SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Court won't take Texas case over student-led prayer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is leaving in place a court ruling that a Texas school board can open its meetings with student-led public prayers without running afoul of the Constitution's prohibition against government-established religion.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take a case challenging the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.

A three-judge panel of that court earlier this year said a lower court was correct to dismiss a lawsuit against the Birdville Independent School District over its practice of beginning meetings with a statement from a student that is usually a prayer.

The suit was filed by the American Humanist Association and a graduate of Birdville High School.


Justices turn away challenge to assault weapons ban

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court turned away an appeal from Maryland gun owners who challenged the state's ban on assault weapons, which were used in recent mass shootings in a south Texas church and at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.

The justices left in place a federal appeals court ruling that upheld the Maryland law that does not permit the sale of a range of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines.

In the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this year, Judge Robert King wrote "we have not power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war."

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who pushed for the legislation as a state senator in 2013, said he hoped the appeals court's ruling and the high court's decision not to review it would encourage other states to adopt similar protections.

"It ought to be a lesson to all states, and I would hope that they would look at the 4th Circuit's decision and the tragic events around the country and come to the conclusion that this is a common-sense law," said Frosh, a Democrat.

Maryland passed the sweeping gun-control measure after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 20 children and six educators in Connecticut. It bans 45 kinds of assault weapons and puts a 10-round limit on gun magazines.

"This success is even more significant as we near the five-year anniversary of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School," said Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence. "While Congress may continue to fail to act, state legislatures must take the lead in protecting American citizens from the atrocities of gun violence in our communities."

The high court has not re-entered the debate over guns since rulings in 2008 and 2010 that held that Americans have a constitutional right to have guns for self-defense in their homes and that local governments could not ban handguns.

The justices also declined an appeal asserting a constitutional right to carry firearms openly in public.


Court declines to take up drone strike lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is declining to revive a lawsuit over a drone strike in Yemen that killed five people.

The court said Monday it would not take up the case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this year that the case had been properly dismissed. The appeals court said taking up the case would require it to second-guess the wisdom of a military action, which it said courts could not review.

The case arose out of a 2012 drone strike in eastern Yemen. The relatives of two people killed in the strike sued the United States, saying it was a U.S. drone strike that had killed their relatives who were innocent civilians.


Justices let man remain free after long wait for trial

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is allowing a Texas man - who was imprisoned for 35 years while waiting for a second murder trial - to remain free.

The justices on Monday rejected the state's appeal in the case of Jerry Hartfield.

Hartfield was twice convicted of killing a bus ticket saleswoman in Bay City, about 100 miles southwest of Houston. The first conviction and death sentence were overturned in 1980. Hartfield was not tried a second time until 2015.

But a Texas appeals court ruled that the long wait violated Hartfield's constitutional right to a speedy trial and ordered his case dismissed.


Court declines case where resentencing ordered

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court won't get involved in a case from Oklahoma in which a federal appeals court set aside the life prison sentence of an inmate who committed violent crimes as a juvenile.

The Supreme Court said Monday it won't take up the case of Keighton Budder. Budder was convicted of rape and other charges and received three consecutive life sentences plus 20 years. Under Oklahoma law he'd have had to serve almost 132 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit said earlier this year that the sentence violates a Supreme Court ruling that forbids life-without-parole sentences for juvenile non-homicide offenders.

The appeals court sent the case back to Oklahoma courts for Budder to be resentenced.


Justices reject appeal over Confederate emblem

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from an African-American attorney who called the Confederate battle emblem on the Mississippi flag "an official endorsement of white supremacy."

The justices did not comment Monday in ending a lawsuit by lawyer Carlos Moore that sought to have the flag declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

Mississippi has used the same flag since 1894. It is the last state banner featuring the Confederate symbol, a red field topped by a blue tilted cross dotted by 13 white stars. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.


Court leaves in place Nebraska funeral protest law

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is leaving in place a Nebraska law that bars protests around funerals.

Nebraska enacted the law in 2006. It prohibits protests near a cemetery, mortuary or church from one hour before the beginning of a funeral to two hours after.

Members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church challenged the law but have lost in lower courts. Members of the church routinely conduct anti-gay protests outside military funerals. The protests have been a way of drawing attention to their incendiary view that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

The Supreme Court said Monday it would not take up the church's challenge to Nebraska's law.

Published: Wed, Nov 29, 2017

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