SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Justices turn

away new appeal from Uighurs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The five remaining Chinese Muslims who are being held at Guantanamo Bay lost their latest bid Monday to get the Supreme Court to hear their case.

The justices turned away a plea from the five detainees, who have been held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba for nearly nine years.

The detainees had previously declined an offer to be resettled in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, where six other Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, have gone to live. It is not clear why the five refused to go to Palau, or to a second, unidentified country that the Obama administration has said was willing to take them.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for three of his colleagues, said he agreed with the court's decision not to hear the case because of the two countries' offers and "the government's uncontested commitment to continue to work to resettle" the Uighurs. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor joined Breyer's opinion.

Justice Elena Kagan, who worked on the case while serving in the Justice Department, did not take part in the court's action Monday.

The detainees wanted the court to consider the question of whether a judge can order detainees released into the United States.

Eleven other members of the Turkic Muslim ethnic group from China's west have left Guantanamo for Albania, Bermuda and Switzerland.

The U.S. has agreed for years that the Uighurs are not enemy combatants.

China wants the Uighurs sent home, but they argue -- and the administration agrees -- that they could be tortured if they are sent to China.

The U.S. has undertaken extensive diplomatic efforts, aggressively opposed by China, to find the Uighurs a home.

Court stops appeal in murder plot case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday in a murder-for-hire plot after the star prosecution witness lied about his military background.

The court said Monday it will not review a divided appeals court ruling that, by a 6-5 vote, upheld the conviction of Idaho businessman David Hinkson for plotting to kill a federal judge, prosecutor and tax agent.

Hinkson is serving a 43-year prison term.

Earlier, a three-judge panel on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hinkson deserved a new trial because the witness, Elven Joe Swisher, lied about his war record and presented forged documents about it.

Swisher later was convicted of defrauding the government of nearly $100,000 in veterans benefits and wearing unauthorized military medals.

Hinkson, the owner of the Grangeville, Idaho-based mineral water company WaterOz, was charged in the plot in 2004.

Prosecutors said Hinkson tried to hire a business associate and Swisher to kill U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Steven Hines, who were all involved in a federal tax case against WaterOz. None of the officials were harmed.

In the tax case, Hinkson was convicted of tax evasion and violating Food and Drug Administration laws against selling misbranded drugs and equipment by claiming his mineral water contained gold and silver and could treat ailments ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to AIDS.

Swisher was the government's star witness in the murder plot case. During that trial, prosecutors described Swisher as a Korean War veteran, and while on the witness stand Swisher sported a replica Purple Heart pin on his lapel.

Swisher also testified that Hinkson was impressed and wanted to hire him for the hit after hearing about his combat exploits and claims of killing enemy soldiers in battle.

But in 2007, Swisher was convicted in federal court of lying about his military service, wearing unauthorized military medals, forging military documents and theft of government funds for taking $95,000 in unearned military benefits. Swisher was sentenced to a year in prison and three years of supervised release.

Hinkson's attorneys argued on appeal that Hinkson should be given a new trial because of the lies and forged documents presented by Swisher.

Hinkson said that the prosecutors also erred during their closing argument because they referred to Swisher as a combat veteran.

But in writing for the 11-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Carlos Bea said that the government's only references to Swisher's military background were to point out that Swisher told Hinkson he was a veteran, not that Swisher actually was one.

Court won't stop lawsuit against Chipotle Grill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court won't stop a disabled man's lawsuit against Chipotle Mexican Grill for having counters too high for a person in a wheelchair.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from the Denver-based chain.

Maurizio Antoninetti sued when he found that he could not see the Chipotle food preparers because of the height of the counters. A federal judge ruled against him, saying Antoninetti had sued dozens of other places for access violations and dropped the suit after received cash settlements.

The judge said Antoninetti was insincere about wanting to return and eat at Chipotle.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judge's ruling, saying Antoninetti's litigation history cannot be used against him.

The case is Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. v. Maurizio Antoninetti, 10-1051.

Appeal over inmate's long

sentence denied

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a convicted insurance swindler who is protesting his 835-year prison term.

The court did not comment Monday in turning away a plea from Sholam Weiss for his release from prison and return to Austria, where he was arrested after he fled the United States during his criminal trial in Orlando, Florida. Weiss is in prison for his role in the collapse of a life insurance company in the 1990s that cost thousands of people their life savings.

He still may be able to appeal his conviction and sentence, even though an appeals court had earlier ruled that he forfeited his appeal rights when he became a fugitive.

A judge cut 10 years from Weiss' sentence when Austria returned him to the U.S.

No action taken on Virginia

health care case

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia's call for speedy review of the health care law.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration.

The case was among those that were scheduled to be discussed in the justices' private conference on Friday, but there was no announcement about the case when the court convened on Monday.

The silence could mean, among other things, that one justice asked for more time to think about the case or to write a short opinion that would accompany an order.

The justices meet again on Friday to discuss pending cases.

Published: Wed, Apr 20, 2011

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