2002 News Archive – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

2002 News Archive

This page is an archive of articles presented on the Current News page of the USConstitution.net site. On
this page are articles that were posted in 2002.

12/24/02 Bush issues pardons

President George Bush exercised his pardon power for the first time today,
pardoning seven persons convicted of various crimes since 1957. One case
involved Olgen Williams, a former postal worker who served a year in prison for
stealing $10.90 from the mails over 30 years ago. Since his release, Williams
had earned three college degrees and runs an Indianapolis community center. The
pardon wipes the conviction from Williams’ record. Another case involved
Douglas Rogers, a devout Jehovah’s Witness who was convicted in 1957 is draft
dodging. One other involved a moonshiner whose conviction in 1962 for tax
evasion led to a denial of a gun license 40 years later; the pardon will allow
Kenneth Copley to purchase and own a gun.

12/22/02 Shake-up in Senate leadership

Following the resignation of Republican Senate leader Trent Lott, it appears
that the first choice of President George Bush for the spot will be Senator Bill
Frist. Lott, who ignited a storm of controversy over remarks made at retiring
Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party on December 5, announced on the
20th that he would not run for the office, which would have made him Senate
Majority Leader when the new Republican majority is sworn in next month. Lott
commented that the United States would be a much different place had Thurmond
won the presidency in 1948. In 1948, Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat, on an
segregationist platform. The statement was taken to be insensitive to black
Americans and though Lott apologized, the controversy would not die.

12/10/02 Court upholds legal Catch-22 in gun case

A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled that a felon wishing to restore his right
to own a gun may not apply for a waiver through the court system. The waiver
must be applied for through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
However, the BATF is not processing such waiver requests, on the orders of
Congress. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the courts would be an applicable
venue if the waiver application were denied. The BATF is not currently
processing any waiver requests, and Thomas ruled that this is not the same as a
denial, and the plaintiff argued.

12/09/02 GAO suit against Cheney dismissed

A federal judge dismissed the General Accounting Office’s suit against the
office of the Vice President today, saying the GAO lacked standing. The GAO,
the investigative arm of the Congress, had brought suit to force Vice President
Dick Cheney to release the names of energy executives with whom he met while
formulating White House energy policy, long with date and times of meetings and
topics of conversation. The GAO can appeal. The decision does not affect a
similar suit brought by private groups.

12/09/02 President nominates new Treasury Secretary

Following the resignation last week of Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill,
President Bush nominated CSX Chair John Snow to replace O’Neill. The nomination
was a surprise, as few had thought of Snow as a replacement. Snow was an
assistant secretary of transforation in the Ford administration, and has chaired
CSX, one of the nation’s largest rail lines, since 1991.

12/03/02 Federal rules no bar to state court case

The facts that there is a federal law governing boat safety, and that Coast
Guard sets rules about boat safety, do not preclude someone from bringing state
action against a boat manufacturer, the Supreme Court ruled today. In Sprietsma
v. Mercury Marine, the Court ruled that a state tort action could be taken
against Mercury for its lack of propeller guards on an engine that maimed and
killed a passenger who fell out of a boat onto a spinning propeller, even though
the Coast Guard had ruled that propeller guards were not necessary, and that the
Federal Boating Safety Act of 1971, which was intended to establish minimum
safety standards. Mercury argued that because of the federal rules, state
action was pre-empted. The decision allows Sprietsma to pursue his case in
state court. The decision of the Court was unanimous.

12/02/02 Court to reexamine Miranda, again

With the new war on terror adding a twist, the Supreme Court is scheduled to
hear a case questioning the Court’s 1962 Miranda warning requirement. In 1997,
Oliverio Martinez was shot by police. Martinez had been riding his bicycle
through a field where police were questioning a drug suspect. Martinez was
found to be wearing a large knife and officers felt he was reaching for another
officer’s weapon when they shot him five times. Sgt. Ben Chavez questioned
Martinez in the ambulance and in the hospital, but never Mirandized Martinez.
Martinez admitted to reaching for the officer’s gun during questioning.
Martinez is suing Oxnard, CA, over the incident – he is now blind and
paraplegic. Martinez argues the confession cannot be used against him in his
suit. Oxnard argues that since the confession was not used against Martinez in
court, it should be allowed.

