2012 redistricting thrown out in court

A Florida judge threw out the state’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan on Thursday, saying Republicans conspired to manipulate the boundaries to protect the party’s majority in Washington and “made a mockery” of the rules of transparency in the process.

In the 41-page ruling, Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis specifically ordered that two of the state’s 27 districts should be redrawn as they violated a “Fair Districts Florida” standard approved by voters in 2010 to ban legislators from favoring or protecting incumbents.

The decision followed a 13-day trial that ended in early June, during which several groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, challenged the redistricting plan under which 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although Democrats hold a slight edge in voter registration across Florida, Republicans have 17 of the state’s 27 seats in the House. The two invalidated districts belong to U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Daniel Webster, an Orlando-area Republican.

— Reuters

2 victories in 2 days for gay couples

A state judge in Colorado on Thursday backed a county clerk who has issued more than 100 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and another county clerk in Denver said she would begin issuing the permits.

In a second day of victories for supporters of same-sex marriage in Colorado, a judge rejected a motion by the state’s attorney general seeking to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from handing out more licenses.

Within hours, the county clerk in the state’s biggest city, Denver, also began issuing the licenses.

Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman said the state had failed to meet the high burden of proof required for such a move against Hall, an elected official. His ruling came less than 24 hours after another state judge struck down Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriages, then put that decision on hold pending appeal.

Emboldened by a landmark U.S. appeals court ruling on June 25 that found in favor of same-sex marriage in neighboring Utah, Hall has issued more than 100 licenses to same-sex couples. The attorney general’s office asked her to stop and then filed the lawsuit.

— Reuters

Spying for China nets 15-year term

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a California chemical engineer to 15 years in prison and fined him $28 million after his rare economic-espionage conviction for selling China the technology that creates a white pigment.

A jury previously convicted Walter Liew, 56, of receiving $28 million from companies controlled by the Chinese government in exchange for DuPont Co.’s secret recipe for making cars, paper and a long list of everyday items whiter. Two former DuPont engineers also have been convicted of economic espionage. A third engineer committed suicide in early 2012.

—Associated Press

Teen held in armory shooting: A 15-year-old was charged Thursday with one count of criminal homicide in the fatal shooting of a longtime member of the National Guard at a Tennessee armory, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The suspect didn’t work at the armory, which usually is locked, but somehow gained access to the building Wednesday evening and fired several shots. One struck Sgt. 1st Class Michael W. Braden, 45. He died later at a hospital.

7 killed in Mass. apartment fire: A fire ravaged a three-story apartment building in Lowell, Mass., 25 miles northwest of Boston, early Thursday, killing four adults and three children. Authorities are looking into reports that the sound of exploding fireworks preceded the blaze.

— From news services