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No action on Georgia capital case

The Supreme Court, opening a new Term Monday, took no action on an appeal testing whether it is unconstitutional to execute a death-row inmate who has a significant claim of innocence.  The Court’s 82-page list of orders on pending cases contained no word on Troy Anthony Davis’ appeal, Davis v. Georgia (08-66). His scheduled execution has been temporarily postponed by the Court. The Court will consider the case again at its private Conference on Friday, according to the Court’s electronic docket.

The Court granted no new cases Monday.  Among the more significant issues the Court turned aside, by simply denying review, were the constitutionality of convicting an individual of a crime by a non-unanimous jury verdict (Lee v. Louisiana, 07-1523), the constitutionality of jurors’ using a Bible during secret deliberations on whether to sentence a convicted individual to death (Lucero v. Texas, 07-1429), a claim that motorists have a constitutional right to have controversial messages imprinted on their auto license plates (Stanton v. American Life Coalition, 07-1366), and a test of whether the U.S. Olympics Committee acts illegally by failing to give the same benefits to disabled athletes as to those who are able-bodied (Hollonbeck v. Olympic Committee, 07-1504). The Chief Justice took no part in the order on the Olympics case.  (The Court did not act on a case testing police authority to search a purse held by a passenger in a car they have stopped; an earlier report here that the Court had denied review of this issue in Mercier v. Ohio, 08-17, was in error.)

For the third time in the past five years, the Court refused to hear a claim that anti-abortion forces have a constitutional right o publicize the names of doctors who do abortions, in a way that portrays them as guilty criminal. Three nearly identical appeals have failed to gain review; the latest is American Coalition of Life Activists v. Planned Parenthood (07-1546).

The Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to offer the federal government’s views on two business cases. One tests whether private consumers have a right to sue under state law to challenge stores’ failure to reveal that coloring has been added to a food item (Albertson’s v. Kanter, 07-1327). The other asks the Court to clarify the two-year filing deadline for lawsuits over securities fraud; the issue is when that period starts to run — as soon as the investor knows enough to suspect fraud, as soon as a “reasonable person” would have uncovered sufficient facts to support a fraud claim, only after the investor made an investigation to check on evidence of fraud, or only when the investor has proof that a broker intended to commit fraud (Trainer Wortham & Co. v. Betz, 07-1489).

 Among other significant issues the Court chose not to review were these:

** A plea to clarify when an outside group may become part of a federal civil case, raised in an appeal by the group that sponsored a ballot measure against affirmative action programs in Michigan seeking to enter the case in which the constitutionality of that measure is being challenged (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 07-1182).

** A test of the constitutionality of the Board of Patent Appeals because of the manner of appointment of one of its members (Translogic Technology v. PTO Director, 07-1303).

** A claim that a private individual suing to recover for the federal government funds that were wrongly spent may not bring such a suit against a state official (Wilcox v. U.S. ex rel. Stoner, 07-1336).

** A challenge to the jurisdiction of military courts to try a disabled military retiree who receives no pay from the services (Stevenson v. U.S., 07-1397).

** A plea to the Court to rule, for the first time, on the right of oprison or jail inmates to have an abortion; the case involved a Missouri state policy against transporting pregnant inmates to clinics in the community to receive an abortion not required as a medical necessity (Crawford v. Roe, 07-1491).

** An appeal seeking clarification of the standard for regulating wetlands under the Clean Water Act — in this case, the application of the Act to discharges from home septic tanks. The Solicitor General had urged the Court to deny review in Lucas v. U.S. (07-1512); the Solicitor has an appeal pending on the wetlands issue, in U.S. v. McWane (08-223).

** A claim that the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses adverse to the accused includes the right to compel the testimony of technicians or police who set up and vouch for the reliability of roadside tests for drunkenness (Chun v. New Jersey, 07-1562).

** An appeal asking the Court to clarify the right of public school students to speak out publicly against a teacher they believe mistreats of abuses students (Lowery v. Everard, 07-1567).

** A plea by New York officials to clarify the power of police to make a strip search or body cavity inspection of an arrested individual, to check for hiding of illegal drugs (New York v. Hall, 07-1568).

** An appeal by the U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue testing whether a specific legal formula, or the facts of individual cases, controls he value of property for federal estate tax purposes (Commissioner v. Jelke Estate, 07-1582).