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The Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 30 that car buyers can only get limited damages when they are misled about auto loans. The justices ruled, 8-1, against a Virginia man who alleged that he had been a victim of unscrupulous tactics by a car dealership in Alexandria, Va. Koons Buick Pontiac GMC v. Bradley Nigh, No. 03-377. A jury had ordered Koons Buick Pontiac GMC Inc. to pay Bradley Nigh more than $24,000 in damages, but the justices said that he was entitled to no more than $1,000 under the federal Truth in Lending Act. The justices used Nigh’s case to clarify the 1968 act, which was intended to force details of loans into the open. Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that “less-than-meticulous drafting” of an amendment to the law caused confusion. She said that interpreting the statute as allowing larger damages would lead to the absurd result of damages being unlimited for car loans but capped at $2,000 for larger credit deals such as mortgages. Dissenting, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that it wasn’t the court’s role to fix Congress’ mistakes in sloppily writing the statute. Nigh’s experience began when he bought a 1997 Chevrolet Blazer. He was told later that he must put down an additional $2,000 to get a loan. Nigh tried to back out when the dealer called him back a third time and threatened to have him arrested for auto theft if he did not sign a different contract. -AP
The court added one case to its docket on Nov. 29. Michael Donald Dodd was convicted of participating in a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) in August 1997. He filed a habeas corpus petition in April 2001, arguing that his sentence breached a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Richardson v. United States, requiring a unanimous vote to convict on each element of the CCE, and a 2002 11th Circuit ruling making Richardson retroactive. Dodd argued that his petition was timely because the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s one-year statute of limitations ran from the date of the 11th Circuit ruling. The 11th Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal, ruling that for a newly created right, the act’s one-year statute of limitations begins to run from the date the new right is initially recognized. Dodd v. United States, No. 04-5286

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