Supreme Court Notebook

High court rules against law firm in fight over fee

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court says one of the nation's biggest law firms is not entitled to recover $5.2 million in legal fees it incurred in the course of a bankruptcy proceeding.

The justices ruled Monday that Baker Botts could not collect additional fees it billed during a side dispute over whether the firm should be paid $117 million in fees earned representing Tucson-based copper-mining giant Asarco in the underlying bankruptcy.

A U.S. bankruptcy court in Texas initially awarded the firm $117 million in 2011 for its work in Asarco's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. But Asarco objected and the firm spent another $5.2 million in separate litigation defending its fees. A federal appeals court ruled that "fees for defense of fees" could not be paid.

The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court.


Court: Deadlines for immigration can be extended

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal appeals courts have authority to decide whether people facing deportation should be able to extend the deadlines in immigration proceedings.

In an 8-1 opinion, the justices sided with Noel Reyes Mata, a Mexican citizen who had lived in the United States for nearly 15 years. The government began deportation proceedings after he pleaded guilty to an assault charge.

An immigration judge ordered him deported. Mata appealed, but his lawyer failed to file paperwork within the 90 days required. A new attorney tried to reopen the case, but the Board of Immigration Appeals refused.

Mata appealed to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but the court said it had no authority to order a deadline extension.

The Supreme Court said the court did have such authority.


Death-row inmate denied appeal by U.S. high court

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a Mississippi death row inmate's petition for a new trial.

Caleb Corrothers argues he was the victim of mistaken eyewitness identification. The nation's high court denied Corrothers' petition Monday without comment.

Corrothers is arguing that a cognitive psychologist would have offered examples of studies which have shown the memory of witnesses who saw something only briefly diminishes dramatically over time.

Those arguments were rejected last year by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Corrothers, now 33, was convicted in 2011 in Lafayette County on two counts of capital murder and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors say Taylor Clark and his father, Frank Clark, were shot and killed on July 11, 2009, in their Oxford-area home in dispute over drugs and money.


Court: Wife can't protest husband's visa denial

WASHINGTON (AP) - A California woman can't challenge the government's decision to deny a visa to her spouse from Afghanistan, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The justices ruled 5-4 that Fauzia Din, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had no basis to protest after the visa petition she filed for her husband was rejected in 2009.

Din's husband had worked as a clerk in the Afghan government when it was controlled by the Taliban. But the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan offered no factual explanation for refusing his visa request, other than to cite a law giving officials broad discretion to deny visas based on "terrorist activities."

Din argued that the rejection triggered her spousal rights under the Constitution and that she deserved to know the specific reason for the denial.

But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for three justices, said even assuming that marriage is a fundamental right, Din has not been forbidden from getting married.

"Those right-to-marry cases cannot be expanded to include the right Din argues for - the right to live in the United States with one's alien spouse," Scalia said.

Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito agreed with the outcome, but wrote separately to say that it was not necessary to decide whether marriage is a right protected by the Constitution. He said the government satisfied due process when it notified Din's husband he was denied under the law's anti-terrorism ban.

A dissent from the court's four liberal justices said Din should have prevailed on her constitutional claims. Justice Stephen Breyer said Din had "the kind of liberty interest" that deserves protection under the Constitution.

A decades-old legal doctrine gives the government broad power to deny visas and courts have long held that noncitizens have no constitutional right to seek an explanation. Din was trying to get around that legal barrier by asserting that her marriage was affected by the decision.

A federal judge threw out Din's case, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Din had a right to get a fuller explanation for the visa denial based on her marital rights.

The government said visa rejections are confirmed with an advisory opinion from the State Department and all denials are reported to Congress, which provides additional oversight.

At the end of his opinion announcement, Scalia mistakenly referred to his longtime colleague and friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as Justice Goldberg. After colleagues alerted Scalia to his mistake, he apologized to Ginsburg. "Sorry about that, Ruth," Scalia said.


High Court won't revive N. Carolina abortion law

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from North Carolina to revive a requirement that abortion providers show and describe an ultrasound to a pregnant woman before she has an abortion.

The justices left in place an appeals court decision that said the 2011 North Carolina law was "ideological in intent" and violated doctors' free-speech rights.

The North Carolina law would have required abortion providers to display and describe the ultrasound even if the woman refused to look and listen - a mandate that the court found particularly troublesome.

North Carolina is among 23 states, mostly in the South and the Midwest, which passed laws dealing with the administration of ultrasounds by abortion providers, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research institute that supports abortion-rights.

Justice Antonin Scalia voted to hear the appeal.

The court took no action in a separate abortion case from Mississippi. The state is appealing a lower court ruling that effectively allowed Mississippi's lone abortion clinic to remain open and blocked a state law that would have required the clinic's doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

A second appeals court ruling involving a Texas law imposing restrictions on abortion providers also is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court soon. In Texas, the appeals court upheld the admitting privileges requirement and other provisions that could force 11 clinics to close by July 1, lawyers for the clinics said in court papers.

The North Carolina case is Walker-McGill v. Stuart, 14-1172.

Published: Tue, Jun 16, 2015


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