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The U.S. Supreme Court on March 29 and 30 rendered the following decisions: The justices ruled, 5-4, that Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funds, shields whistleblowers who accuse academic institutions of discrimination based on sex. Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education, No. 02-1672. “Without protection from retaliation, individuals who witness discrimination would likely not report it,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the majority. She was joined by justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy. The justices ruled, 8-1, that an Indian tribe cannot expand its tax-exempt holdings by buying up property that has been outside its reservation for generations. City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, No. 03-855. The court sided with the small city of Sherrill, N.Y., which has been locked in a long-running fight with the New York Oneidas over unpaid taxes. The Oneidas claimed that because the Sherrill properties were once part of their land, those properties were not taxable after the tribe bought the properties in 1997. Writing on behalf of the court, Ginsburg said, “The tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty . . . .The Oneidas long ago relinquished the reins of government and cannot regain them through open-market purchases from current titleholders.” Stevens dissented. The justices ruled unanimously that a South Dakota death row inmate can return to federal court once state courts finish reviewing challenges to his conviction for a 1992 murder. Rhines v. Weber, No. 03-9056. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 contains a one-year statute of limitations that would have barred Charles Russell Rhines from coming back to federal court. A federal judge had held the one-year deadline in abeyance while he dealt with Rhines’ state court claims. The justices held that such an abeyance is permissible. Rhines filed a federal habeas petition in 2000 after the apparent end of proceedings in the state court system. A federal judge ruled that the petition contained claims that hadn’t been exhausted in state court. She placed his habeas on hold and ordered him to return to state court. If she had dismissed his petition, he would have been unable to refile it after the state courts had finished their work. O’Connor wrote the court’s opinion. The justices ruled unanimously that the so-called Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which bars lower federal courts from conducting de facto review of state court decisions, is confined to cases brought by parties complaining of injuries caused by adverse state court judgments. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., No. 03-1696. The doctrine cannot be expanded to deny federal courts jurisdiction in cases where pending state and federal court proceedings present identical issues. Ginsburg delivered the court’s opinion. The justices’ ruling that federal law allows people 40 and older to file age bias claims even if employers intended no harm is discussed on Page 7. Smith v. City of Jackson, No. 03-1160.

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