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The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 26 granted certiorari to three cases: The justices will examine the state of Washington’s open primary system, which allows candidates to identify themselves as belonging to any political party, regardless of whether party leaders endorse them. Then, the top two finishers in the primary face off in the general election, even if the two are from the same party. The plan was adopted by Washington voters in 2004 in response to a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that its previous system violated political parties’ right to association. Affirming the lower court, the 9th Circuit again ruled that the political parties’ right to association was unduly burdened by the new system, which is being backed on appeal by the Washington chapter of The Grange, described as “America’s oldest farm-based fraternal organization,” because it allows candidates to identify their party “preference” on the ballot, notwithstanding that party’s own preference. Washington State Grange v. Washington Republican Party, No. 06-713, consolidated with Washington v. Washington Republican Party, No. 06-730. n The justices will examine the federal crime of using a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime. Michael Watson was convicted of the crime when he exchanged an unloaded gun in his possession for drugs offered by an undercover agent. He argued in the 5th Circuit that the exchange did not constitute “use” of a gun, but in an unpublished per curiam ruling, the 5th Circuit said that there was nothing in its prior case law to indicate that “use” be limited in its meaning. Watson v. U.S., No. 06-571. n The justices added a case brought by parents of a learning-disabled child seeking reimbursement from the public school system for the child’s education in private school. Refusing to place the child in what they deemed inadequate New York City public schools, the parents placed him in a private school and asked the city for reimbursement under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. A federal district court in New York sided with the parents, and the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a summary order, affirmed. Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York v. Tom, No. 06-637. See Page 7 for a story on the justices’ unanimous ruling that their 2004 decision, Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36, which limited out-of-court statements as criminal evidence, was a rule of criminal procedure, not a “watershed rule,” and so is not to be applied retroactively. Whorton v. Bockting, No. 05-595.

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