11/27/02 Congress adjourns, Senators retire

With the adjournment of Congress’s lame duck session, the Senate will bid adieu
to two long-time Senators. 48-year veteran Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and 24-year
veteran Jesse Helms (R-NC) are both retiring. Both had garnered checkered pasts
because of their opposition to civil rights issues. Thurmond filibustered for
over 24 hours in 1957, against a civil rights bill. Helms filibustered against
making Martin Luther King Jr Day a national holiday. Only firebrand Robert Byrd
(D-WV) remains as an old-school user of the filibuster.

11/27/02 Judge refuses to move Cheney trial

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected a White House request that the
case against Vice President Dick Cheney be moved to a federal appeals court. The
ruling lets stand a demand that the White House turn over documents created by
and for Cheney’s energy task force. The Justice Department, on November 12,
filed an appeal of Sullivan’s order in the appeals court – a decision on that
appeal is still pending. Sullivan has originally set a November 5 deadline, but
extended it to December 9. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club, who brought the
case, both applauded Sullivan’s ruling.

11/20/02 Race decided: Washington Supreme Court dominated by

After election returns became final, Washington’s Supreme Court officially was
dominated by women. Mary Fairhurst beat out challenger Jim Johnson for a seat
on the Court. Fairhurst joins four other women and four men on the Court.
Minnesota’s Supreme Court was dominated by women in the early 1990’s, though it
no longer is.

11/14/02 Congressional pay raise not stopped

The Senate, in its lame duck session, had a chance to block a Congressional pay
increase, but failed to pass the vote needed to block the automatic raise. The
House had failed to block the raise in July. Members of Congress are given an
automatic pay raise, in legislation that went into effect prior to the
ratification of the 27th Amendment. The law provides the increase unless it is
blocked. The new pay rate will be $154,700 per years for both Senators and
Representatives. Members of the leadership make slightly more.

11/06/02 Supreme Court grants execution stay

The Supreme Court today granted a stay of execution for a mentally ill Texas
man. The stay gives James Colburn and his lawyers have 90 days to file a new
appeal. Colburn’s lawyers have argued that he is too mentally ill to be held
accountable for his crime of murder. Colburn had to be sedated so heavily
during trial for his paranoid schizophrenia that he slept through most of it.
The Supreme Court has recently rejected the use of the death penalty for the
mentally retarded.

11/04/02 Independent named to replace Wellstone

Independent Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura named Dean Barkley to assume Paul
Wellstone’s seat in the Senate. Barkley is also an independent, and will serve
until the winner of the upcoming election is sworn in. It is unknown at this
time if the leadership of the Senate will shift. Currently, there are 49
Republicans, 49 Democrats, and one independent in the Senate.

10/25/02 Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone dies in plane

Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone died today in a place crash. Also killed in
the crash were his wife and daughter. He is survived by two other children.
Wellstone was in the midst of a tight reelection campaign, though his opponent,
Republican Norm Coleman expressed his own grief at the loss. Minnesota governor
Jesse Ventura squashed speculation that he might appoint himself to finish out
Wellstone’s term, and said that after a period of mourning, he would decide on a
replacement. Fellow Minnesotan and former Vice President Walter Mondale’s name
has been mentioned. The Democratic Party was scrambling to find a replacement
for Wellstone on the November ballot. Minnesota law allows replacement of names
of deceased candidates up to four days before the election.

