Supreme Court Notebook

Court will decide question on crack sentencing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will decide whether a law meant to reduce the disparity between crack and powder cocaine prison sentences can apply those who were convicted -- but not sentenced -- before its enactment.

The high court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Edward Dorsey and Corey Hill, who were both convicted of crack cocaine crimes.

However, the men were not sentenced until after The Fair Sentencing Act went into effect. That law reduces the difference between sentences for crimes committed by crack cocaine and powder cocaine users.

The two men argue that because their sentences came after the law's effective date, they should get its lesser prison time. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and the high court will review that decision.

U.S. court to look at overtime pay for drug reps

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether pharmaceutical sales representatives can bill their employers for overtime, a case that could affect the pay of tens of thousands of Americans.

The court said Monday that it will review a federal appeals court ruling that held the sales reps do not qualify for overtime under federal labor law. Other appeals courts have ruled differently and the pharmaceutical industry joined in the call for Supreme Court review.

The sales reps meet with physicians in the hope that doctors will prescribe one company's medicine over another's. Two salesmen who once worked for British-based drug maker GlaxoSmithKline filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that they were not paid for the 10 to 20 hours they worked each week on average outside the normal business day.

Supreme Court won't hear skycaps' appeal on tips

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has left in place a ruling that denied $333,000 to airport skycaps who claimed they were cheated out of tips when American Airlines started charging curbside baggage fees.

The court on Monday rejected an appeal from nine skycaps at Logan International Airport in Boston. They wanted the court to review a federal appeals court ruling that overturned a lower court decision in their favor.

The skycaps sued under a Massachusetts law aimed at preventing employers from keeping tips intended for workers. The 1st U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston held that the law was pre-empted by federal aviation law regulating airfares. The court also said that soon after institution of the baggage fee, American Airlines clearly indicated with signs that the $2 fee was not a tip.

High court to review fine for mercury storage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will consider throwing out an $18 million penalty against Texas-based Southern Union Co. for illegally storing mercury at a rundown building in Rhode Island.

The justices said Monday they will hear the natural gas company's appeal of the criminal penalty that was imposed by a federal judge and upheld by an appeals court.

What makes the case unusual is that the company is challenging the size of the penalty under a line of Supreme Court cases concerning prison sentences.

Southern Union had used the building in Pawtucket to store outdated mercury-sealed gas regulators that it removed from customers' homes. The mercury was initially removed and shipped to a recycling center. But when that work stopped, the regulators and loose mercury were left to accumulate inside the building.

Texas asks court to stop redistricting plan

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has been asked to stop a federal court from implementing a congressional redistricting map in Texas that increases the number of minority-majority districts.

The state's attorney general, Greg Abbott, filed the request with the high court on Monday. The court-drawn map was drafted after minority groups challenged the original plan passed by the Republican-dominated state Legislature.

The map drawn by the San Antonio-based federal court would ensure minorities made up the majority in three additional Texas congressional districts. If the 2012 elections were held under the court's map, Democrats would have an advantage as they try to win back the U.S. House and try to claim more seats in the GOP-controlled state legislature. .

The court-ordered map will remain in place until the legal fights are resolved.

Published: Tue, Nov 29, 2011

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