U.S. Supreme Court Notebook

Justices rule against the ­consumer in debt collection case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says debt collection companies can't be sued for trying to recover years-old credit card debt from people who seek bankruptcy protection.

The justices on Monday ruled 5-3 in favor of Midland Funding, which was trying to collect $1,879 in debt that an Alabama woman had incurred more than 10 years earlier.

Aleida Johnson argued that Midland was wrong to go after the debt because Alabama law has a six-year statute of limitations for a creditor to collect overdue payments.

A federal appeals court said Johnson could sue Midland for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law prohibits collection companies from trying to recover debts outside the statute of limitations.
But Justice Stephen Breyer said the law doesn't apply to bankruptcy proceedings.


Supreme Court rejects appeal over NC voter ID law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal to reinstate North Carolina's voter identification law, which a lower court said targeted African-Americans "with almost surgical precision."
The justices left in place the lower court ruling striking down the law's photo ID requirement and reduction in early voting.

The situation was complicated when Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein tried to withdraw the appeal, which was first filed when Republican Pat McCrory was governor.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the political situation created uncertainty over who is authorized to seek review of the lower court ruling.

The dispute is similar to the court fight over Texas' voter ID law, also struck down as racially discriminatory.

Republicans in both states moved to enact new voting measures after the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that had required them to get advance approval before changing laws dealing with elections.

Voters, civil rights groups and the Obama administration quickly filed lawsuits challenging the new laws. The Trump administration already has dropped its objections to the Texas law.

Shortly before Trump took office in January, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the North Carolina appeal.

When the law passed, North Carolina Republicans said voter ID is a sound requirement to increase the integrity of elections. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state provided no evidence of the kind of in-person voter fraud the ID mandate would address. The Richmond, Virginia-based court said the law was enacted with intentional bias against black voters. The law was amended in 2015 to include a method for people unable to get a photo ID to still vote.

Following the appellate ruling, the state asked the high court to allow the challenged provisions to remain in effect in November's election. The justices rejected the request by virtue of a 4-4 tie on most of the challenged provisions, with the four more conservative justices supporting the state's bid.

Roberts cautioned Monday that the rejection of the appeal is not a comment on the court's view about the substance of the law.


Justices side  with Kentucky nursing home in ­arbitration case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says a Kentucky nursing home can require the families of two former residents to pursue claims against the home outside of court.

The justice ruled 7-1 on Monday that the home could enforce contracts signed by relatives of the residents that subjected all disputes involving the home to arbitration. The relatives had been authorized to sign the admission documents.

Kentucky's highest court had refused to enforce the agreements, saying the relatives lacked the power to waive a "divine God-given right" to a jury trial.

The nursing home argued that such agreements are allowed under federal law, which overrides state laws that protect the right to sue in court.


Justices reject appeal of  student arrested for ­burping

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined to hear a New Mexico mother's appeal over her son's arrest for disrupting his seventh grade gym class with fake burps.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said the police officer who arrested the boy in 2011 was immune from liability.

The appeals court's ruling drew a sharp dissent from then-Judge Neil Gorsuch just six months before he was picked for the Supreme Court vacancy.

The mother featured Gorsuch's dissent prominently in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."

Justices typically are recused from cases they heard before joining the court, and Gorsuch had no role in considering the case when it came before the high court.


Justices reject challenge to Hawaii, Montana open primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has turned away challenges to open primaries in Hawaii and Montana that allow voters to take part in party primary elections regardless of their political affiliations.

The justices did not comment Monday in leaving in place rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the states' open primaries.

Democrats in Hawaii and Republicans in Montana had challenged the open primaries as a violation of the parties' constitutional right to freedom of association.

Voters do not have to be affiliated with a political party to cast ballots in primary elections.


U.S. Justice Samuel Alito to address Catholic seminary grads

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. will address the graduates of a Roman Catholic seminary near Philadelphia.

Alito is scheduled to speak at the Concursus ceremony Wednesday at St. Charles Borromeo (bor-oh-MAY'-oh) Seminary in Wynnewood.

Seminarians will receive their degrees at the ceremony as will clergy and lay students who are enrolled in the seminary's college and graduate degree programs.

Alito will receive an honorary degree from the seminary, which has similarly honored St. Mother Teresa, Pennsylvania Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix and others.

The seminary was founded in 1832 and is the primary institution for those studying to be priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.


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