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Rulings the u.s. supreme Court on May 27 rendered decisions in the following cases: civil procedure In a 7-2 decision, the court vacated a D.C. Circuit decision upholding a National Park Service regulation that purports to render the Contract Disputes Act, which established rules governing disputes arising out of certain government contracts, inapplicable to concession contracts. National Park Hospitality Association v. Department of the Interior, No. 02-196. The court remanded the case on the ground that the controversy was not ripe for judicial resolution, because mere uncertainty as to the validity of a rule does not constitute a hardship for purposes of the ripeness analysis. Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion was joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred in the judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer, with whom Justice Sandra Day O’Connor joined, dissented. constitutional law The court, in a per curiam decision that featured a signed three-justice dissent, vacated a Florida Supreme Court decision to uphold a defendant’s conviction for first-degree burglary, which is punishable with life imprisonment, instead of third-degree burglary, in a case where the defendant carried, but did not use, a pocketknife during the burglary of a closed, unoccupied restaurant. Bunkley v. Florida, No. 02-8636. Florida law exempts a “common pocketknife” from the definition of a “weapon.” In 1997, the Florida Supreme Court had determined that “common pocketknife” was “a pocketknife with a blade of four inches in length or less.” Basing its holding on the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause, the Supreme Court argued that “The Florida Supreme Court never asked whether the weapons statute had ‘evolved’ by 1989 to such an extent that Bunkley’s 2 1 The justices also reversed the 9th Circuit’s judgment that a police officer’s failure to give a Miranda warning, coupled with coercive questioning of a defendant while he was being treated for gunshot wounds he received during an altercation with police, violated the defendant’s rights under the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination, even though his statements were not used against him in a criminal proceeding. Chavez v. Martinez, No. 01-1444. The court remanded the case on the ground that the language of the Fifth Amendment does not support the principle that mere compulsive questioning violates the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination is only violated if the statements are used against the defendant. Thomas’ opinion was joined by Rehnquist in full, by O’Connor in parts and by Scalia in parts. In a 6-3 decision, the justices affirmed the 9th Circuit’s reversal of a district court grant of summary judgment to a state agency that an employee’s claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, No. 01-1368. The court held that a state employee may sue a state for money damages in federal court for violations of the act, because Congress had clearly abrogated the states’ immunity in the act. Rehnquist’s opinion was joined by O’Connor, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Stevens concurred in the judgment. Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas dissented. employment law In a unanimous opinion written by Ginsburg, the court vacated a 9th Circuit ruling that the “treating physician rule,” which accords special weight to the opinion of a Social Security disability claimant’s treating physician, applies to disability determinations under employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Black & Decker Disability Plan v. Nord, No. 02-469. Remanding the case, the court said that the act doesn’t require a plan administrator to accord special deference to a treating physician’s opinion. cert. granted On May 26, the justices agreed to hear argument in these cases: criminal practice The high court will determine whether an Oregon state prisoner met the exhaustion-of-remedies requirement necessary to begin a federal habeas corpus action when he neither cited a specific provision of the federal Constitution nor even one authority during his state court proceedings. Baldwin v. Reese, No. 02-964. government The court will also hear arguments next term on whether the U.S. Postal Service can be sued under antitrust laws. Flamingo Industries filed an antitrust suit against the postal service, alleging that it had artificially created an emergency mail-sack shortage that would allow it to use cheaper Mexican sacks instead of the ones manufactured by Flamingo. United States Postal Svc. v. Flamingo Indus., No. 02-1290. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the postal service’s argument that it was immune from suit under federal antitrust laws because it was not a “person” as defined by those laws. transportation The justices will decide next term whether the widow of a man who died from an asthma attack due to exposure to secondhand smoke on an international airline can sue under article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. Despite numerous requests, the flight crew of an Olympic Airways flight refused to move Abid M. Hanson from his nonsmoking section seat three rows behind the nonpartitioned smoking section. Olympic Airways v. Husain, No. 02-1348. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the airline’s argument that the Warsaw Convention permitted suit against it only for “accidents,” not for injuries to pre-existing conditions, even if the crew was negligent.

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