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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the following cases: CRIMINAL PRACTICE The justices will determine whether to establish a prima facie case under Batson v. Kentucky the objector must show that it is more likely than not that the opposing party’s peremptory jury challenges, if unexplained, were based on impermissible group bias. The California Supreme Court affirmed that Jay Johnson, convicted of killing his girlfriend’s 19-month-old daughter, had to prove that there was a “strong likelihood” that the opposing party’s peremptory challenges were based on impermissible group bias. Johnson v. California, No. 03-6539. DEATH PENALTY The court will revisit its death penalty case from last year, Ring v. Arizona, that held Arizona’s death penalty scheme to be invalid to the extent that it allowed a judge to impose the death penalty instead of a jury. A divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, agreed with Warren Summerlin, who said that his capital murder sentence should be vacated because it was imposed by a judge who at the time was found to be a heavy marijuana user. The state’s argument is that Ring should not be applied retroactively. Schriro v. Summerlin, No. 02-526. In another death penalty case, the court will hear arguments on whether a death row inmate can challenge the means used to execute him through a � 1983 civil rights claim. David Nelson claimed that death by lethal injection was cruel and unusual punishment because he suffered from collapsed veins. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the petition was really an attempt to circumvent rules governing the timing and content of habeas corpus petitions; Nelson’s claim would have been barred if raised in a habeas petition. Nelson v. Campbell, No. 03-6821. EMPLOYMENT The court will decide whether an amendment to a multiemployer pension plan that provides for the suspension of payment of early retirement benefits during the period that a participant, after retiring, is employed by another firm in the same industry, is a prohibited elimination or reduction of such benefits. The “anti-cutback” rule in Section 204(g) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1054(g), prohibits any amendment of a pension plan that has the effect of eliminating or reducing an early retirement benefit a participant was entitled to before the amendment. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Thomas Heinz and Richard Schmitt, who retired from construction jobs at age 39, should have been allowed to draw salary and retirement benefits when they took jobs in the same industry. Central Laborers’ Pension v. Heinz, No. 02-891. The justices will also consider the effect of its two 1998 sexual harassment cases-Burlington Industries Inc. v. Ellerth and Faragher v. Boca Raton-in a case where an employee left voluntarily. Nancy Drew Suders said she quit the police force because of a hostile work environment; the police department said she was disorganized and overwhelmed by her duties. The 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a constructive discharge constituted a tangible employment action, and, if proved, barred the police department from asserting an affirmative defense during summary judgment. Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, No. 03-95. INTERNATIONAL LAW The court will hear arguments on whether a foreign national, arrested in a foreign country by U.S. law enforcement agents, can sue the United States for violations of international law. A divided 9th Circuit, sitting en banc, said that Mexican national Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain could recover $25,000 under the Alien Tort Claims Act for his arrest and kidnap by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, which, Alvarez-Machain said, violated the international extradition treaty both countries are signatories to. Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, No. 03-339, consolidated with United States v. Alvarez-Machain, No. 03-485.

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