SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Court turns down appeal from Guantanamo detainee

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is rejecting an appeal from a Yemeni man who has been held without charges at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba for more than 17 years. One justice says "it is past time" to examine the indefinite detention of foreigners at the Guantanamo Bay base.

Detainee Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi says he is effectively consigned to life in prison after his capture in Pakistan and transfer to Guantanamo in January 2002. He says the high court needs to decide whether the 2001 congressional authorization to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks permits his ongoing detention.

The justices denied the appeal Monday. But Justice Stephen Breyer says the duration and changed nature of the fighting raise questions about whether detentions may continue.


Challenge to regulation of gun silencers rejected

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to federal regulation of gun silencers Monday, just days after a gunman used one in a shooting rampage that killed 12 people in Virginia.

The justices did not comment in turning away appeals from two Kansas men who were convicted of violating federal law regulating silencers. The men argued that the constitutional right "to keep and bear arms" includes silencers.

In the silencer cases, Kansas and seven other states joined in a court filing urging justices to hear the appeals. The states said the court should affirm that the Second Amendment protects "silencers and other firearms accessories." The other states are: Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

President Donald Trump's administration asked the court to stay out of the case and leave the convictions in place.

Shane Cox, owner of a military surplus store, was convicted of making and transferring an unregistered silencer, and customer Jeremy Kettler was convicted of possessing one, all in violation of the 85-year-old National Firearms Act. Both men were sentenced to probation.

Meanwhile, police are trying to determine a motive for the deadly shootings in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Authorities have said that city employee DeWayne Craddock opened fire in a municipal building on May 31. Police say Craddock was armed with two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines.

Craddock later was killed in a shootout with police.


Justices rule against oil drilling platform workers

By Jessica Gresko
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday against workers on oil drilling platforms off California who argued they should be paid for the off-work time they spend on the platform, including sleeping.

The high court said that federal law applies to the workers and doesn't require them to be paid for nonworking time spent at their work location on the Outer Continental Shelf. The workers had argued that California law, which would require them to be compensated for that time, should apply.

Justice Clarence Thomas said in an opinion that "federal law is the only law" that applies on the Outer Continental Shelf and "there has never been any overlapping state and federal jurisdiction there." The question, he said, was whether federal law addressed the question of off-work time spent on the oil rig. He said it did and didn't require the workers to be paid.

The case before the Supreme Court involved Brian Newton, who worked on drilling platforms off California's coast near Santa Barbara from 2013 to 2015. Like others living and working on the platform, he worked 14-day shifts, spending 12 hours working and 12 hours off work but on standby, where he could not leave the platform.

In 2015, Newton filed a class action lawsuit arguing that his former employer, Parker Drilling, was violating California law by, among other things, failing to pay workers for the time they spent on standby, including the time they spent sleeping.

In making their ruling, the justices had to grapple with a 1953 law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. It says federal law applies on the Outer Continental Shelf. But the law also says the laws of the adjacent state are federal law to the extent they are "applicable and not inconsistent" with other federal law. If "federal law applies to a particular issue, state law is inapplicable," Thomas wrote.

The case is Parker Drilling Mgmt. Services v. Newton, 18-389.


Court sides with Alabama company in patent dispute

By Jessica Gresko
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court sided Monday with an Alabama technology company over the U.S. Postal Service in a patent dispute.

The dispute before the justices had to do with U.S. Patent No. 6,826,548. That's the patent Birmingham-based Return Mail has for a system that uses barcodes, scanning equipment and computer databases to process returned mail almost entirely automatically. The Postal Service initially expressed interest in Return Mail's invention but ultimately developed its own, similar system. That led to a dispute over the company's patent.

On Monday, the court sided 6-3 with Return Mail. Of the Postal Service's arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor deadpanned in an opinion : "None delivers."

The dispute began when the Postal Service tried and failed to get Return Mail's patent invalidated. Return Mail sued, arguing that the government should pay for using its invention without permission.

Just as Return Mail thought it might be gaining the upper hand, the Postal Service switched tactics, using a 2011 law to challenge Return Mail's patent. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act says that a "person who is not the owner of a patent," can file a patent challenge using the law. The Postal Service argued it counted as a "person" under the law, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

The case is Return Mail v. USPS, 17-1594.

Published: Wed, Jun 12, 2019

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