10/24/02 ACLU, others, sue government for USA Patriot

In an effort to keep a tight rein on the powers of the government, expanded in
legislation passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the American Civil Liberties
Union and three other civil liberties groups filed suit against the government
today. The suit demands information about enhanced surveillance powers granted
by the USA Patriot Act. The powers of interest of the suit include the use of
library records to show what books library patrons have checked out, and records
to show when pen registers, which record the numbers dialed to place outgoing
phone calls, were used. The Justice Department refused a request for the
information earlier in the year, stating that it was classified.

10/17/02 Court orders Cheney to turn over documents

A federal court today ordered Vice President Dick Cheney to turn over the
records of his energy task force to the public. The judge required that Cheney
release documents that show who the participants in the task force were, how it
operated, and the Vice President’s role in the task force. These documents,
requested by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club as part of discovery, were found
to not be privileged. The judge was told by Justice Department lawyers that
though it had been argued for months that many of the documents were too
sensitive to be released publicly, none of the documents had ever actually been
reviewed for sensitivity. The judge called this a “startling revelation.”

10/07/02 Supreme Court rejects New Jersey election case

Perhaps hoping to avoid the imbroglio that surrounded the 2000 Presidential
election, the Supreme Court decided not to review an appeal of the New Jersey
Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the upcoming senatorial election. The Court,
which began its 2002 term today, gave no reasoning behind the rejection, as is
normal practice.

10/02/02 New Jersey court rules Senator can be replaced on the

Days after Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli withdrew from the New Jersey
senatorial race, the state Democratic Party asked the New Jersey Supreme Court
to allow the party to replace Torricelli’s name with another of the party’s
choosing. Arguing against the change, the Republican party said that the law
clearly provided for a 51-day window prior to Election Day. Torricelli withdrew
36 days before the election. Democrats argued that the 51 day deadline was
arbitrary, designed to give enough time for ballots to be printed. Two third-
party candidates also argued against replacement. The Supreme Court agreed with
the Democrats, requiring the Party to pay for reprinting costs. Republicans
filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

09/19/02 White House asks for war resolution

The White House today asked the Congress to introduce and pass a bill
authorizing the United States to take unilateral action against Iraq. President
Bush said the by supporting his call for authorization of the use of force, the
Congress would be supporting his administration’s ability to keep the peace.
The administration said that the resolution would give the United States
leverage in talks with other nations and the United Nations.

09/17/02 Interior Secretary ruled in contempt of court

When a federal judge rules a Cabinet-level government official in contempt of
court, heads turn. That was certainly the case when federal district court
judge Royce Lamberth said the Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and her
department had acted in the most “egregious” fashion he had ever seen. The case
involves U.S. trusteeship of billions of dollars of Indian money, and the
government’s mismanagement of the money. The ruling said that Norton failed to
produce documents required by the court, and that the Department had “failed as
a trustee.” Said the judge, “I may have life tenure, but at the rate the
Department of Interior is progressing that is not a long enough appointment.”
Lamberth ordered a special master to oversee the funds. The Departments of
Interior and Justice announced plans to appeal the ruling.

09/16/02 Florida poll workers balk at blame

Following another Florida voting debacle, poll workers who were universally
panned for not know enough about new touch-screen ballots are coming to their
own defense. After Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Janet Reno and Bill
McBride competed in a primary were separated by only 8000 votes, and reports of
issues with the new machines were made public, one of the key scapegoats were
the typical poll worker: senior citizens who cannot keep up with the latest
technology. Poll workers, some of whom stayed at the polls as their frustrated
colleagues went home, said that no other part of the government has to rely on
thousands of volunteer workers, and that the poll workers should be lauded for
their performance, rather than criticized for it.

09/12/02 President addresses U.N. concerning Iraq

The day after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the
President addressed the United Nations General Assembly, calling for the UN to
tighten its grip on Iraq, threatening to take unilateral action if the
international body remains silent. The President called for a future where a
democratic Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan could become leaders in the Middle
East: “These nations can show by their example that honest government and
respect for women and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the
Middle East and beyond.” The alternative, he said would be devastating: “The
attacks of September 11 would be a prelude to far greater horrors.”

