U.S. Supreme Notebook

High court sides with Goodyear in personal injury dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Goodyear Rubber & Tire Co. in a dispute over a $2.7 million penalty the company was ordered to pay an Arizona family to reimburse their legal fees in a personal injury case.

The justices sent the case back to a lower court to decide whether an Arizona family injured in a 2003 motor home accident is entitled to the entire amount.

The family sued Goodyear after they were seriously injured when a tire failed on their motor home, causing it to flip off the road. After settling the case in 2010, the family discovered the company hadn’t turned over key testing data.

A federal judge said nearly all of the family’s attorney fees could be blamed on the misconduct and he ordered the payment. A federal appeals court agreed.

Justice Elena Kagan said such a penalty must be limited to the fees the family incurred solely because of the misconduct. She said Goodyear’s failure to disclose the data was not responsible for every legal expense incurred in the case.

The Supreme Court ordered the lower court to apply the correct legal standard.

Newly confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the case, which was argued before he took his seat on the court.


Justices: Colorado policy on court fees for exonerated unconstitutional

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Colorado’s practice of not automatically refunding court fees and other costs to people ­convicted of crimes but later exonerated violates the Constitution.

The 7-1 decision sided with two people whose convictions for sexual offenses were later thrown out. One paid about $700 in court fees, including victim restitution, while the other paid more than $4,400 in similar costs.

Colorado law had required people cleared of wrongdoing to recover their costs in a separate civil lawsuit. But they could not get a refund unless they proved their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said those hurdles violated the due process rights of criminal defendants.

“The state may not retain their money simply because their convictions were in place when the funds were taken, for once those convictions were erased, the presumption of Nelson’s and Madden’s innocence was restored,” Ginsburg said.

Colorado appeared to be the only state that didn’t automatically refund such fees.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote separately to say that the majority went too far in saying that an award of victim restitution should always be returned when a defendant’s conviction is reversed.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the defendants did not have a constitutional right to recover costs and fees they paid to the state.

Newly confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the case, which was argued before he took his seat on the court.


Justices require new appeal for challenging victim awards

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says a person convicted of a crime and later ordered to pay the victim must file a separate appeal to challenge the order.

The justices on Wednesday ruled 6-2 against a Florida man who was convicted of possessing child pornography and ordered to pay $4,500 to cover the victim’s loss. Marcelo Manrique appealed his conviction, but not the restitution order, which came about two months later.

Manrique argued his initial appeal covered the later judgment. But the Supreme Court said he should have filed a second appeal when restitution was ordered. A federal appeals court also ruled against him.

The decision clarifies an area of law that has confused lower courts about when appeals must be filed to challenge orders that can come months after conviction.