Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas:

• Dane County and Milwaukee County

• The cities of Madison and Milwaukee

• DeForest Area School District

• Madison Metropolitan School District

• McFarland School District

• Middleton-Cross Plains School District

• Milwaukee Public Schools

• Sun Prairie Area School District

• Verona Area School District

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Maryland voters will decide whether to rename the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2022

On April 6, the Maryland State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. It would also change the name of a Judge of the Court of Appeals to a Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland and the name of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. The measure would also amend the gendered language to be gender-neutral in the articles of the Maryland Constitution that would be amended.

In a hearing on the bill, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said, “There is confusion from beyond the borders of our state as lawyers, law students and litigants research, contact and even file papers with the wrong court. That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 885 (HB 885) on January 29, 2021, by Delegate Ron Watson (D). It was approved in the state House by a vote of 125-10 on March 21, 2021. On April 6, 2021, the Maryland State Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 40-7.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. Judges are appointed to serve 10-year terms with confirmation from the Maryland State Senate. The seven judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission and are subject to state Senate confirmation. After serving for at least one year, judges must stand in yes-no retention elections to determine whether they will remain on the court. Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for all judges of 70 years.

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 (92%) statewide measures in Maryland were approved, and three of 36 (8%) were defeated.

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Transition Tracker for April 9, 2021: Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget.

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Friday. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

News

  • Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget on Friday, which will include $715 billion for the Pentagon, up from $704 billion this fiscal year. 
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on his opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster.
  • During a court hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, the Biden administration will announce its position on whether the Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats would likely pursue separate legislation on infrastructure and jobs, with a target of passing both before Congress’ August recess.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the American Jobs Plan.

  • “I don’t think the bill can grow into a multi-trillion-dollar catch-all. A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.” – Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
  • “You can’t separate the climate part from this vision because every road we fix, every bridge we build, we can either do it in a way that’s better for the climate or worse for the climate. Why wouldn’t we want to be creating these jobs in a way that’s better for the climate?” – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (D)
  • “They’re terming it ‘social infrastructure.’ Never heard that before. I think we need to talk to the American people and say, ‘Is this what you envision with infrastructure? Are these job creators? Are we re-engineering our own social fabric here with a 50-vote majority?'” – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
  • “I think it’s a wish list for every single mayor and almost every governor across the country. I mean, I think that this is something that, if I were the mayor of Boston a week ago when the president unveiled this plan, I would be excited because almost every aspect of this plan touches somebody in the city of Boston. And I can speak for a lot of mayors around the country. They’re very excited about this legislation. So I don’t think they view it as a liberal wish list. They view it as something that is much needed in America.” – Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (D)

What We’re Reading



Republican-controlled Arkansas General Assembly overrides gubernatorial veto of bill prohibiting gender-affirming treatments for minors

On April 6, the Arkansas General Assembly overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) veto of House Bill 1570 (H.B. 1570), a bill prohibiting physicians and healthcare professionals from providing chemical or surgical gender-affirming treatments—including hormone therapy and puberty blockers—to individuals under the age of 18. The bill also prohibits providers from referring minors elsewhere in order to receive such treatments. Gender-affirming treatment, also known as gender reassignment treatment, refers to the process of changing a person’s body to conform with their gender identity.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Flippo (R), a proponent of the bill, described the prohibited treatments as “something that oftentimes could be irreversible,” adding that “it is not simply too much to ask to let [children’s] minds develop and mature a little bit before they make what could be a very permanent and life-changing decision.”

In his veto announcement, Hutchinson said the bill would create “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people. … This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson vetoed H.B. 1570 on April 5. In Arkansas, a majority of votes in both chambers is required to override a gubernatorial veto. At the time of the veto, Republicans held veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate.

The House and Senate voted 71-24 and 25-8 in favor of the override, respectively. All Democrats, one independent, and three Republicans voted against the override. The remaining Republicans voted in favor of the override. Seven assembly members—one Democrat and six Republicans—did not vote.

This is the third noteworthy gubernatorial veto override Ballotpedia has identified in 2021.



Voters to decide New Hampshire House special election on April 13

A special election is being held on April 13 for the Hillsborough 21 District of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Wendy Thomas (D), Bill Boyd (R), and Stephen Hollenberg (independent) are running in the special election. The winner will serve until December 2022. The Hillsborough 21 District is a multi-member district made up of eight seats.

The seat became vacant after the death of state House speaker Dick Hinch (R) on Dec. 9 from complications caused by COVID-19. He was sworn in as House speaker on Dec. 2 and previously served as state House minority leader and state House majority leader. He was first elected to the state House in 2008.

