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Court Passes On Pardon Power

The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider whether a presidential pardon completely clears a person's past, restoring an individual's right to vote, have weapons or practice law.

Justices rejected an appeal from William A. Borders Jr., a former criminal defense attorney who was convicted of conspiracy more than two decades ago in a Miami racketeering case.

Borders thought his record was cleared when he received a pardon on President Clinton's final day in office in 2001. But an appeals court said he could not get back his license to practice law in Washington.

Borders' lawyers told justices that a lower court "imposed draconian restrictions on the president's pardon power, potentially rendering the exercise of that power a purely symbolic act."

They argued that a presidential pardon "blots out" a conviction and related punishments.

Among Borders' lawyers was former solicitor general and independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who investigated the Whitewater real estate deal and Monica Lewinsky scandal during the Clinton administration. In this case he was defending Clinton's pardoning power.

Borders, 64, spent three years in prison. He was arrested in 1981 after taking $125,000 in bribe money from a former FBI agent posing as a racketeer awaiting sentencing in the court of then-U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings. Hastings was acquitted of criminal charges and now serves in Congress.

In other Supreme Court rulings:

  • The Supreme Court turned back an appeal from America West Airlines in a case that gave the justices an opportunity to set standards for mass lawsuits alleging securities fraud.

    The company's controlling stockholders had been accused in a 1999 lawsuit of failing to disclose information about long-term maintenance and operations problems, part of an alleged scheme to mislead investors to artificially inflate the company's stock price.

    The court was asked to clarify if people who sue must prove that stock prices were hurt.

  • The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether people have a constitutional right to refuse to tell police their names.

    Justices will review the prosecution of a man under a Nevada law that requires people suspected of wrongdoing to identify themselves to police, or face arrest.

  • A defense lawyer who told jurors his client might be a "stinking thief jail bird" did not fall down on the job, the Supreme Court ruled.

    The high court reinstated a conviction in the case of Lionel Gentry, a California man convicted of stabbing his pregnant, drug-addicted girlfriend during an argument.

    "To be sure, Gentry's lawyer was no Aristotle, or even Clarence Darrow," the court wrote in a short, unsigned opinion.

    Still, the lawyer's choice of words or strategy did not rise to the level of harming his client, the court said.

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