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For more than 80 years, the Jones Act has given seamen a way to seek compensation in federal court when they are injured on board a vessel. But now, the Supreme Court has been asked to determine if the law also applies to workers on the riverboat casinos that have sprung up along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and elsewhere. At its Oct. 15 private conference, the Court is expected to consider whether the case of Howard v. Southern Illinois Riverboat/Casino Cruises Inc., No. 04-51, among others, should be added to its docket for decision this term. If the Court does grant review, it will be the second Jones Act case of the term, both focusing on the phrase “vessel in navigation,” which the Court has long told lower courts to use in determining whether those invoking the law qualify as seamen. In Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co., to be argued Nov. 1, the Court is being asked to decide whether a dredge used in the “Big Dig” tunnel project in Boston Harbor qualifies as a vessel covered by the Jones Act. Howard, on the other hand, focuses on the “in navigation” part of the phrase. Forty-five plaintiffs including John Howard were injured by exposure to spilled chemicals in July 2000 on the Players II casino on the Ohio River near Metropolis, Ill. They sued the owner in the Southern District of Illinois under the Jones Act, says their lawyer Gail Renshaw, because the act can yield higher awards for plaintiffs than the workers’ compensation system available to land-based workers. The casino’s motion to dismiss the suit was denied, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled the suit should be dismissed. Judge Dianne Wood, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, said the Jones Act was intended to give seamen “heightened legal protection because of their exposure to �perils of the sea.’ ” A riverboat casino indefinitely moored to a dock, without a transportation purpose, does not qualify as being “ under navigation,” Wood wrote. But Renshaw of Wood River, Ill.’s, Lakin Law Firm asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decision. When Players II opened, Illinois law required that casinos operate on self-propelled excursion boats. At the time of the accident, it employed a captain and crew, was equipped with rescue boats and life preservers, and during regular Coast Guard inspections was required to move out into the river to test its engines. In a brief filed on behalf of the casino owner, attorney Edward Kay of Clausen Miller in Chicago said the 7th Circuit was right in determining that the casino was not “in navigation.” Kay wrote, “The job duties of Illinois casino workers would be no different on a dockside casino than they would be in a casino in Las Vegas.” OTHER CASES UP FOR REVIEWSouth Dakota v. Cummings, No. 04-74. Whether state police may pursue onto tribal land tribe members suspected of crimes. • Tucker v. United States, No. 04-83. Whether law requiring permission from an appeals court to file successive habeas petitions applies to Rule 60B motions to vacate judgment. • Shumsky v. Chein, No. 04-219. Federal deference to state courts under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. • Stokovich v. Village of Lake Villa, Ill., No. 04-269. Whether state emergency demolition statute deprives people of their property without due process. This column seeks to identify cases on the Supreme Court’s conference agenda that are leading candidates for Supreme Court review or that raise significant national issues. Thomas Goldstein of Washington, D.C.’s Goldstein & Howe selects these cases from the many petitions filed based on several factors, including whether lower courts have split on the issues presented. He does not otherwise participate in the preparation of this column.

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