Supreme Court Notebook

 Co­u­rt rejects Onon­daga tribe’s land claim suit

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the Onondaga Indian Nation’s petition to review the dismissal of its long-running lawsuit claiming a massive swath of land running down the middle of New York state.

The Nation had argued the 4,000 square miles in 11 counties was illegally taken by the state through a series of bogus treaties. The lawsuit also named the city of Syracuse and a number of local companies as defendants.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the land claim outright in 2012. The Supreme Court decision on Tuesday rejected a petition to review that dismissal.

The state had argued that the case should be dismissed because the tribe waited too long to sue. The same argument doomed previous land claims by the Oneida and Cayuga tribes.

When the Onondagas filed their lawsuit in March 2005, they stressed they weren’t seeking monetary damages, eviction of residents or rental payments. Instead, they wanted a court judgment that New York violated federal law in acquiring ancestral tribal lands and that the land continues to belong to the Onondagas.

While Tuesday’s decision ends the Onondagas’ lawsuit in U.S. courts, the tribe’s attorney, Joe Heath, said a challenge may be filed with the United Nations or another international body.

“Our people have always talked about and worked for a return of our stolen lands, and we will continue to do so, for the sake of the future generations yet to come,” said Sid Hill, an Onondaga chief and the Tadadaho, or spiritual leader, of the six-nation Iroquois Confederacy.

Court won’t hear arguments on Maryland gun law 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t review a decision upholding a Maryland gun law that requires residents to demonstrate a “good and substantial reason” to get a permit to carry a handgun outside their own home or business.
The high court on Tuesday refused to hear from Raymond Woollard and the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation Inc., who said the law violates the Second Amendment.

Maryland is one of about half a dozen so-called “may issue” states where residents must demonstrate a reason to get a permit to carry a gun in public. Those states include California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Hawaii. The legislation in some of those states is also the subject of legal challenges.

Woollard initially obtained a permit allowing him to carry a handgun outside his home after his son-in-law broke into his Baltimore County home in 2002. The permit was renewed once, but Woollard was denied a second renewal in 2009. State officials said Woollard failed to demonstrate any ongoing danger outside his home. Maryland law does not recognize a vague threat or general fear as an adequate reason for
obtaining a permit.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, and the Supreme Court refused to review that decision.

Alan Gura, a Virginia-based lawyer for the Second Amendment Foundation, said Tuesday he was disappointed with the court’s decision.

“This was a strong case,” said Gura, who is also involved in legal challenges to similar laws in California and New Jersey with the Second Amendment Foundation.

Gura also argued the last two major gun cases before the Supreme Court, District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 and McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010.

The Maryland Attorney General’s office had asked the Supreme Court not to hear the case. Attorney General Douglas Gansler said in a statement Tuesday that his office was pleased with the court’s decision. Maryland’s law makes the state “a safer place for families to live and work and allows protections for those individuals who demonstrate the need,” the statement said. Lawyers argued in a brief filed with the court
that the Court of Appeals decision was consistent with prior decisions of the Supreme Court other lower courts.

Maryland does not require residents to have a permit to carry a gun at their home or business or in connection with activities such as hunting. The state says that from 2007 to 2011, state police received more than 23,000 original and renewal requests from people who wanted to carry a gun outside those places. The state says nearly 94 percent of requests were approved. About 14,000 people have active permits to carry a weapon.

A new Maryland gun law that went into effect Oct. 1 was not at issue in the case. The law gives the state some of the nation’s tightest gun laws. It bans 45 types of assault weapons, though people who owned the weapons before the new law was passed are allowed to keep them. The law also requires people to submit fingerprints to get a license to buy a handgun. That law is also being challenged in court.

Co­urt wary of DaimlerChrysler Argentina lawsuit 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday didn’t seem to like the idea of U.S. courts being allowed to hear lawsuits that accuse foreign companies of committing atrocities on foreign soil.

The high court listened somewhat skeptically to arguments that it should uphold a lower court decision that would allow survivors and victims of Argentina’s “dirty war” sue the former DaimlerChrysler Corp. of Stuttgart, Germany, for alleged abuses in Argentina in California court.

Several justices seemed to think that allowing this lawsuit would open American courts to lawsuits from around the world that may not have anything to do with issues they think belong in a U.S. court.

“So if a Mercedes-Benz vehicle overturned in Poland and injured the Polish driver and passenger, suit for the design defect could be brought in California?” asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kevin Russell, lawyer for the victims from Argentina, said under their reading of the law, the answer would be yes.

“It doesn’t lead to good results when you assume something that is obviously in error,” Justice Elena Kagan responded.

Survivors of victims who disappeared and who say they were kidnapped and tortured by the Argentine government in the late 1970s sued in California, alleging Mercedes-Benz was complicit in the killing, torture or kidnapping by the military of unionized auto workers.

In the 1970s and 1980s, thousands were killed, kidnapped or “disappeared,” including trade unionists, left-wing political activists, journalists and intellectuals in Argentina in what has become known as the dirty war. The suit says “the kidnapping, detention and torture of these plaintiffs were carried out by state security forces acting under the direction of and with material assistance” from the Mercedes-Benz plant in Gonzalez-Catan, near Buenos Aires.

The lawsuit said that Daimler could be sued over the alleged Argentina abuses in California since its subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz USA, sold cars in that state. A federal judge threw that lawsuit out, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and said it could move forward.

The company, now known as Daimler, however, has argued that since it is a German corporation, it should not be able to be sued in a state court by foreign nationals for actions a subsidiary allegedly took in a foreign country.

“This is a case involving Argentine plaintiffs suing a German corporation based on events that allegedly occurred in Argentina more than 30 years ago,” said Thomas H. Dupree, Jr., lawyer for Daimler. “This case has no connection to the United States, and it has no business in a California courtroom.”

But Russell said that the court system has been working on this case for a long time, effort that should not be wasted by dismissing the case. “I think you would have to take into account this case has been in litigation for eight years already. I think that’s a substantial reason for the court to want to allow the case to continue,” he said.

The court will likely make a decision next year.
Court won’t hear appeal on Tenn. resegregation 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal asking courts whether the rezoning of metro Nashville schools in 2009 was a pretext for resegregation.
The high court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal from Frances and Jeffrey Spurlock, who sued after their then 6th-grade daughter was taken out of a predominantly white school with a good academic record and offered the choice of two failing schools.
Attorneys for the school system argue the rezoning is not racially motivated but seeks to increase parental involvement by putting kids in neighborhood schools, offer parents more choices and adjust student populations to match the capacities of the buildings.
The federal appeals court upheld the new district lines, and the high court refused to reconsider that decision.
Court to hear appeal over gun buying conviction 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will decide whether a Virginia man should have been convicted of being a “straw purchaser” after buying a gun in-state and selling it to his uncle in Pennsylvania.
The high court on Tuesday agreed to hear an appeal from Bruce James Abramski, Jr., a former police officer. Abramski bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Va., in 2009 and transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pa.
Federal official say Abramski had assured the Virginia dealer he was the “actual buyer” of the weapon when he already had discussed with his uncle how he would buy the Pennsylvania man a weapon with his police discount.
Abramski says since both he and his uncle were legally allowed to own guns, the law shouldn’t have applied to him.


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