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The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 12 rendered the following signed opinion. SOCIAL SERVICES LAW In the first signed opinion of its fall 2003 term, the justices unanimously backed a Social Security Administration ruling that a former elevator operator is not “disabled” as defined under Social Security law because she is still capable of performing that job, even if those jobs no longer exist in great numbers in the modern economy. Barnhart v. Thomas, No. 02-763. Pauline Thomas worked as an elevator operator for six years, until her position was eliminated in 1995. The next year, at age 53, she applied for disability benefits, claiming that she suffered from disabling heart disease as well as radial nerve problems caused by a bad back. The administration denied her claim. A New Jersey federal court upheld that ruling, but the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed it. Overturning the 3d Circuit decision, Justice Antonin Scalia cited 42 U.S.C. 423(d)(1)(A), which states that a person is disabled only if “he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” Parsing that statute, Scalia said that the phrase “which exists in the national economy” modifies only the clause immediately preceding it, meaning that if the applicant is still able to do his or her previous job, the applicant is not disabled, regardless of whether that job exists in significant numbers in the national economy. On Nov. 10, the court agreed to hear arguments in three cases. A story on the court’s grant of certiorari in the two Guantanamo Bay detainee cases appears on Page 1 of this issue. INTERNATIONAL LAW The high court will resolve an international disclosure dispute between competing computer chip makers in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices Inc., No. 02-572. Advance Micro Devices (popularly known as AMD) filed a complaint with the European Commission’s Directorate General-Competition, in which it averred that Intel Corp. was abusing its dominant market position within the European Common Market. Pursuant to that complaint, AMD demanded that Intel produce documents and transcripts from another U.S. federal court case. AMD made its application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782, which permits domestic discovery for use in foreign proceedings. Intel objected on the ground that the action before the directorate was administrative in nature and was not a “proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal” as defined by § 1782. A California federal court agreed. Citing the quasi-judicial nature of the directorate proceeding, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the E.U. proceeding was covered by the U.S. statute.

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