SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Court declines to hear dispute over Michigan mine

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a dispute over construction of a new nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from an outdoor sporting club that claims the mine will spoil the environment.

The Huron Mountain Club has been challenging the Eagle Mine in state and federal courts. The club owns 19,000 acres, including land that comes within 3.3 miles of the mine. Some mining will take place under the Salmon Trout River and area wetlands.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had turned aside the club's arguments that the mine needs federal permits.

Early look at NSA surveillance case rejected

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined an early look at a constitutional challenge to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records, instead allowing the dispute to work its way through the usual lower-court process.

The decision means the high court will not take the unusual step of bypassing appeals courts as they consider contrary opinions over the legitimacy of the agency's vast surveillance program.

Conservative lawyer Larry Klayman persuaded a federal judge in December to rule that the agency's activities likely violate the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. The judge in Washington, D.C., put his decision on hold pending a government appeal.

The Supreme Court justices rejected without comment Klayman's request to bypass the appeals process and hear the case immediately. Klayman argued that the constitutional questions raised were too important to wait for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reach a decision. But the country's top court rarely grants such requests.

It could take many months before the justices consider any legal challenge to the controversial collection program disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

Klayman's lawsuit is one of two dueling NSA cases making their way through the federal appeals system.

Just days after Klayman won his case, a federal judge in New York reached the opposite conclusion in rejecting a similar challenge to the NSA program from the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge validated the NSA operation as an effective "counterpunch" to terrorist acts.

Other legal challenges to the NSA program have yet to be decided. Sen. Rand Paul and the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks filed a federal lawsuit in February in Washington seeking to have the phone records program declared unconstitutional. And a coalition of environmental groups, human rights activists and church leaders brought a similar challenge last year in San Francisco.

Klayman has said he made his push for a Supreme Court decision because he fears the Obama administration wants to have the New York case reviewed first, because it favors the government's position. Klayman contends the Justice Department is trying to stretch out the appeals process in his case.

The Justice Department declined a request for comment. The Obama administration has defended the NSA program as a crucial and effective tool against terrorism. The agency did not submit a brief to the Supreme Court responding Klayman's request to bypass the appeals process.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for ending the government's control of Americans' phone data and immediately ordered intelligence agencies to get a secretive court's permission before accessing the records. It is not clear how the changes Obama announced might affect the legal fight.

Appeal over NM gay bias case turned down

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a commercial photography business in New Mexico that objects to taking pictures of same-sex wedding ceremonies.

The justices on Monday left in place a state Supreme Court ruling that said Elane Photography violated a state anti-discrimination law when it refused to work for a same-sex couple who wanted pictures of their commitment ceremony.

Elane Photography co-owner Elaine Huguenin said taking the photos would violate her religious beliefs. She said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take, or refrain from taking.

Justices won't hear campaign finance case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to century-old bans on campaign contributions by corporations.

The justices turned away an appeal without comment Monday from Iowa Right to Life, less than a week after they struck down overall limits in federal law on contributions from the wealthiest donors to candidates for president and Congress, as well as political parties.

Iowa Right to Life asked the court to hold that corporations have the same constitutional free speech rights as individuals to make campaign contributions.

Published: Wed, Apr 9, 2014

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