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Foreign companies can’t automatically press claims of international price-fixing in U.S. courts, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. The court overturned a decision by the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia that had allowed foreign buyers to sue foreign companies over alleged antitrust violations in American courts, so long as they could demonstrate that the alleged wrongdoing hurt U.S. business. Voting, 8-0, the high court set aside the D.C. Circuit ruling, which could have opened large drug manufacturers to new lawsuits over their participation in a vitamin cartel. Five companies based in Australia, Ecuador, Panama and Ukraine wanted to use U.S. antitrust laws to pursue damages from foreign drug manufacturers. They sued in America in 2000, claiming that they were overcharged for vitamins from the late 1980s on. Drug companies-including Roche Holding A.G., BASF A.G. and Rhone-Poulenc S.A.-have already paid out $1.2 billion to settle price-fixing claims of U.S. customers. Last week’s ruling does not end the case. Vitamin purchasers can still press an alternative legal theory in lower U.S. courts, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens concurred, while justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome of the case. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor did not take part, presumably because she holds stock in several drug companies. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. v. Empagran, No. 03-724. -Associated Press FIRST AMENDMENT Sacramento, Calif., atheist Michael Newdow’s quixotic challenge to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance came to an end as the justices ruled, 5-3, that he did not have standing to bring his suit. The June 14 decision in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, No. 02-1624, was symbolically announced on Flag Day and on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the law that inserted the words into the pledge. It has the effect of sweeping away the controversial 2002 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found the pledge, as recited in public schools, to be in violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Writing for the majority, Stevens concluded that Newdow has insufficient standing to raise a constitutional challenge on behalf of his daughter, since he never married, and is separated from, Sandra Banning, the girl’s mother. In their ongoing custody battle, a California judge has given Newdow partial custody but ruled that Banning has the “sole right” to make decisions about the girl’s education and legal interests. Because of these rulings, Stevens said, Newdow lost the right to sue as “next friend” of his daughter, though, he added, someone with “next friend” status “surely could exercise that right.” -Tony Mauro STATE TAXES The justices ruled, 5-4, that federal courts can hear constitutional challenges to state taxes-a decision that could leave tax credits in nearly every state vulnerable to U.S. court challenges. The court held that such lawsuits are permitted despite a 1937 law, according to which federal courts may not interfere with the “assessment, levy or collection” of state taxes. The decision was a defeat for Arizona and its tax break that helps fund private religious schools. The case arose from income tax credits given to Arizona residents for donating money for private school education. Contributions fund grants and scholarships and are part of a state effort to give parents more choices in educating their children. Ginsburg delivered the court’s opinion, in which Stevens, O’Connor, Souter and Breyer joined. Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, in which Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas joined. Hibbs v. Winn, No. 02-1809. -Associated Press ENVIRONMENT The justices decided, 9-0, to block a lawsuit that accused the federal government of doing too little to protect undeveloped Western land from off-road vehicles. The court said that environmental groups cannot use courts to force the federal Bureau of Land Management to safeguard more aggressively about 2 million acres of potential wilderness in Utah. In Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, No. 03-101, the justices were asked to clarify when a federal agency can be sued for failing to follow a congressional mandate-in this case, to preserve the pristine quality of lands considered for wilderness designation. -Associated Press

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