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The double jeopardy clause will not stop the federal government from pressing assault charges against a Native American who struck a federal officer, then pleaded guilty in a tribal court to the charge of striking a policeman, the Supreme Court ruled on April 19. United States v. Lara, No. 03-107. The 7-2 decision overturns an en banc ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had held that the tribal court was exercising federal prosecutorial power, meaning that the clause barred a second prosecution. Billy Jo Lara is a member of North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. His wife is a member of the neighboring Spirit Lake Sioux. After several misconduct incidents, Lara was barred from the Spirit Lake reservation. Trying to re-enter after the ban, he was stopped by federal officers, one of whom he hit. When charged by the government with striking a federal officer, Lara argued that because key elements of that crime mirrored the crime to which he had already pleaded guilty, he was protected by the double jeopardy clause. The government countered, successfully, that the clause does not bar successive prosecutions by separate sovereigns. The high court agreed. It also recognized the right of tribal courts to try members of other tribes for crimes committed on their reservations. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor. Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas concurred in the judgment. Joined by David H. Souter, Antonin Scalia dissented. CONSUMER PROTECTION A credit card issuer did not misrepresent to consumers the true cost of credit, in violation of the federal Truth in Lending Act, when it failed to classify a $29 per month over-credit-limit charge as a finance charge, the justices ruled on April 21. Household Credit Serv. v. Pfennig, No. 02-857. Overturning a 6th Circuit ruling, the high court noted that the act does not expressly state whether over-limit charges fall within its definition of finance charges. However, the Federal Reserve Board’s Regulation “Z,” promulgated pursuant to the act, interpreted the � 1605(a) definition of finance charges as excluding such fees. The high court, in a unanimous decision written by Thomas, said that the board’s interpretation of � 1605(a) was reasonable and, because of � 1605′s ambiguity, binding on the court. CIVIL RIGHTS On May 19, the high court agreed to hear oral argument next term in Devenpeck v. Alford, No. 03-710. Washington state police approached Jerome A. “Tony” Alford as he was helping a stranded motorist. When Alford decided to tape-record the encounter, they arrested him, believing wrongly that the taping violated the Washington state Privacy Act. After a night in jail, Alford was released. Alleging wrongful arrest and imprisonment, he sued the police under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The police responded by arguing that they also had probable cause to arrest him over concerns that he was impersonating a police officer. At the time of the arrest, Alford’s car had alternate-flashing headlamps, a two-way radio, scanner and handcuffs. A jury found for the officers. Alford’s new-trial motion was denied. Reversing and remanding, the 9th Circuit ruled that if the officers did not have probable cause to arrest Alford under the privacy act, probable cause to arrest for other unrelated offenses did not cure that defect.

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