Supreme Court Notebook

Justices to review  NC congressional districts ruling

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will consider North Carolina’s appeal of a court ruling that said state lawmakers relied too heavily on race in drawing congressional districts.

The justices on Monday added the case to their calendar for the fall.

A panel of three judges struck down two majority black congressional districts and ordered the state to redraw its congressional map.

North Carolina did so and held primaries in the reconfigured congressional districts on June 7.

Voters challenged the new districts as well, but the same judges allowed the primaries to take place.

The case is McCrory v. Harris, 15-1262.


Court upholds  gun ban for domestic violence

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is upholding the broad reach of a federal law that bans people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns.

The justices on Monday rejected arguments that the law covers only intentional acts of abuse and not those committed in the heat of an argument.

The case involved two Maine men who said their guilty pleas for hitting their partners should not disqualify them from gun ownership.

The dispute drew interest from advocates for victims of domestic abuse who say the law applies to reckless behavior as well as intentional misconduct.

Gun rights groups argued that the men should not lose their constitutional right to bear arms because of misdemeanor abuse convictions.

A federal appeals court ruled against the men.


Wages for home care workers appeal rejected

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Obama administration regulations that extend minimum wage and overtime pay rights to nearly 2 million home health care workers.

The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from several home care industry groups that said the Labor Department overstepped its authority when it approved the new rules in 2013.

The rules apply to workers hired through third-party staffing agencies that provide home care to the elderly and people with injuries, illnesses or disabilities.

A federal judge had scrapped the regulations last year, but a federal appeals court reversed that ruling.

Workers hired through third-party staffing agencies had previously been exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay rules since 1974.


Justices won’t hear medical  marijuana appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal challenging a Montana law that limits medical marijuana providers to selling the drug to a maximum of three patients each.

The justices on Monday let stand a Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld key provisions of a state law that rolled back much of the 2004 voter-approved initiative legalizing medicinal marijuana.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association said the rollbacks would force the closure of dispensaries and leave patients without a legal way to obtain the drug.

The new restrictions are set to take effect Aug. 31.


Justices to hear dispute over deaf driver education

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up a dispute involving deaf people in Texas who say driver instruction schools in the state won’t let them take classes needed to get a driver’s license.

The justices said Tuesday they will consider whether a Texas state agency that outsources driver instruction to private contractors can be sued for refusing to make sure the schools accommodate people with disabilities.

A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that the state agency could not be sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because it merely licensed the driver education schools and did not itself provide driving instruction.

The court will hear the case, Ivy v. Morath, 15-486, when the new term begins in the fall.


Court will hear  service dog at school dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up an appeal from an 11-year-old Michigan girl with cerebral palsy who wasn’t allowed to bring her service dog to school.

The justices said Tuesday they will consider whether Ehlena Fry’s family can sue the school district for violations of federal disability laws.

Fry’s family obtained a goldendoodle to help her open doors and retrieve items. Her school district initially refused to allow Wonder at school. Officials relented a bit in 2010, but they placed many restrictions on Wonder. Ehlena and her dog later transferred to another school.

Her family sued the school district for violations of federal disability laws. The case was dismissed after a judge said the Frys first had to seek an administrative hearing. An appeals court last year upheld that decision 2-1.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the family, says the case is important because school districts around the country have repeatedly denied children with disabilities their right to bring service dogs to school. These districts often claim the service animals are not necessary and that the schools can help the children through other means.

The ACLU wants the justices to declare that children prevented from using service animals at school can proceed directly to court without having to go through administrative hearings that can be costly, time consuming and burdensome.

The school argues that exhausting administrative remedies encourages parents and schools to work together to determine the best plan for each child and are a cheaper way to resolve educational disputes.

The Obama administration has backed the Fry family, saying the appeals court’s decision was wrong and “leads to unsound results.” The government said at the time the lawsuit was filed, Ehlena had already moved to a new school district and there was no ongoing dispute to compromise. Requiring her to go through administrative proceedings “would waste time a resources without offering any chance of resolving their actual dispute,” the Justice Department said in a brief to the court.

The high court will hear the case, Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, 15-497, when the new term begins in the fall.


High court rejects appeal concerning pharmacists’ religious rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing Washington state to require pharmacies to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, rejecting an appeal from pharmacists who said they have religious objections to providing the drugs.

The justices’ order on Tuesday leaves in place rules first adopted in 2007 following reports that some women had been denied access to emergency contraceptives that are effective when taken within a few days of unprotected sex. Pharmacies must fill lawful prescriptions, but individual pharmacists with moral objections can refer patients to another pharmacist at the same store.

A Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia, Washington, and two pharmacists sued, saying the rules required them to violate their religious beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the appeal.

