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The U.S. Supreme Court on April 30 issued the following opinions: The justices held, 8-1, that a police officer who rams a fleeing suspect’s car, forcing it to crash, is acting “reasonably” under the Fourth Amendment. Scott v. Harris, No. 05-1631. In March 2001, Timothy Scott, a Georgia county deputy, chased a speeding car driven by Victor Harris. The chase ended with Scott applying his bumper to the rear of Harris’ car, which left the roadway, overturned and crashed. Harris was rendered a quadriplegic. He filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that the use of excessive force resulted in an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Claiming qualified immunity, Scott filed a summary judgment motion, which a Georgia federal court denied. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The justices reversed. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said that Scott was entitled to summary judgment because the car chase Harris had initiated posed a substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others. Scalia said that a videotape shows “a Hollywood-style car chase of the most frightening sort, placing police officers and innocent bystanders alike at great risk of serious injury.” He said “a police officer’s attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase . . . does not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer concurred. Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. • GOVERNMENT The justices held, 6-3, that local governments don’t violate the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause when they compel private haulers to use municipal facilities to process garbage. United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management, No. 05-1345. The Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority collects, processes and disposes of solid waste generated in New York’s Oneida and Herkimer counties. The authority collects “tipping fees” to cover its operating and maintenance costs. The counties enacted “flow control” ordinances requiring all solid waste to be delivered to the authority’s processing sites. Private haulers had to obtain permits from the authority to collect waste in the counties. In 1995, United Haulers Association Inc., a trade association made up of solid waste management companies, sued the counties and the authority in a New York federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the flow-control laws violate the commerce clause by discriminating against interstate commerce. The haulers submitted evidence that, without the laws and the $86-per-ton tipping fees, they could dispose of solid waste at out-of-state facilities for between $37 and $55 per ton. The court ruled for the haulers, enjoining enforcement of the laws. The 2d Circuit reversed, holding that a law doesn’t discriminate against interstate commerce when it favors local government at the expense of private industry. The justices affirmed. Writing on behalf of the court, Roberts said that laws favoring local government may be directed toward any number of legitimate goals unrelated to protectionism. Here, the laws enable the counties to pursue particular policies with respect to waste handling and treatment, while allocating the costs of those policies on citizens and businesses according to the volume of waste they generate. Roberts said, “It is not the office of the commerce clause to control the voters’ decision in this regard. Waste disposal is . . . traditionally a function of local government exercising its police power. Nothing in the commerce clause vests the responsibility for such a policy judgment with the federal judiciary.” Scalia, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg and Breyer concurred. Alito, Stevens and Kennedy dissented. • TAXATION The justices ruled unanimously that a trust seeking to recover money levied by the Internal Revenue Service can’t challenge the levy by bringing an action for a tax refund under 28 U.S.C. 1346(a)(1) after missing the nine-month deadline for a wrongful levy action under 28 U.S.C. 7426(a)(1). EC Term of Years Trust v. IRS, No. 05-1541. In 1991, a Texas couple, Elmer and Dorothy Cullers, set up the EC Terms of Years Trust. In 1999, the Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against the trust over unwarranted income tax deductions. The trust deposited funds in a bank account, against which the IRS issued a notice of levy. The bank responded with a check for more than $3 million. Almost a year later, the trust brought a civil action in a Texas federal court under 26 U.S.C. 7426(a)(1), claiming wrongful levies. The court dismissed it because the complaint was filed after the nine-month limitations period had expired. The court also noted that tax refund claims under 28 U.S.C. 1346(a)(1) were not open to the trust because Section 7426 affords the exclusive remedy for an innocent third party whose property is confiscated by the IRS to satisfy another person’s tax liability. The 5th Circuit affirmed. The justices affirmed. Writing for the court, Souter said Section 7426(a)(1) provides the exclusive remedy for third-party wrongful levy claims. “[A] precisely drawn, detailed statute pre-empts more general remedies.” If third parties could avail themselves of Section 1346(a)(1)’s general tax refund jurisdiction, they could evade Section 7426(a)(1)’s much shorter limitations period. • PATENTS See Page 8 for a story on the justices’ two patent rulings.

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