On June 8th the U.S. Supreme Court released a number of important decisions. I am setting out below a few of the more significant results. The High Court did the following:
• The Justices ruled that judges must step aside from cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias. The High Court on a 5-4 vote sent back to the West Virginia Supreme Court a case where a judge remained involved in a lawsuit filed against the company of the most generous supporter of his election.
• The Court ruled that the current government in Iraq cannot be held responsible for the actions of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The High Court unanimously rejected lawsuits from Americans who were held in Iraq during the Gulf War. The Court said a federal law enacted in 2003 gave Iraq back the immunity that was stripped because of the Hussein government’s designation as a sponsor of terrorism.
• The Court turned down a challenge to the Pentagon policy forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The Court refused to hear an appeal from former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, who was dismissed under the military’s policy. He had asked the High Court to rule that the policy is unconstitutional.
• The Justices agreed to find a way to determine where a company’s principle place of business is located. Hertz Corp. wanted a lawsuit alleging wage and hour violations moved from California courts to federal court because that state is not its principle place of business. A federal court said a plurality of Hertz’s business occurs in California, even though its headquarters is in Delaware, and sent the case back to state court. Hertz said different courts have used different criteria, including headquarters location, center of corporate activities and places of operation.
• The Court refused to hear an appeal from two former top executives of Tyco International that challenges their convictions for fraud and larceny involving more than $100 million in bonuses. Tyco’s former CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz will serve prison terms of eight and 1/3 years to 25 years for taking unauthorized pay.
• The Court refused to hear a Marine’s lawsuit blaming the government’s dumping of toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for his son’s illnesses. The Marine argued that the dumping of trichloroethylene, an ingredient in cleaning solvents, into the ground in the 1970s polluted the water and made his son ill.
• In an interesting decision, the Court told a military court it can re-examine the guilty plea for a Nigerian-born serviceman who faces deportation. Jacob Denedo says he pleaded guilty to larceny because his lawyer told him he would not be deported. He found out that his lawyer had an alcohol problem after deportation proceedings had started. The military court said it could not look at the case again because Denedo is no longer in the Navy.
• The Court won’t stop Pennsylvania officials from prosecuting a man whose computer was found to contain child pornography while it was at Circuit City being upgraded. Kenneth Sodomsky wanted the videos found on his computer suppressed. He had taken it into the store to get a DVD burner installed. A worker found questionable files and called police, who found child pornography.
• The Justices turned down an appeal from Indian tribes who wanted to block expansion of a ski resort on a mountain they consider sacred. A half-dozen Western tribes wanted to block the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski area north of Flagstaff because the resort plans to use treated wastewater to make artificial snow on the mountain.
Source: Associated Press
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