Rash Of High Court Rejections

Rulings came fast and furious on the first day of the Supreme Court's new session. They included a decision to let stand the murder conviction of a former Black Panther and radio journalist.

Death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal's claim that he was denied a fair trial was turned away without comment Monday. Convicted of fatally shooting a Philadelphia police officer in 1981, Abu-Jamal claims he was framed.
The court did not grant any new cases, reports CBS News Correspondent Stephanie Lambidakis

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The Arizona Civil Liberties Union, among other groups, had challenged the ruling on grounds of separation of church and state.

The court also turned away a challenge of drug tests for teachers in Kentucky. Opponents had argued that the tests were unconstitutional if a teacher was not under suspicion of using drugs.

In a setback to the company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the Titanic, the justices allowed sightseeing tours and taking pictures of the shipwreck.

During this term, the court is expected to rule on a group of cases that will test its commitment to what one observer called Chief Justice William Rehnquist's "revolution" to shift power from the federal government back to the states.

Constitutional law expert and court watcher Jonathan Turley told CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen that state power is at the heart of the debate over a 1994 Congressional action that allowed women who are raped or stalked to sue their attackers.

Soe of the excitement this term should be X-rated.

The court will decide a free speech case involving whether cable operators must fully block their signal of sexual explicit programming. Another case will review a Pennsylvania ruling that struck down a local ordinance banning nudity in public places like bars and dance clubs.

The Food and Drug Administration is set to make its case against big tobacco, arguing that it should be regulated like a drug.

"That could pose a significant change for many smokers around the country," Turley said. "If the FDA can regulate tobacco as a drug, then they can start to tinker with things like nicotine level."

The court will also rule on grandparents' right to see their grandchildren. Turley said the issue "is that grandparents should be given some fundamental rights even over a parentÂ's objection to see their grandchildren."

"These are some of the most controversial issues of our time," said Georgetown law professor David Cole.

Other issues on the agenda include disputes over automobile safety, anti-abortion demonstrations and limits on political contributions.

In additional rulings, the justices:

  • let stand rulings preventing a 14-year-old AIDS patient from participating in "hard-style" karate lessons with friends.
  • let stand the fraud convictions of Earl Brian, former chairman of United Press International and Financial News Network, clearing the way for his imprisonment.
  • rejected an appeal from Ronald H. Blackley, one-time chief of staff for former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, on his prison sentence and lying conviction