U.S. Supreme Court Notebook

Supreme Court staying out of actor’s ‘Empire’ lawsuit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is staying out of a lawsuit involving the television show “Empire.”

The high court said Tuesday it won’t take a case involving the Fox show, which follows a black family navigating the ups and downs of the record industry. That means a decision in favor of “Empire” co-creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels stands.

Actor Clayton Prince Tanksley sued in 2016, claiming that “Empire” was substantially similar to a television show he had pitched at a competition in 2008. The lawsuit said Daniels was a judge at the competition and expressed an interest in the show Tanksley called “Cream,” which involved a black record executive. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the shows weren’t substantially similar. An appeals court agreed.

“Empire” debuted in 2015.


High Court rules out death penalty for Texas inmate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is ending a long legal fight by ruling that a Texas death row inmate is intellectually disabled and thus may not be executed.

The justices ruled 6-3 Tuesday in the case of inmate Bobby James Moore.

Moore had been sentenced to death for the 1980 shotgun slaying of a Houston grocery store clerk.

His lawyers argued for years that Moore was intellectually disabled, but Texas’ top criminal appeals court rejected those claims, even after the Supreme Court strongly suggested in 2017 that Moore could not be executed because of his intellectual limitations.

In a twist, the Houston district attorney agreed with Moore that he should be spared the death penalty. Houston prosecutors originally persuaded a jury to sentence Moore to death.


Supreme court won’t ­consider Tennessee death row inmate’s case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court won’t hear the case of a Tennessee death row inmate who claimed his rights were violated when he was forced to represent himself at trial.

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it wouldn’t hear the case of Tony Von Carruthers. Carruthers and an accomplice were arrested in 1994 and charged with robbing, kidnapping and murdering three people by burying them alive.

Carruthers went through several lawyers. Some asked to withdraw from the case after Carruthers threatened them.

Eventually the judge overseeing Carruthers’ case told him that if he couldn’t reconcile with his most recent lawyer he’d have to represent himself. After further threats, the judge told Carruthers he was responsible for his own defense, with two lawyers acting as advisers.

State and federal courts upheld that decision.


High Court declines to hear Connecticut speech case

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of a Connecticut man who said his free speech rights were violated when he was arrested and convicted of threatening the judge in his divorce case.

The court released its decision Tuesday without comment.

Edward Taupier, of Cromwell, recently finished an 18-month prison sentence for threatening Judge Elizabeth Bozzuto, now the state’s deputy chief court administrator.

Prosecutors say Taupier sent an email to six acquaintances in 2014 that described Bozzuto’s home and how certain rifles could be fired at it from a nearby cemetery. Taupier argued the email was a “hyperbolic expression of vitriol” protected by free speech rights.

Taupier’s prison sentence also included four months for Facebook posts urging people to kill judges and employees at the Middletown courthouse.


High court won’t take case of ex-Illinois Rep. Schock

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is declining to get involved in the corruption case against former Illinois congressman Aaron Schock.

The Republican resigned from Congress in 2015 amid scrutiny of his lavish spending. That included redecorating his Capitol Hill office in the style of the “Downton Abbey” TV series.

Schock has tried to get the case against him dismissed, but a federal judge and federal appeals court have declined. The Supreme Court declined Tuesday to step in and revisit those rulings.

Schock was first elected to Congress in 2008 at the age of 27. After he resigned he was charged with a series of offenses including using campaign money and an allowance from Congress for personal expenses.


High court to consider case on reach of clean water law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case about the reach of a federal clean water law.

The justices agreed Tuesday to hear a case involving the Clean Water Act. The act requires polluters to get a permit when they release pollution from a source such as a pipe or well to certain bodies of water such as rivers and lakes that are called “navigable waters.”

The issue the Supreme Court agreed to decide involves whether permits are required under the law when the pollutant is released into soil or groundwater but later reaches navigable waters.

The case involves treated wastewater from the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility in Hawaii.

More than a dozen states and the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to hear the issue.


Supreme Court won’t hear  anti-death penalty Arkansas judge suit

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by a judge in Arkansas who was barred from overseeing execution-related cases after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration.

The justices said Tuesday that they wouldn’t get involved in the lawsuit filed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Griffen participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration outside the governor’s mansion in 2017 during which he was photographed laying on a cot wearing an anti-death penalty button. Earlier that day, Griffen blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug over the claims that the state misled a medical supply company.

Arkansas’ highest court removed Griffen from that case and prohibited him from hearing death penalty cases. Griffen sued but a federal appeals court dismissed the case.


High court won’t take up dispute involving Bill Cosby

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is declining to revive a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby that was filed by a woman who says he raped her and later spread lies about her when she came forward.

The high court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from actress Kathrine McKee, who said Cosby raped her in 1974. McKee sued Cosby for damaging her reputation after a lawyer for the comedian allegedly leaked a letter attacking McKee. Two lower courts ruled against her and dismissed the case.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the Supreme Court’s action, but called for the court to reconsider the very high standard a public figure needs to meet to win a defamation case. That standard was laid out in the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan case in 1964.