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The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 9 rendered two opinions. The justices unanimously held that a drunken-driving accident is not a “crime of violence” that allows the government to deport a permanent resident. The justices ruled in favor of Josue Leocal, who was challenging his deportation to Haiti in 2002 after pleading guilty to a felony charge of drunken driving. Leocal v. Ashcroft, No. 03-583. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that driving under the influence (DUI) was a “crime of violence” under the immigration statute because Leocal had driven through a red light and injured two people. He was sentenced to more than two years in prison in 2000. Writing for the court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist declared that, according to the statute, an immigrant’s felony offense requires an intent to cause harm before he or she is subject to deportation. TRANSPORTATION In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that Norfolk Southern Railway Co.’s liability for damage caused by a 1997 derailment was limited by federal maritime law. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Kirby, No. 02-1028. The case involved the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train, allegedly causing $1.5 million of damage, during the delivery of machinery from a manufacturer in Australia to a General Motors plant in Huntsville, Ala. James N. Kirby Pty Ltd., the Australian manufacturer, sued Norfolk to recover for the damage. Norfolk claimed that, in accordance with the default liability rule in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, its liability was limited to $5,000, or $500 for each of the 10 damaged shipping containers. Kirby had hired International Cargo Control to arrange for delivery of the machinery. The contract contained what is known as a “Himalaya Clause,” which extends liability limitations to downstream parties. Norfolk was hired by an intermediary to transport the machinery from Savannah, Ga., to Huntsville. In 2000, a Georgia federal court granted Norfolk partial summary judgment, limiting its liability to $500 per container. The 11th Circuit reversed, holding that the Himalaya Clause, and thus, maritime law liability protection, could not be extended to an inland carrier such as Norfolk. Reversing, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that the plain language of the Himalaya Clause indicated an intent to extend the liability limitation broadly, in anticipation of various modes of transportation being involved in the performance of the contract. Since Huntsville is some 366 miles inland from Savannah, the discharge port, the parties must have expected using a land carrier’s services. Hence, Norfolk’s liability was limited by the clause’s terms. -ALM, AP

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