Supreme Court Notebook

U.S. high court stays out of Asian carp dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to get involved in a dispute over how to prevent Asian carp from making their way into the Great Lakes.

The justices turned down a new request from Michigan on Monday to consider ordering permanent closure of Chicago-area shipping locks to prevent the invasive fish from threatening the Great Lakes.

The court had declined previously to order the locks closed on an emergency basis while it considered whether to hear the case. Michigan has led the legal fight to close the locks, arguing that the ravenous carp, which weighs up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms), could devastate the lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry by starving out competitors such as salmon and walleye.

Wash. initiative case in Supreme Court Wednesday
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday that the names of people who sign an initiative should be made public.

The case arises from the unsuccessful measure last year to overturn the “everything but marriage” law for homosexual couples.

Gay rights activists want to publicize the names of the 138,000 people who signed the petitions. A group behind the campaign, Protect Marriage Washington, says exposing the names could open signers to harassment.

The high court’s decision is likely to affect about two dozen states that allow citizens to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot.

Court to hear appeal in guard’s sexual assault
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to consider reinstating a $625,000 judgment against Ohio prison officials who did nothing to prevent a guard’s sexual assault of an inmate and then punished the victim.

The justices said Monday they will review a federal appeals court that threw out the award to Michelle Ortiz. The lower court had said the prison officials did not violate her constitutional rights. Another federal judge called the appellate decision a “legal travesty.”

Ortiz was serving 12 months at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in November 2002 when she reported that a male guard fondled her breasts and warned, “I’ll get you tomorrow, watch.” He did, returning when Ortiz was asleep to molest her again.

When Ortiz discussed the attacks with other inmates, she was shackled and sent to solitary confinement.

She filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officials and won a jury verdict.

But the appeals court in Cincinnati found by a 2-1 vote that one official, Paula Jordan, could not be held liable even though she did not take immediate action when Ortiz reported the first incident. The court said the other official, Rebecca Bright, did not violate Ortiz’s rights by sending her to solitary confinement.

Bright and Jordan tried to get the case against them dismissed before the trial. A judge refused to do so and they did not appeal then. The legal issue in the case is whether they could wait until after the trial to appeal the judge’s ruling.

It is extremely rare for a prison inmate’s civil rights complaint to overcome preliminary legal obstacles and persuade a jury there was a violation, said Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey, the dissenting appeals court judge.

Given the statistics, Daughtrey said, “I view this result as a legal travesty.”

The evidence against Bright and Jordan was strong, she said. “The majority’s decision to overturn the jury’s verdict strikes me not just as an unfortunate result in this case, but as one that is thoroughly senseless.”

Arguments will take place in the fall.

The case is Ortiz v. Jordan and Bright, 09-737.


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