Supreme Court Notebook

High court turns down former hostages in Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has declined to revive a lawsuit against Iran filed by Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran more than 30 years ago.

The justices on Tuesday did not comment in letting stand lower court decisions dismissing the $6.6 billion class-action lawsuit.

Tho lower courts found the agreement to release the hostages, known as the Algiers Accords, precluded lawsuits against Iran. The suit argued that legislation in 2008 gave the hostages the right to sue.

Fifty-two American diplomats and military officials were held captive for more than a year at the end of Jimmy Carter's presidency by a group of Islamist students who supported the Iranian revolution.

The hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, just minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Carter.

Court won't review police use of stun guns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has decided that it will not review the appropriateness of stun guns used by police on suspects.

The high court on Tuesday refused to hear appeals from police in Hawaii and Washington, or people who got stun-gunned by officers.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said officers could not be sued in federal court. But judges also said officers used excessive force by using stun guns.

Malaika Brooks was driving her son to school in 2004 when she was stopped for speeding. Officers used a Taser three times when the woman, who was seven months pregnant, refused to get out of her car.

Jayzel Mattos was stun-gunned in 2006 in her house by police who said she interfered with the arrest of her husband, Troy.

Court: Judges shouldn't have overturned conviction

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has overturned an appeals court decision that would have released a Pennsylvania man convicted of helping to kill a woman in an alley nearly two decades ago.

A federal appeals court ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to uphold the conviction of Lorenzo Johnson. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy as an accomplice in the December 1995 shotgun murder of Taraja Williams.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that Johnson intended the victim's death, and a federal judge ordered Johnson's release.

But the high court, in reversing the decision, said it is longstanding precedent that it is up to juries, not judges, to decide what conclusions should be drawn from evidence submitted at trial. The only way that can be reversed is that "no rational trier of fact could have agreed with the jury," the justices said.

"The evidence was sufficient to convict Johnson as an accomplice and a co-conspirator in the murder of Taraja Williams," said the court, which sent the case back to the lower courts.

Court won't block suit in Minn. bridge collapse

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court will not block Minnesota's lawsuit against a California design firm over the deadly 2007 interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people.

The justices did not comment Tuesday in turning down an appeal by Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., arguing that too much time has passed since the bridge was built in the 1960s.

The Minnesota Supreme Court earlier ruled that lawsuit could go forward, relying on laws the state legislature passed in 2008 allowing Minnesota to seek reimbursement from parties that may have contributed to the 2007 collapse. A federal investigation found a design flaw was a key cause.

The state court said those reimbursement laws do not violate Jacobs' constitutional rights.

The case is Jacobs Engineering v. Minnesota, 11-1074.

Published: Wed, May 30, 2012

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