New Hampshire has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a margin of 212-186, with two vacancies.

As of April 2021, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. New Hampshire held 29 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2020.

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State redistricting deadlines in 2021, 2022, and 2023

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it would deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to the states by Sep. 30, 2021, after the original April 1, 2021, deadline. Some states’ own redistricting deadlines predate the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources.

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order.

Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion.

• Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state sets its filing deadline for congressional candidates for Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be fixed by that point.

Congressional redistricting deadlines

Maine’s constitutional June 1, 2021, deadline for congressional redistricting is the earliest such deadline of any state. Five states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, and Ohio – have congressional redistricting deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Another six states – Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington – have deadlines in the final quarter of 2021. The remaining states have deadlines in 2022.

State legislative redistricting deadlines

Indiana’s deadline for state legislative redistricting, which is set by statute, is April 29, 2021, earlier than that of any other state. Five other states – Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, and Oklahoma – have state legislative redistricting deadlines in the second quarter of 2021. Another eight states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont – have deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Nine states – Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington – have deadlines in the final quarter of the year. The remaining states have deadlines in either 2022 or, in the case of Montana, 2023.

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Biden announces nominee for ATF director, executive actions on gun violence

April 8, 2021: President Joe Biden (D) is expected to issue several executive actions on gun violence and announce David Chipman as his nominee to lead the ATF.

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Thursday. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

News

  • Biden is expected to issue several executive actions on gun violence Thursday related to the purchase of unregistered firearms assembled at home, which the White House called ghost guns; the regulation of pistol-stabilizing braces; model legislation for red flag laws; community violence interventions; and an annual report on firearms trafficking.
  • Biden is also expected to announce David Chipman as his nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Chipman is an explosives expert and former ATF agent.
  • The White House is vetting Amos Hochstein as a potential special envoy to halt the Nord Stream 2, the Russia-Germany gas pipeline project. Hochstein was a special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration.

Transition in Context: Congressional Approval Rating

The following chart compares congressional approval ratings during the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

Congress’ approval rating during the tenth week of President Biden’s term was 24.6%, down 1.9 percentage points from the week before. At the same point in President Trump’s term, Congress’ approval rating was 18.5%, down 1.8 percentage points from the week before.

What We’re Reading



St. Louis holds municipal general election

The nonpartisan general election for St. Louis, Mo., was on April 6. The primary was held on March 2, and the filing deadline to run passed on Jan. 4.

Candidates competed for mayor, board of aldermen, and city comptroller. In the mayoral election, Tishaura Jones defeated Cara Spencer, earning 52% of the vote to Spencer’s 48%. Jones is the first Black woman to be elected mayor of St. Louis.

In the city comptroller election, incumbent Darlene Green won re-election without facing opposition.

In the board of aldermen elections, incumbents ran for 15 out of the 16 seats on the ballot and won re-election to 12 of those seats. The following races did not re-elect an incumbent:

• In Ward 5, challenger James Page defeated incumbent Tammika Hubbard by a margin of 53% to 47%.

• In Ward 12, challenger Bill Stephens defeated incumbent Vicky Grass by a margin of 52% to 48%.

• In Ward 13, challenger Anne Schweitzer defeated incumbent Beth Murphy by a margin of 63% to 37%.

• In Ward 17—the sole race without an incumbent running—the race remained too close to call as of April 7.

Saint Louis is the 57th largest city by population in the U.S. 

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Voters in Madison, Wisconsin, advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council

With 98.7% of precincts reporting, voters in Madison, Wis., advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council. Voters rejected the other two ballot questions. All four questions were non-binding advisory questions.

Question 4, which advised the council to adopt term limits of 12 consecutive years for alderpersons, was approved with 70.9% of the vote. 

Question 1 would have advised Madison to transition to a full-time Common Council beginning with the spring 2023 election; with members earning approximately $45,000 to $71,00 per year, or 50% to 80% of the Adjusted Median Income for Dane County for a single parent with two children. It was defeated in a vote of 58.2% opposed to 41.8% in favor.

Question 2 was designed to ask voters about the size of the 20-member Madison Common Council. It asked voters if the council should be reduced, increased, or remain the existing size. The vote breakdown was as follows according to unofficial election results:

• 16.5% in favor of reducing the size

• 13.4% in favor of increasing the size

• 70.2% in favor of remaining the same size

Question 3 would have advised Madison to change the term length for alderpersons starting with the spring 2023 election from the existing two-year terms to four-year terms. It was defeated in a vote of 55.5% opposed to 44.5% in favor.

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