The High Court announced this morning that it has turned down hundreds of appeals, in matters ranging from warrantless wiretapping and the remains of 9/11 victims in landfills, to death penalty cases, the performance of religious songs in schools, and whether the University of South Carolina or the University of Southern California can claim trademark on the initials "SC."
Today marked the first day of the Supereme Court's new term, with Justice Elena Kagan on the bench. Kagan replaced Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired after more than 34 years. For the first time three women are serving on the nine-justice court.
The Court said today it wants to what the Obama administration thinks before deciding whether to hear an appeal from former detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq over claims of abuse by defense contractors.
The justices on Monday called on acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal to offer his views on whether two firms, CACI International Inc. and Titan Corp., can be sued over alleged abuses by interrogators they employed at the notorious Baghdad prison.
A divided federal appeals court in Washington dismissed the lawsuits filed by Iraqis who said they or their relatives were subjected to harsh interrogations.
The court imposed no deadline on the administration.
Among the cases rejected today by the justices:
• An appeal from lawyers who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the National Security Agency, asking it whether it has records of warrantless wiretapping it did of lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees. The NSA has refused to say whether it does or does not, claiming that revealing this information would endanger national security. Federal courts have agreed with the NSA, saying that the FOIA does not require the divulgence of sensitive national security information. (Wilner v. National Security Agency, 09-1192)
• An appeal from reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale, who was convicted in 2007 of two counts of kidnapping and one of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and given three life sentences. Authorities say Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, both 19, were beaten by Klansmen and thrown, possibly still alive, into a muddy backwater of the Mississippi River in 1964. In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the evidence against Seale was sufficient for the jury conviction 43 years after the crimes were committed.
• An appeal by Georgia death row inmate Jamie Ryan Weis, who was convicted of killing a 73-year-old woman. Weis said he went without a lawyer from Georgia's public defender program for two years because the state couldn't pay his legal bills. (Weis v. Georgia, 09-10715).
• An appeal from Scott B. Maybee, a Native American cigarette marketer who claimed his New York company was immune from Idaho laws regulating tobacco sales. Maybee sold millions of cigarettes to Idaho smokers online. (Maybee v. Idaho, 09-1471)
• A request by South Carolina prosecutors to let them use incriminating statements made by a father who allegedly smothered his 2-year-old son. The South Carolina Supreme Court said two statements made by Kenneth Navy were not admissible because authorities started questioning him before he was read his Miranda rights. A third incriminating statement was allowed in by the courts, and Navy was convicted of homicide by child abuse in June 2003. Navy has maintained his innocence, saying a congenital lung disorder led to his son's death. (South Carolina v. Navy, 09-1459)
• Appeals of corruption convictions from a prominent Mississippi lawyer, Paul Minor, and two former state judges, John Whitfield and Wes Teel. Minor has long said he was the target of a political prosecution by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. (Minor v. U.S., 09-1422, Teel v. U.S., 09-11039, and Whitfield v. U.S., 09-11067)
• An appeal from John and Timothy Rigas, the father-and-son team who built Adelphia Communications into the country's fifth-largest cable TV company and were later convicted of fraud after it collapsed into bankruptcy. The Rigases in their appeal said the government should have turned over to them notes taken during prosecutorial interviews with some witnesses. Their lawyer also argued that the father's 12-year sentence and the son's 17-year prison term were more years in prison than some terrorists serve. (John J. Rigas and Timothy J. Rigas v. United States, 09-1456)
• An appeal from an American woman who seeks a sexual harassment trial against a former United Nations official, claiming the ex-head of the U.N.'s refugee agency grabbed her in a sexual manner after a December 2003 business meeting in Geneva. Federal courts have said that the U.N. is absolutely immune from such a lawsuit, and its former employees also have immunity. The officials later resigned from the position. (Brzak v. United Nations, 09-1481)
• An appeal from Morocco native Karim Koubriti, who wants to sue a prosecutor for misconduct. Koubriti was convicted in 2003 of conspiring to aid terrorists, but the conviction was tossed the following year after the Justice Department said prosecutors withheld evidence from the defense. A federal appeals court said the prosecutor can't be sued because he had immunity. (Koubriti v. Convertino, 09-1322)
• An appeal from the families of some of those killed when the 110-story World Trade Center towers collapsed nine years ago. They hoped for a ruling that would require New York City to provide a proper burial for material taken from the site because it could contain the ashes of victims. Following the 9/11 attacks, more than 1.6 million tons of material was transported to a landfill on Staten Island and then sifted for human remains, but no remains of approximately 1,100 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001 have been found.
• An appeal from the University of South Carolina, which wanted to trademark a baseball cap logo with the initials "SC," a version of which the University of Southern California already had trademarked. (University of South Carolina v. University of Southern California, 09-1270)
• An appeal from Michael Stratechuk, a Maplewood, N.J. father who sued the South Orange-Maplewood school district in 2004, saying its ban on celebratory religious music violated the First Amendment's freedom of worship provision. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the ban, saying public school administrations can determine which songs are appropriate according to constitutional guidelines to create a secular "inclusive environment." (Stratechuk v. Board of Education, 09-1184)
• An appeal from Apex Oil of Hartford, Ill., which was fighting a U.S. government order that it pay for cleanup of pollutants from the soil and groundwater near its former refinery. Apex claimed its responsibility for cleaning up the land was discharged with its other debts during bankruptcy proceedings. (Apex Oil Co. v United States, 09-1023)
• Another appeal from a Fort Hood Army private, Dwight J. Loving, who was convicted in military court and sentenced to death for killing two Texas taxi drivers during separate robberies on Dec. 11, 1988 in Killeen, Texas. His death sentence was upheld by appeals courts and by the Supreme Court in 1996. (Loving v. United States, 09-989)