U.S. Supreme Court Notebook

Justices turn down Philip ­Morris appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has rejected Philip Morris USA's appeal of a $25 million punitive damages award to the family of a dead smoker in Oregon.

The justices on Monday are leaving in place a state appeals court ruling that likened the cigarette maker's role in smoker Michelle Schwarz's death to manslaughter under Oregon law, had the case been pursued in criminal court.

Schwarz started smoking in 1964 at age 18. She switched to the low-tar cigarette the company began selling in 1976 because of her concerns about the health effects of smoking. Schwarz died in 1999 at age 53 from a brain tumor caused by lung cancer that had metastasized.

The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a Portland jury's $25 million award, citing Philip Morris' "extreme reprehensibility."

High court rejects appeal from parishioners of closed church

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from parishioners who are occupying a church that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston closed more than a decade ago.

The justices are not commenting on their order Monday in the case involving the St. Frances X. Cabrini church in Scituate, Massachusetts.

The parishioners have said they would leave within 14 days of a high court order.

They have occupied the church since the archdiocese closed it in 2004 as part of a broad restructuring.

The Supreme Court order leaves in a place a judge's decision to evict the parishioners in a civil trespass case brought by the archdiocese.

The case is Rogers v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, 15-1105.

Justices pass on verdict in Exxon Mobil pollution

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will not hear Exxon Mobil's appeal of a $236 million judgment for its use of a gasoline additive that contaminated groundwater in New Hampshire.

The court's order Monday leaves in place a jury verdict involving contamination by the chemical MTBE.

Exxon Mobil wanted the judgment thrown out because New Hampshire was not required to prove that individual water supplies were contaminated. The Irving, Texas-based company also said it is not responsible for contamination caused by gasoline spills at junk yards and independent gas stations.

MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a petroleum-based gasoline additive that has been used since the 1970s to reduce smog-causing emissions.

It was found in the 1990s to contaminate drinking water supplies when gasoline is spilled or leaks into surface or groundwater.

@ROUND UP Briefs Headline:Get off my lawn: Supreme Court rejects plaza protest appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is passing up a free speech case right in its own front yard.

The justices on Monday are rejecting an appeal from a man who says he has a right to stage a protest on the court's marble plaza.

The court's action comes without comment from the justices and leaves in place an appellate ruling that said the high court can bar protesters from the 20,000-square-foot, open-air plaza without violating their constitutional rights.

The appeal by Harold Hodge Jr. stemmed from his arrest in 2011 for being on the plaza while wearing a sign that criticized police treatment of blacks and Hispanics.

Protests are confined to the public sidewalk directly in front of the plaza.

The case is Hodge v. Talkin, 15-863.

Published: Tue, May 17, 2016


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