09/09/02 Chair threatens to withhold renewal of USA PATRIOT

Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chair of the House Judiciary
Committee, sent a letter to the Department of Justice, which his committee
oversees, stating that unless the Department release requested information, it
is putting renewal of the USA PATRIOT act into jeopardy. The Act is due to
sunset in 2005. The Committee sent the Department a list of questions, only
some of which were answered, and not all in totality. The Attorney General has
refused to release some information due to security concerns, though all
members of the Judiciary Committee have clearance. Sensenbrenner says that not
even in the days of the Reagan White House and a Democratic House, or in the
more recent days of the Republican House and Attorney General Janet Reno, has
there been so much trouble getting cooperation between the two bodies.

09/05/02 White House refuses to release energy group

Citing “unconstitutional burdens,” the White House today refused to release
information to litigants in a law suit that attempts to force the Vice President
to reveal details of his energy group meetings. The judge in the case, U.S.
District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, had already ordered that discovery begin in
two cases filed by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch. The White House’s
decision is in direct violation of the judge’s orders, and seems to set up a
fight between the courts and the President.

08/29/02 Justices signal future review of minor death

After the Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Toronto Patterson,
Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Stevens wrote that they feel it is time for the
Court to address the constitutionality of the death penalty for those who
committed murder as a minor. Patterson, who was convicted of murder in 1995,
was 17 when the crime was committed. In the unusual dissent to a stay denial,
Stevens reiterated his position against the death penalty for minor offenders,
and the Breyer and Ginsburg expressed a need for the Court to address the issue
more comprehensively in its next term. Patterson was executed on August

08/29/02 White House will seek Congressional approval for war with

According to CNN, a White House official has said that before any action is
taken in Iraq, the White House will seek Congressional approval. The official
said that the President and Vice President will continue to make the case for
preemptive action, without actually taking such action. The official indicated
that the White House is aware that it cannot take the step of military action
without the support of the public and the Congress.

08/26/02 White House lawyers decide invasion of Iraq

White House lawyers advising the President have decided that no congressional
action would be required to invade Iraq. The White House announced that the
1991 resolution authorizing the Gulf War was still in effect, and that
anti-terrorism acts passed after 9/11 gave the President the authority to invade
Iraq without authorization from Congress. The announcement was made after Vice
President Dick Cheney told a veterans group that preemptive action should be
taken against Iraq.

07/27/02 House passes Homeland Security bill

In a 295-132 vote, the House passed a bill that would create a cabinet-level
Department of Homeland Security. A primary concern of many Democrats is
provisions in the bill that supersede labor contracts, allowing the
administration to hire, fire, and transfer personnel at will. Language
restricting this power is a part of the Senate version of the bill, currently
in committee.

07/24/02 Traficant expelled

By a vote of 420-1, Ohio Representative James Traficant, under fire from
colleagues and recently convicted on graft charges, was expelled from the House
of Representatives today. Traficant becomes only the fifth member ever
expelled. Before Traficant, the most recent expulsion was in 1980, when Michael
Myers (D-PA) was expelled for his role in the Abscam scandal. The three other
members were expelled at the outset of the Civil War for being Confederate

07/18/02 Convicted Representative strikes at foes

Representative James Traficant (D-OH) refuted charges, allegations, and his own
conviction on bribery, fraud, and tax evasion. In hearings to determine if
Traficant should be removed from the House, Traficant accused his accusers of
lying, saying “if they lie again, I’m going to go over there and kick them in
the crotch.” The House ethics committee voted unanimously, 10-0, to recommend
that Traficant be expelled. If the full House votes, by two-thirds majority, to
do just that, he will be just the second member since the Civil War to be

07/10/02 Lawsuit filed against Cheney and energy company

The same watchdog group that was a thorn in the side of President Bill Clinton
continues to act as a governmental gadfly, this time filing a civil suit on the
behalf of shareholders against the Halliburton Company and against Vice
President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton. Judicial Watch’s case
alleges that Halliburton, partially under Cheney’s direction, deceived
shareholders with creative accounting practices that recognized revenue that
had not been collected. The suit alleges that the company reported hundreds of
millions of dollars of revenue that was uncollected, and though that in itself
is not illegal, the company failed to provide timely notification to
stockholders of the accounting change.

