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The U.S. Supreme Court on May 31 rendered the following decisions: The justices unanimously upheld a federal law requiring state prisons to accommodate the religious affiliations of inmates. Cutter v. Wilkinson, No. 03-9877. The ruling addressed a narrow issue: whether the law is an unconstitutional government promotion of religion. Three Ohio prisoners sued under the 2000 Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, claiming that they were denied access to religious literature and ceremonial items and denied time to worship. According to the law, states that receive federal money must accommodate prisoners’ religious beliefs unless wardens can show that the government has a compelling reason not to do so. Ohio argued that the law amounted to unconstitutional official favoritism for religion, because it creates incentives for inmates to profess a religious belief so that they may receive special food or other privileges unavailable to other inmates. Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that Ohio’s interpretation would sweep too broadly, prohibiting even such congressionally mandated religious accommodations as a law that permits Jewish members of the military to wear yarmulkes while on duty. The justices ruled, 7-2, that in light of defense attorney Johnnie Cochran’s recent death, a judge’s order limiting Ulysses Tory, a disgruntled former client of Cochran’s, from picketing outside his office “amounts to an overly broad prior restraint upon speech.” The justices lifted a California judge’s injunction against Tory and his wife from making any statements about Cochran in a public forum. Tory v. Cochran, No. 03-1488. Tory had argued that he had a First Amendment right to picket outside Cochran’s Los Angeles office to complain about Cochran’s services. Cochran had claimed that Tory’s protests wrongly defamed his reputation and invaded his privacy. His widow replaced him in the court case. Writing on behalf of the majority, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that the restrictions apparently did not end with Cochran’s death. “We take it as a given that the injunction here continues significantly to restrain [Tory's] speech, presenting an ongoing federal controversy.” Breyer’s opinion was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter and Ginsburg. Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia. The justices’ unanimous ruling overturning the conviction of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm for destroying Enron Corp.-related documents, because the jury instructions were too broad, is discussed on Page 1. Andersen v. U.S., No. 04-368. Certiorari granted The justices added a death penalty case to their 2005-2006 docket. The high court will review the propriety of a Kansas law that required imposition of the death penalty-instead of life without parole-when the weight for and against imposing a death sentence was relatively equal. The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the law, finding it unconstitutional on its face, and reversed the capital murder conviction of a woman and her child. Kansas v. Marsh, No. 04-1170.

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