Supreme Court Notebook

 Court rejects reporter’s bid to protect source 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to get involved in the case of a reporter who has been ordered to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of disclosing classified information.

The justices did not comment in rejecting an appeal from New York Times reporter James Risen, who detailed a botched CIA effort during the Clinton administration to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Risen’s reporting is at the center of criminal charges against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Federal prosecutors want to force Risen to testify about his sources at Sterling’s trial.
 
Risen argued that he has a right to protect his sources’ identity, either under the Constitution or rules governing criminal trials. The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, rejected Risen’s bid to avoid being forced to testify.

The Associated Press and many other leading news organizations supported Risen’s appeal.

Congress is considering a proposed media shield law, similar to laws in place in most states, which would protect reporters and news media organizations from being required to reveal the identities of confidential sources. But it would not grant an absolute privilege to journalists.

The last time the Supreme Court weighed in on reporters and confidential sources was in 1972, when the court split 5 to 4 to hold that that nothing in the First Amendment of the Constitution protects reporters from being called to testify before grand juries.

The appeals court relied on that ruling in Branzburg v. Hayes to side with prosecutors against Risen.

At the same time federal prosecutors have fought Risen in court, Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested that the government would not seek to put Risen in jail should he refuse to testify as ordered.
 

Supreme Court to hear redistricting challenge in Ala.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a challenge from Alabama Democrats who say a Republican-drawn legislative map intentionally packs black Democrats into a few voting districts, giving them too little influence in the Legislature.
 
The justices agreed to hear a pair of appeals from the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and other Democratic lawmakers who contend the new map created in 2012 illegally limits black voting strength and makes it harder to elect Democrats outside the majority-black districts.

A panel of three federal judges had ruled 2-1 last year that the new districts were not discriminatory and did not violate the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.

The Legislature had to redraw political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the 2010 Census. Alabama Republican Attorney General Luther Strange has said the new legislative districts are consistent with federal law.

Democrats contend the new districts were gerrymandered to dilute black voting strength. Despite demographic shifts, they say the map contains the same number of districts with majority black populations that were in a legislative redistricting plan produced a decade ago, when Democrats still controlled the Legislature. The plan has eight of the 35 Senate districts and 28 of the 105 House districts with a majority of black residents.

The three-judge panel rejected the claim about diluting black voter strength. In the majority decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor wrote that “the overwhelming evidence in the record suggests that black voters will have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process the same as everyone else.” He was joined by U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins.

The lone black judge on the panel, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, dissented.

Alabama Republicans had similarly challenged the districts drawn by the Legislature’s then-Democratic majority after the 2000 Census, but they also lost. Republicans gained control of the Legislature in the 2010 election.

The cases are Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. State of Alabama, 13-895, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, 13-1138.
 

Justices: Treaty can’t be invoked in assault case 

WASHINGTON (AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that prosecutors may not rely on an international chemical weapons treaty to convict a woman who attacked her husband’s mistress.
 
The justices threw out the conviction of Carol Anne Bond of Lansdale, Pa., who was prosecuted under a 1999 law based on the chemical weapons treaty. Bond served a six-year prison term after being convicted of using toxic chemicals that caused a thumb burn on a friend who had become her husband’s lover.

Chief Justice John Roberts said Pennsylvania laws are sufficient to deal with the threats posed by a woman in a love triangle.

“In sum, the global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard, or to treat a local assault with a chemical irritant as the deployment of a chemical weapon,” Roberts said.

The case posed potentially significant questions about the federal government’s power to make and enforce treaties. The justices resolved the case without reaching that issue, although Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said they would have.

Bond, unable to bear any children of her own, was excited for her best friend Myrlina Haynes when the woman announced her pregnancy. 

But later the excitement turned to pain when Bond found out that her husband of more than 14 years, Clifford Bond, was the one who had impregnated Haynes.

Vowing revenge, Bond, a laboratory technician, stole the chemical 10-chloro-10H phenoxarsine from the company where she worked and purchased potassium dichromate on Amazon.com. Both can be deadly if ingested or exposed to the skin at sufficiently high levels.

Bond spread the chemicals on Haynes' door handle and in the tailpipe of Haynes' car. Haynes, noticing the chemicals and suffering a minor burn, called the local police, who didn't investigate to her satisfaction. 

She then found some of the chemicals on her mailbox, and called the United States Postal Service, which videotaped Bond going back and forth between Haynes' car and the mailbox with the chemicals.
Postal inspectors arrested her.

But instead of turning the domestic dispute case over to state prosecutors, a federal grand jury indicted her on two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon. 

The grand jury based the charges on a federal anti-terrorism law passed to fulfill the United States' international treaty obligations under the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

Bond pleaded guilty, 
The case is Bond v. U.S., 12-158.
 

Company didn’t induce patent infringement 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says a company is not liable for inducing patent infringement if someone other than the company carries out some of the steps leading to infringement.
 
The justices unanimously ruled Monday that Internet content delivery company Limelight Networks Inc. did not infringe on the patented system for managing images and video owned by rival Akamai Technologies Inc.

Akamai claimed Limelight used some of its patented methods for speeding content delivery, and then illegally encouraged its customers to carry out the remaining steps. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed, but the Supreme Court reversed.

Justice Samuel Alito said all the steps for patent infringement must be performed by a single party. Since there was no direct infringement, Alito said there could be no inducement.
 

Court asked to hear ex-Mexican leader’s case 

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Ten people who say they survived a 1997 massacre in Mexico have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate their lawsuit accusing former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo of bearing some responsibility for the killings.
 
A federal judge in Connecticut and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York dismissed the lawsuit, citing a legal doctrine that gives former heads of state immunity from such legal actions. Zedillo has said the allegations against him are groundless and slanderous.

The unnamed plaintiffs say they are survivors of the killings of 45 people in the village of Acteal in the southern state of Chiapas by paramilitaries with government ties. They say Zedillo knew about the paramilitary actions in Acteal, covered them up and broke international human rights laws.

The lawsuit originally was filed in Connecticut, where Zedillo is an international studies professor at Yale University. He was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000.

The plaintiffs filed a writ of certiorari on May 16, asking the nation’s highest court to hear their appeal. They say the lower courts were wrong to dismiss their lawsuit without giving them a chance to revise it. A message seeking comment left Monday for their lawyer wasn’t immediately returned.

The massacre occurred during a conflict that began three years earlier when the rebel Zapatista movement staged an armed uprising to demand more rights for Indians in Chiapas. Paramilitaries with alleged government ties attacked Roman Catholic activists who sympathized with the rebels, killing 45 people including children as young as 2 months old.

After the killings, Zedillo denounced them as criminal and urged government and human rights officials to investigate.

Zedillo’s lawyer, Jonathan Freiman, said the plaintiffs’ latest appeal is “just another stunt to try to keep alive a frivolous lawsuit.”

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