Supreme Court Action Recap

The Supreme Court issued a slew of rulings on Monday, many of which touched on civil rights issues and big business. Here's a recap:

Military Might and Might-Not

  • Turned down a challenge to "don't ask, don't tell," the Pentagon policy forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The court refused to hear an appeal from former Army Capt. James Pietrangelo II, who was dismissed under the military's policy. He had asked the high court to rule that the policy is unconstitutional. 
  • Ruled that the current government in Iraq cannot be held responsible for the actions of Saddam Hussein's regime. The high court unanimously turned away lawsuits from Americans who were held in Iraq during the Gulf War. The court said a federal law enacted in 2003 gave Iraq back the immunity that was stripped because of the Hussein government's designation as a sponsor of terrorism. 
  • Told a military court it can re-examine the guilty plea for a Nigerian-born serviceman who faces deportation. Jacob Denedo says he pleaded guilty to larceny because his lawyer told him he would not be deported. He found out later his lawyer had an alcohol problem after deportation proceedings had started. The military court said it could not look at the case again because Denedo is no longer in the Navy.

Big Business

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg temporarily delayed Chrysler's sale to Fiat, giving bondholders more time to make their case they got a bum deal. The move potentially throws a wrench into the Obama administration's hopes of speeding the ailing automaker through bankruptcy. 
  • Agreed to find a way to determine where a company's principal place of business is located. Hertz Corp. wanted a lawsuit alleging wage and hour violations moved from California courts to federal court because that state is not its principal place of business. 
  • Refused to hear an appeal from two former top executives of Tyco International that challenges their convictions for fraud and larceny involving more than $100 million in bonuses. Tyco's former CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Swartz will serve prison terms of 8 1/3 to 25 years for taking unauthorized pay.

Tribal Sovereignty

  • Turned down an appeal from Indian tribes who wanted to block expansion of a ski resort on a mountain they consider sacred. A half-dozen Western tribes wanted to block the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski area north of Flagstaff because the resort plans to use treated wastewater to make artificial snow on the mountain.


  • Refused to hear a Marine's lawsuit blaming the government's dumping of toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for his son's illnesses. Donal McLean Snyder Jr. argued that the dumping of trichloroethylene, an ingredient in cleaning solvents, into the ground in the 1970s polluted the water and made his son ill. 
  • Will not consider making changes to the sentence of a radical environmentalist linked to multiple arsons across the West. Kendall Tankersley was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, after pleading guilty to arson and attempted arson at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford in December 1998. 

State Business

  • Won't get involved in an argument over an Illinois state law that forces casinos to transfer of millions of dollars to ailing horse tracks. Last year, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld the law. The high court let that ruling stand without comment.

Crime and Punishment

  • Upheld the racketeering conviction of a reputed associate of the Gambino crime family. Edmund Boyle was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison in connection with a string of burglaries of night deposit boxes at banks in the New York metropolitan area. 
  • Won't stop Pennsylvania officials from prosecuting a man whose computer was found to contain child pornography while it was at Circuit City being upgraded. Kenneth Sodomsky wanted the videos found on his computer suppressed. He had taken it into the store to get a DVD burner installed. A worker found questionable files and called police, who found child pornography.

Judges and Lawyers

  • Ruled that judges must step aside from cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias. The high court on a 5-4 vote sent back to the West Virginia Supreme Court a case where a judge remained involved in a lawsuit filed against the company of the most generous supporter of his election. 
  • Will decide whether a new bankruptcy law applies to lawyers, and if it does, whether their free speech rights are violated by the law's ban on people being told to incur more debt before filing bankruptcy.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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