Supreme Court Notebook

Justices refuse

to step into

custody dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has declined to step into a lesbian custody dispute between a woman who has renounced her homosexuality and her onetime partner.

The justices on Monday turned down an appeal from Lisa Miller, the biological mother of an 8-year-old girl. Miller wanted the court to undo a Virginia court decision allowing Janet Jenkins visitation rights with the girl.

Jenkins is from Vermont. Miller is from Virginia. They were joined in a civil union in Vermont in 2000. Their daughter has been the subject of a long-running legal fight.

Miller has renounced her homosexuality. She and her daughter did not appear for a court-ordered custody swap in January. Their whereabouts are unknown.

The case is Miller v. Jenkins, 10-177.

Court lets NFL complaint go

to state court

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court won't stop a Minnesota state court from getting involved in a fight between the NFL and Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams over violations of the league's anti-doping policy.

The high court refused Monday to hear an appeal from the National Football League.

The players took the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contained an unlisted but banned diuretic that can mask the presence of steroids. The federal courts threw out the players' appeal of their NFL suspensions, but said there were issues that should be considered in state court.

The NFL wanted the entire lawsuit thrown out, saying the players' union contract and federal law trump state law in this case.

The two players argued that the NFL's testing violated Minnesota workplace laws.

"It's a wonderful victory for Kevin and Pat, and it's a wonderful victory for employees in every state throughout the country," the Williamses' attorney, Peter Ginsberg, told The Associated Press. "And hopefully it will make the NFL more sensitive to what state Legislatures decide is important for the safety of their employees."

Ginsberg said a hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17 before the Minnesota Court of Appeals on whether a permanent injunction should be issued against the league so that the Williamses, who are not related, "can play out their careers without worrying the NFL is going to suspend them for this ingestion of StarCaps."

Ginsberg said a permanent injunction is needed because eventually the preliminary injunction allowing the Williamses to continue playing will expire.

In a statement, the NFL said the Supreme Court's decision "does not address in any way the merits of the claims made by the players, which have been rejected by every federal and state court to consider them."

The Williamses have been playing for nearly two years, going back to the NFL's initial announcement in December 2008. Both have been playing this season.

Minnesota state law requires that an employer give an employee who tests positive for drug use the right to explain the positive test. The NFL's policy says a positive result won't be excused because a player was unaware he was taking a prohibited substance.

Attorneys for the NFL had argued it should be allowed to enforce its anti-doping policy because it was a product of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the players union. The agreement is governed by federal labor law, which they argued pre-empted the state laws.

The case is National Football League v. Williams, 09-1380.


Jeff Baenen contributed to this report from Minneapolis.

Supreme Court won't stop new sentencing hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court won't stop a new sentencing hearing for a man sentenced to death for the shotgun slaying of a Yuma, Ariz. woman.

The high court on Monday turned down appeals from Arizona officials in Fred Lawrence Robinson's case.

Sterleen Hill was killed when two men claiming to be narcotics officers burst into her Yuma home, tied her up and shot her in the back

Robinson was accused of masterminding the plan.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Robinson's death sentence. Judges said Robinson did not have an effective lawyer and that the courts arbitrarily said the crime was committed in "cruel, heinous or depraved manner."

The case is Ryan v. Robinson, 10-34.

High court turns down early health care challenge

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has turned down the first preliminary challenge to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The decision Monday to reject an appeal from a former Republican state lawmaker in California was no surprise because a federal appeals court has yet to consider the case. The high court almost never reviews cases before the issues have been aired in lower courts.

Of more significance is the sign that all the justices took part in rejecting the appeal. New Justice Elena Kagan refused to say during her confirmation hearings whether she would take part in the court's deliberations over the health care law. Kagan was Obama's solicitor general before joining the court.

The court has noted Kagan's absence in more than two dozen other cases, suggesting that she voted on the health care appeal.

Kagan has stepped aside from cases in which she was involved as a Justice Department official before joining the court.

Justice Clarence Thomas also apparently voted on the case. Some critics have called on Thomas to step aside from the health care cases because his wife, Virginia Thomas, has been an outspoken opponent of the law in her role as founder of the conservative advocacy group Liberty Central.


The case is Baldwin v. Sebelius, 10-369.

Published: Wed, Nov 10, 2010