Supreme Court Notebook

Supreme Court clarifies power of bankruptcy judges

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court says bankruptcy courts have authority to rule on disputes that fall outside the bankruptcy proceedings if the parties to the case consent.

The 6-3 ruling on Tuesday helps clarify the power of bankruptcy judges. That had been in question since a 2011 high court decision that limited their authority to decide non-bankruptcy issues.

The case involves efforts by Wellness International Network, Ltd., to recover $655,000 in attorney fees from Richard Sharif, a Chicago resident with whom the company had a legal dispute. Sharif filed for bankruptcy in 2009 to avoid paying the debt. Wellness claimed Sharif had assets in a family trust that could be tapped and lower courts agreed.

The Supreme Court said lower courts must decide whether Sharif consented to the bankruptcy court deciding the issue.


Court sides with KBR in false claims dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of defense contractor KBR Inc. in a whistleblower lawsuit over claims that the company overbilled the government for work in Iraq.

The justices ruled unanimously Tuesday that former KBR employee Benjamin Carter waited too long to file a suit alleging that the company had fraudulently billed the government for water purification services in Iraq.

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, said the case could go forward because a World War II-era law allows such lawsuits to be filed past the normal six-year deadline when the country is at war.

The high court said the law applies only to criminal charges, not the civil claims at issue in Carter's suit.

The case is Kellogg, Brown & Root v. U.S., 12-1497.


High court won't hear international custody dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court is staying out of an international child custody dispute between a woman and her former husband in Turkey.

The justices on Tuesday let stand a lower court ruling that said the woman must return custody of her two daughters to her ex-husband.

The girls' mother says she fled Turkey with her daughters in 2007 because she believed her husband was sexually abusing them. The father claims his ex-wife defied a Turkish family court's decision granting him custody and illegally took the children to Greece and later to the state of New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last year that the Turkish order should be enforced.

The Associated Press doesn't typically identify victims of sexual abuse; it is not naming the parents to avoid identifying the girls.


Court to consider case of exclusion of black jurors

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will consider whether prosecutors improperly singled out potential black jurors in notes and then excluded them all from the death penalty trial of a black Georgia man accused of murder.

The justices agreed Tuesday to hear the appeal of Timothy Foster, who was sentenced to death in 1987 after being convicted of murdering a 79-year-old white woman in Rome, Georgia.

Lawyers for Foster say prosecutors' notes obtained through an open records request show that the name of each potential black juror was highlighted and the word "black" was circled next to the race question on questionnaires for the black prospective jurors.

Georgia officials say prosecutors had race-neutral reasons for striking the potential jurors.

Published: Wed, May 27, 2015


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