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Washington state’s exclusion of devotional theology from its roster of state scholarship-eligible courses of study does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause, the U.S. Supreme Court said on Feb. 25. Locke v. Davey, No. 02-1315. The publicly funded Promise Scholarship Program was established to assist academically gifted students defray post-secondary education expenses. Scholarship winner Joshua Davey filed a civil rights suit against the state after learning that the scholarship would not cover a joint pastoral ministries/business administration degree track. While a federal district court granted summary judgment for the state, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the state had singled out religion for unfavorable treatment. Overturning the 9th Circuit ruling, the justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said, “the state’s interest in not funding the pursuit of devotional degrees is substantial and the exclusion of such funding places a relatively minor burden on Promise Scholars.” Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote the court’s opinion. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each authored dissents. On Feb. 24 and 25, the justices rendered signed opinions in six other cases. A full-length article on the court’s decision on age discrimination appears on Page 7. Antitrust The U.S. Postal Service is not subject to liability under antitrust laws, the high court unanimously ruled. U.S. Postal Service v. Flamingo Industries Ltd., No. 02-1290. Flamingo Industries sued the postal service after it lost its contract to manufacture mail sacks for it. Flamingo alleged that the postal service was trying to suppress competition and create a mail-sack production monopoly. A federal district court threw out the case, ruling that the service was not subject to antitrust laws. The 9th Circuit reversed in part, holding that the service was subject to the laws, but not when it came to discharging duties undertaken at the direction of the U.S. Congress. Reversing, the high court ruled that in form and function the postal service is part of the federal government and is not controlled by antitrust laws. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the opinion. In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that a search conducted under the auspices of a warrant that failed to specify the persons or things to be seized was tantamount to a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Groh v. Ramirez, No. 02-811. So egregious did the majority find the violation to have been, it also ruled that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who led the search team was not entitled to qualified immunity. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority, joined by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Kennedy filed a dissent, joined by Rehnquist. Thomas, joined by Scalia and, in part, by Rehnquist, also dissented. In a near unanimous ruling, the court held that when police or prosecutors conceal significant exculpatory evidence or impeaching material in the state’s possession, it is up to the state to set the record straight. Banke v. Dretke, No. 02-8286. Delma Banks Jr., a Texan, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. In 1992, after his trial, he learned that one of the prosecution’s witnesses was a paid informant and that another had been coached and threatened with jail time before testifying. Challenging his conviction in state court, he argued that the state’s failure to reveal these facts violated his due process rights as set forth by the Supreme Court in its 1963 case, Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83. He lost. In 1996, Banks petitioned for habeas relief, winning a resentencing, but not a retrial. The 5th Circuit reversed, holding that Banks had raised his misconduct claims too late and in the wrong forum. The justices reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Ginsburg wrote the court’s opinion, joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter and Breyer. Joined by Scalia, Thomas concurred in part and dissented in part. Damages A claimant seeking damages under the Privacy Act of 1974 must prove actual damages to qualify for the minimum statutory award of $1,000, the court ruled, 5-4. Doe v. Chao, No. 02-1377. The plaintiff, proceeding as Buck Doe, alleged that when he submitted a black lung disease claim to the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency used his Social Security number to identify his claim when it sent out a multicaptioned hearing notice to a group of claimants, their employers and their attorneys. The department conceded that this disclosure violated the act. Overturning a district court’s $1,000 damages award, the 4th Circuit ruled that Doe had failed to produce any corroborating evidence for his claim of emotional distress. The high court, in a decision written by Souter, agreed. Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy and Thomas joined in Souter’s opinion. Scalia joined in part. Joined by Stevens and Breyer, Ginsburg dissented. Breyer also filed a separate dissent. INTERNATIONAL LAW An airline flight attendant’s refusal to reseat an asthmatic passenger who was complaining of other passengers’ cigarette smoke and died during that flight, was sufficiently accidental to make the airline liable under the Warsaw Convention, the court said. Olympic Airways v. Husain, No. 02-1348. Thomas penned the 6-2 opinion, joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter and Ginsburg. Scalia, joined in part by O’Connor, dissented. Breyer took no part in the case. Constitutional Law On Feb. 20, the justices agreed to hear the case of Jose Padilla, the American citizen seized in the U.S. and held indefinitely as an “enemy combatant” without formal charges being filed against him. According to the government, Padilla has close ties to al-Queda and is suspected of planning terrorist attacks against this country. Rumsfeld v. Padilla, No. 03-1027. The 2d Circuit in August 2003 ruled that the president did not have the right as commander-in-chief to seize and detain Padilla indefinitely without congressional authority. Immigration Law On Feb. 23, the high court agreed to determine whether an immigrant’s conviction under Florida state law of driving under the influence and causing serious bodily injury is a “crime of violence” for purposes of 18 U.S.C. 16(a), which allows that person removable under immigration laws as an aggravated felon. Leocal v. Ashcroft, No. 03-583. In an unreported opinion, the 11th Circuit had ruled that the conviction was a crime of violence and upheld the deportation, even though Josue Leocal had no prior arrest record. In another deportation case, this one from the 8th Circuit, the court will decide whether immigration officials may remove a person to his country of birth under 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(2)(E)(iv), where that country lacks a functioning central government that is able either to accept the person’s return or to withhold acceptance. Jama v. INS, No. 03-674. The appeals court ruled that the Immigration and Naturalization Service did not have to establish first that Somalia would accept Keyse Jama before removing him for committing a crime of moral turpitude when he got into a fight with a fellow Somali. Maritime Law The justices agreed to hear oral arguments in a maritime case where a marine engineer was seriously injured when he fell through the open hatch of a scow owned by his employer. Stewart v. Dutra Construction, No. 03-814. Willard Stewart sued his employer in its capacity as the vessel owner under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, but the 1st Circuit ruled that Stewart’s suit was really against the owners as employers, not as representatives of the vessel itself. The act only allows injured workers to sue the vessels, not employers.

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