Supreme Court Notebook

Court: Career criminal won't get less prison time

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says a career criminal cannot get his sentence reduced because of a change in drug-crime penalties in North Carolina.

The high court on Monday turned away an appeal by Clifton McNeill, who pleaded guilty to gun and drug possession in 2008.

Lower courts increased his sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act since he had previous drug and robbery convictions. But McNeill argued that his cocaine possession and intent to sell sentences shouldn't count because North Carolina had reduced the penalty for drug crimes since his conviction.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that those crimes still counted, since they were committed before the penalties were reduced.

The case is McNeill v. United States, 10-5258.

Court says victim doesn't have to pay lawyer fees

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says the family of a police chief convicted of extortion doesn't get attorney fees from his victim, another police chief.

The high court ruled Monday for Vinton, La. police chief Ricky Fox, who doesn't want to pay lawyer fees to the family of former chief Billy Ray Vice. Vice was convicted of extortion after threatening to reveal damaging information about Fox unless he dropped out of the police chief's election. Fox won the 2005 election.

Fox later sued Vice, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the lawsuit was frivolous and ordered Fox to pay Vice's attorney fees. A unanimous high court overturned that decision. Vice died last year.

The case is Fox v. Vice, 10-114.

Court orders new look at Pa. city immigration regs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a new look at a Pennsylvania city's crackdown on employment and housing for illegal immigrants following the high court's recent decision upholding an Arizona employer sanctions law.

The court on Monday threw out the ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia preventing the city of Hazleton from enforcing regulations that deny permits to business that hire illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rent to them.

The measures inspired similar laws around the country, including the one in Arizona that deals only with penalties for employers.

The justices typically order lower courts to re-examine cases in light of a high court decision on a similar topic.

Court says Halliburton lawsuit can go forward

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court says Halliburton Co. shareholders can pursue a class-action lawsuit claiming the oil services company inflated its stock price.

The high court on Monday overturned a lower court ruling against the shareholders, who want to represent all investors who bought Halliburton stock between June 1999 and December 2001.

The lawsuit argues that Halliburton deliberately understated the company's liability in asbestos litigation, inflated how much money its construction and engineering units would bring in and overstated the benefits of a merger with Dresser Industries.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans refused to let the lawsuit go forward as a class-action but the high court overturned that decision.

U.S. court says university, Swiss firm co-own patent

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court says ownership of a patent for technology used to detect HIV levels in a patient's blood was correctly split between Stanford University and the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche.

The high court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision making the company and the university co-owners of a patent for technology in HIV test kits.

Stanford says it owned the technology because its discoverer worked there. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allows universities to retain rights to research funded by federal grants.

But Stanford researcher Mark Holodniy also signed a contract that gave Roche the patent to anything that resulted from their collaboration. A federal appeals court made Roche and Stanford co-owners, and the high court agreed on a 7-2 vote.

U.S. Supreme Court turns down actor's appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away the latest attempt by actor Wesley Snipes to get his conviction and prison sentence on tax charges overturned.

The high court refused Monday to hear an appeal from Snipes, convicted in 2008 on three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file income tax returns.

Snipes started a three-year term in a federal minimum security prison in December. He has appeared in dozens of films, from "White Men Can't Jump" and "Demolition Man" in the early 1990s to the blockbuster Blade trilogy.

Snipes wanted his trial held in New York City, where he says he lived, but the government brought charges against him in Florida, where Snipes held a driver's license.

High court denies former Sen. Burris appeal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Months after Illinois' new senator took office, the Supreme Court says it will not consider overturning the election of President Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate.

The high court on Monday turned away an appeal from former Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed to the seat but did not get chance to run for a full term. The justices also refused to hear an appeal from state officials who objected to a court order to hold a special election as well as a regular election for Obama's old seat

The seat was won by Sen. Mark Kirk.

Published: Tue, Jun 7, 2011