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in a 6-3 decision, the justices reversed the judgment of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that initial assignments of eligible coal industry retirees to “signatory operators” could not be made after the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act’s Oct. 1, 1993, deadline. Barnhart v. Peabody Coal Co., No. 01-705. The court held that the initial assignments after Oct. 1, 1993, were valid, and that it had never construed a provision that the government must act within a specified time as precluding later action. Justice David Souter’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

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