Calling the court’s action an “ominous sign,” Alito wrote a stinging 15-page dissent for the three dissenting justices. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern,” he wrote.

A trial judge twice ruled for the pharmacists in the long-running lawsuit, but was twice overturned by the federal appeals court in San Francisco.

The case is Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman, 15-862.


Campaign finance law challenge rejected by court

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is rejecting a conservative group's challenge to a Delaware campaign finance law.

The justices on Tuesday left in place a lower court ruling allowing the 2012 law to be enforced. The measure requires third-party groups working independently of candidates to influence elections to disclose the source of donations.

Delaware Strong Families challenged the disclosure requirements.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the group's appeal.

The case is Delaware Strong Families v. Denn, 15-1234.


High court will hear appeal over high ATM fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will hear an appeal from Visa and MasterCard seeking to throw out a lawsuit accusing the credit card companies of illegally fixing ATM prices.

The justices on Tuesday agreed to review an appeals court ruling that said the antitrust case against the companies and three major banks could go forward.

A group of consumers and independent ATM operators argue that payment processors illegally coordinated with Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. to adopt anticompetitive fees.

A federal judge dismissed the case in 2013, but a federal appeals court revived the claims last year.

The lawsuit claims the companies impose contract terms that prevent independent ATM operators from charging lower fees when consumers use debit cards that access cheaper processing networks.


Justices reject request to rehear tied union case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has turned down a long-shot request to hold new arguments in a major labor union case that ended in a 4-4 tie.

The justices on Tuesday denied without comment a petition from a group of California teachers urging the court to reconsider the case once a new justice is confirmed.

The court almost never rehears cases. It would have taken five justices to agree to a rehearing.

The tie vote in March was a victory for unions in a case they once seemed all but certain to lose before Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. The deadlock left in place a nearly four-decade-old practice that lets public-sector unions collect fees from non-members to cover collective bargaining costs.

The teachers claim the fees infringe free speech rights.


Court denies  abortion appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin seeking to put in place restrictions on abortion clinics that were struck down by lower courts.

The justices on Tuesday refused to hear appeals involving laws that would have forced doctors who perform abortions at clinics in the two states to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The orders follow Monday's decision in which the court struck down a similar provision in Texas.

Federal appeals courts in Chicago and New Orleans earlier ruled against the states.

Mississippi's law would have closed the lone abortion clinic in the state, in Jackson.

The cases are Currier v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, 14-997, and Schimel v. Planned Parenthood, 15-1200.


Court to hear loan discrimination case from Miami

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will consider whether the city of Miami can sue major banks over allegations they engaged in a decade-long pattern of discriminatory lending practices that harmed the city.

The justice said Tuesday they will hear appeals from Wells Fargo and Bank of America arguing that the city is not authorized to sue under the Fair Housing Act.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuits, but a federal appeals court said they could go forward. Miami claims the banks targeted African-American and Hispanic borrowers for predatory loans that carried more risk, higher costs and steeper fines than loans offered to white customers.

The city claims the loans resulted in a higher number of foreclosures, reducing tax collections and damaging neighborhoods.

The court will hear the cases this fall.


Supreme Court will review odd citizenship law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee a dispute about an odd piece of U.S. citizenship law that treats men and women differently.

The justices said they will hear a case about a law that applies only to children born outside the U.S. to one parent who is an American and one who is not. The law makes it easier for children whose mother is a citizen to become citizens themselves. Even after reform legislation in 1986, children of American fathers face higher hurdles claiming citizenship for themselves.

The federal appeals court in New York struck down the law in the case of Luis Ramon Morales-Santana. He challenged the law and asserted he is a U.S. citizen after U.S. authorities sought to deport him after convictions for robbery and attempted murder.

Morales-Santana is the son a of a Dominican mother and an American father, who left Puerto Rico for the Dominican Republic 20 days before his 19th birthday. For people born before 1986 to parents who are not married, their U.S. citizen fathers had to have lived in the U.S. for 10 years, at least five of them after the age of 14. Morales-Santana's father missed meeting the second part of that requirement by 20 days.

American mothers need only have lived in the U.S. continuously for a year before the birth of a child.

Changes to immigration law made in 1986 reduced the total residency time for fathers to five years, only two of which had to be after the age of 14.

By contrast, a child born in the United States, regardless of the parents' nationality, is a U.S. citizen, as is a child born abroad to two American citizens if one of them has ever lived in the United States.

The justices attempted to answer this question in 2011, but divided 4-4 with Justice Elena Kagan out of the case because she worked on while serving in the Justice Department. This time around, the case will again be heard by eight justices, but with Kagan taking part.

The case, Lynch v. Morales-Santana, 15-1191, will be argued in the fall.


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