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The U.S. Supreme Court on March 1 and 2 rendered the following decisions: The justices ruled unanimously that the federal government was contractually bound to pay contract support costs for tribal-administered federally funded services, without regard to whether Congress had appropriated sufficient funds. Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. Leavitt, No. 02-1472. The Cherokee Nation could recover more than $8.5 million in back health care maintenance costs from the federal government as a consequence of this ruling. The Cherokees had claimed that it was owed health care maintenance money during 1994-96 by Indian Health Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The tribe claimed that the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act had allowed tribes to enter contracts for government services, such as health care administration, since 1975. The Cherokees said that their federal health care contracts required the government to pay for certain maintenance services, on top of the annual funding for health care. The federal government had argued that because of the nature of its relationship with Indian tribes, agreements with them differ from “standard government procurement contracts.” Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Stephen Breyer said that the United States and Indian tribes had entered into agreements in which the government promised to pay certain “contract support costs” that the tribes incurred. The government’s contracts are legally binding. The justices ruled unanimously that former Soviet-bloc spies cannot sue the CIA for allegedly backing out on a pledge of lifetime support in return for espionage services. Tenet v. Doe, No. 03-1395. A former high-ranking diplomat and his wife, identified in court filings only as John and Jane Doe, had argued that the CIA should not be immune from lawsuits alleging a breach of a spy contract. However, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing on behalf of the court, said that a 130-year-old Supreme Court ruling dictated that former spies could not sue because of the secret nature of spy pacts, which are made with the understanding that “the lips of the other were to be forever sealed . . . .The possibility that a suit may proceed and an espionage relationship may be revealed . . . is unacceptable: ‘Even a small chance that some court will order disclosure of a source’s identity could well impair intelligence gathering,’ ” Rehnquist wrote. According to filings, the couple had wanted to defect from their country during the Cold War but were pressured by U.S. authorities to spy for them instead. In exchange, the CIA promised to provide them lifetime security. When their spying was over in 1987, the CIA helped them resettle in Seattle with new identities, benefits and a bank job for the husband, the suit said. They received a $27,000 yearly stipend and became U.S. citizens. The CIA stopped the subsidy when John Doe’s salary from the bank hit $27,000. When Doe lost his job in 1997, the CIA refused to reinstate the stipend, saying that the couple had received enough pay for their spy services. The justices’ 5-4 ruling that the Eighth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under 18 when the capital crimes were committed is discussed on Page 4. Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633. The justices on Feb. 28 added four cases to their 2005-2006 docket: The court will explore the contours of the on-the-job First Amendment rights of public employees. Garcetti v. Ceballes, No. 04-473. The court will take up two procedural cases. One involves the removal of state court cases to federal courts based on diversity of citizenship. Lincoln Property Co. v. Roche, No. 04-712. The other involves the issue of whether, and to what extent, an appeals court may review the sufficiency of evidence supporting a civil jury verdict where the party requesting review made a motion for judgment as a matter of law under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a) before submitting the case to a jury, but neither renewed that motion under Rule 50(b) after the jury’s verdict, nor moved for a new trial under Rule 59. Unitherm Foods v. Swift-Eckrich, No. 04-597. The justices will review the ability of states to tax the fuel receipts of Indian-owned gas stations when those stations exist off the reservation for the purpose of servicing large numbers of nontribal patrons who visit the nearby tribal casino. Richards v. Prairie Band Potowatomi Nation, No. 04-631.

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