Supreme Court Notebook

Court won't revive torture lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive a lawsuit challenging a controversial post-Sept. 11 CIA program that flew terrorism suspects to secret prisons.

The appeal asked the court to examine two controversial aspects of the U.S. response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, "the extraordinary rendition" program that sent the suspects to secret prisons and the "state secrets privilege."

The high court has refused several other appeals based on the government's invocation of state secrets to derail lawsuits.

The case involved five terrorism suspects who were arrested shortly after Sept. 11 and said they were flown by a Boeing Co. subsidiary to prisons around the world where they were tortured. A divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco cited national security risks in dismissing the men's case last year.

The terror suspects sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan in 2007, alleging that the extraordinary rendition program amounted to illegal "forced disappearances." They alleged that the subsidiary conspired with the CIA to operate the program.

A trial court judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit after the Bush administration took over defense of the case from Boeing and invoked the state secrets privilege, demanding a halt to the litigation over concern that top secret intelligence would be divulged.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court reinstated the lawsuit in 2009, but a larger group of judges split 6-5 in saying the case could not go forward.

After reviewing public and classified documents, the majority concluded that at least some information the government wants to protect "are valid state secrets."

The five dissenters said the men should be allowed to try to prove their case using publicly disclosed evidence.

Two of the five plaintiffs remain in prison in Egypt and Morocco.

Justice Elena Kagan took no part in the case because she worked on it when she served in the Justice Department.

Court says FOIA request cannot be used in lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says a Freedom of Information Act request cannot be used to trigger a False Claims Act lawsuit.

The court on Monday voted 5-3 to agree with arguments by Schindler Elevator Corp., which sought to get a lawsuit against it dismissed.

Daniel Kirk, a former employee, sued on behalf of the government, claiming Schindler had not complied with reporting requirements involving the employment of Vietnam veterans.

But a judge threw out his lawsuit, saying Kirk's information came from a FOIA request. The False Claims Act says that lawsuits cannot be filed using publicly disclosed information. The judge said FOIA reports were public information.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City overturned that decision but the high court said it was correct.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the court's opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented and was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Elena Kagan did not participate because she worked on this case while serving as solicitor general.

The case is Schindler Elevator Corp. v United States, 10-188.

Court nixes case over anonymity in school suit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has declined to hear a dispute over whether students challenging a private Hawaiian school system's admissions policy must be identified.

The court on Monday left in place lower court rulings against four non-Hawaiian students who object to the Kamehameha Schools' policy that gives admissions preference to those of Hawaiian ancestry. Only a few non-Hawaiians have ever been admitted.

The challengers wanted to file their suit anonymously because of concerns about public humiliation and retaliation if they are identified.

Court sides with police in warrantless search

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has ruled against a Kentucky man who was arrested after police burst into his apartment without a search warrant because they smelled marijuana.

The justices, by an 8-1 vote Monday, reversed a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that threw out the evidence gathered when officers entered Hollis King's apartment.

The court said there was no violation of King's constitutional rights because the police acted reasonably. Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.

Court won't hear challenge to 'So help me God'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court is brushing aside an atheist's challenge to religion in government, refusing to hear a complaint about President Barack Obama adding "so help me God" to his inaugural oath of office.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Michael Newdow, who argued that government references to God are unconstitutional and infringe on his religious beliefs.

Many presidents have added "so help me God" to the oath.

Newdow sued to keep Obama from doing so and lost. He wanted overturned an appeals court's ruling saying it would be useless to ban Chief Justice John Roberts from prompting Obama to say "so help me God" because the president could have easily found someone else to administer the oath.

The case is Newdow v. Roberts, 10-757.

Published: Tue, May 17, 2011

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