The Supreme Court's
new term opened Monday as a former Nazi concentration camp guard lost an appeal over the government's decision to revoke his U.S. citizenship.
Justices declined to review the case of John Hansl, a member of the SS Death's Head battalion that guarded concentration camps at Sachsenhausen near Berlin in 1943 and Natzweiler in France in 1944.
Justices also turned down several First Amendment cases, including a libel case over publication of Tupac Shakur lyrics and another alleging harassment by a former Georgia sheriff against his political opponents.
The court term is shaping up to be business-heavy. On the docket so far, 17 cases are business-related. Cases involving anti-trust issues, consumer rights, patent law, abortion and race will be heard.
One case involves whether a woman got paid less than men in her department at a tire company. Another may be more important than it seems on the surface. The dispute is over whether a gas-pedal design for trucks is so obvious that it does not deserve a patent. Legal experts say patents are often given without much analysis, resulting in far-reaching consequences.
Noting the high percentage of business cases, a Pepperdine University law professor says because of his legal background, Chief Justice John Roberts may be more comfortable with such issues than Chief Justice William Rehnquist was.
Hansl, the former concentration camp guard who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, sought to distinguish his case from other former Nazi camp guards by arguing he did not hide his wartime past when he asked for a visa to enter the United States in the mid-1950s or personally assist in persecution.
An appeals court, however, agreed with a lower court ruling that Hansl's work as an armed guard with orders to shoot escaping prisoners was sufficient evidence that he "personally assisted in persecution."
In one instance, Hansl helped search for an escaped prisoner who was later shot to death, although Hansl did not pull the trigger, court records show.
The Justice Department has said that more than 70 people who assisted in Nazi persecution have been stripped of U.S. citizenship since the Office of Special Investigations began operations in 1979. The office pursues war criminals.Also Monday in the Supreme Court:The court declined to revive a libel lawsuit filed against two Philadelphia newspapers by a critic of violent rap lyrics. Longtime civil rights activist C. DeLores Tucker, who died last year, accused the papers of mischaracterizing her dispute with the estate of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and others. Shakur wrote lyrics that rhymed Tucker's name with an obscenity. Tucker had sued Shakur, alleging, among other things, that her husband, William Tucker, had suffered loss of "consortium" because of the emotional distress brought on by Shakur. The Philadelphia Daily News and The Legal Intelligencer, a daily newspaper covering legal affairs in Philadelphia, were among the news organizations that reported on the lawsuit and interpreted loss of consortium to mean harm to the Tuckers' sex life. Tucker said the claim had nothing to do with sex, but with "advice, society, companionship, i.e., defendants' effect upon the 'family union.'"
Ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent lost an appeal in a dispute over royalties with his former bandmates. Justices declined to consider lower court rulings dismissing Vincent's claim that he is owed royalties for his contributions to the heavy metal band's 1983 album "Lick It Up." Vincent, whose real name is Vincent Cusano, played with Kiss from 1982 to 1984, co-writing "I Love it Loud," "Lick it Up" and other songs.
The case of the sex shop and whether it can display its wares won't be going to the Supreme Court. The justices are refusing to hear the challenge brought by a worker at an adult book store in El Paso, Texas. He was arrested for violating a state law against promoting sex toys shaped like sex organs. Police say he tried to sell such a device to two undercover officers. The employee calls the law unconstitutional — and in fact, courts in three other states have tossed out such laws. But Texas is one of three other states where judges have upheld them.
The court said it will not consider the case of a former Georgia sheriff who allegedly violated the First Amendment rights of political opponents. The dispute involves former Forsyth County Sheriff Dennis Lee "Denny" Hendrix and private citizen supporters of a referendum to strip the sheriff's department of primary law enforcement powers and create a new countywide police force supervised by the county commission. In a lawsuit, Hendrix's opponents said he retaliated against them by engaging in surveillance and harassment and by disseminating campaign fliers attacking them by name when Hendrix ran for re-election. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta last year ruled in favor of Hendrix's opponents, saying they were likely deterred from exercising their First Amendment rights.
The court refused to step into a First Amendment issue involving Gloria Allred, a prominent California lawyer who was the subject of a judge's gag order in a high-profile murder case that is now over. Allred, an outspoken television personality, represented a teenage girl who testified at the trial of Scott Dyleski, now 17. Dyleski was sentenced last week to life in prison without parole for the killing of Pamela Vitale, the wife of television legal analyst Daniel Horowitz. Allred's client, Jena Reddy, is Dyleski's ex-girlfriend. She told the jury that while Dyleski never admitted or denied killing his neighbor, he told her he would take the blame to protect her and his best friend. Reddy also testified that hours after Vitale was slain, Dyleski told friends it would take at least three dozen blows to bludgeon someone and it would likely be a slow, painful death.
The court sided with Detroit newspaper unions and employees who were fired for their actions during an 18-month strike in the mid-1990s. Justices declined to hear the newspapers' appeal of a National Labor Relations Board ruling ordering the partnership that prints, distributes and sells advertising for the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press to reinstate fired employees. The workers lost their job after the newspapers said they blocked entrances at a distribution facility and the Detroit News Building in violation of court orders during the strike that ran from July 1995 to February 1997. The labor relations board determined that the employees had not engaged in misconduct, but were instead exercising their right to strike. It ordered the employees reinstated with back pay.
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