06/29/02 Bush briefly turns reins of power over to

President Bush today underwent a medical procedure that required him to be
placed under anesthesia. In accordance with the law, Bush first wrote a letter
to the leaders of Congress turning over the powers of the Presidency to Vice
President Richard Cheney for the duration of the procedure. Bush had a
colonoscopy to check for more previously-discovered polyps; none were found.
Upon recovery, the President resumed his duties.

06/27/02 Expanded student drug testing upheld

Students not suspected of using drugs can be tested for drugs anyhow, a 5-4
Court ruled today. In previous cases, the Supreme Court had upheld the legality
of testing when there was reasonable suspicion of drug use in the student
population. In Pottawatomie County v Earls, the Court upheld testing that was
not based on any suspicion at all. Justice Thomas, writing for the majority,
noted that the policy, which required all students participating in any
extracurricular activity, “reasonably serves the School Districts important
interest in detecting and preventing drug use among its students.”

06/27/02 Government-funded school vouchers can be used for parochial

The Supreme Court today ruled that school vouchers used in Ohio, where the
failing Cleveland school system was essentially put on life support, can be used
to fund parochial school enrollment. The Court, in a 5-4 vote, decided that
since the vouchers are provided to parents, who are then given a list of schools
to choose from, both parochial and nonreligious, and it is then the parents that
choose the school and not the state, the provision of state funds is not a
governmental endorsement of religion. The program falls under the Court’s
Private Choice doctrine, which allows government funds to be used for such
purposes if the choice to use them is made by a private citizen. In his opinion
for the Court, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, “The question presented is whether
this program offends the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.
We hold that it does not.” The case is Zelman v Simmons-Harris.

06/27/02 Court upholds free speech rights of judicial

In a 5-4 vote in a case challenging Minnesota’s election laws, the Supreme Court
today ruled that candidates for elected judicial positions cannot be prevented
from expressing their stance on public policy issues. Candidates would still be
barred from declaring how they would vote on any particular issue brought before
them if elected. Federal judges are appointed, as are some or all in several
states. But in 39 states, some judges are elected. In Texas, it is estimated
to cost $2 million to win an election for a judgeship. Some feel the relaxed
rules will allow more people to run as they can now build constituency. Others
criticized, noting that judges may now feel beholden to contributors to rule in
certain ways in certain cases. In her concurring opinion, Justice O’Connor
criticized the election of judges and Minnesota’s defense of its own law, saying
in essence that if the states want elected judges, they will have to put up with
the vagaries of elections. The case is Republican Part of Minnesota v

06/27/02 Pledge judge stays own order

Judge Alfred Goodwin who judged the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of
Allegiance to be unconstitutional when recited in public schools, stayed the
enforcement of the ruling, pending appeals. The Justice Department, named as a
party in the case, announced that it would request the full 9th Circuit hear the
case. The en banc hearing would include all 11 judges.

06/26/02 Court ruling on Pledge of Allegiance touches off political
fire storm

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, found the Pledge of
Allegiance, when containing the words “under God,” to be an unconstitutional
endorsement of religion in the context of a school setting. The ruling has an
effect only on the western states covered by the 9th Circuit. The ruling
touched off a storm of controversy, with the Senate abruptly suspending debate
on a bill to pass a resolution condemning the ruling. The House plans a
similar resolution tomorrow. The President also condemned the ruling from
Canada, where he is attending the G8 summit. Several judicial watchers
predicted that the full 9th Circuit will rehear the case and rule en banc,
which could kill the ruling; others looked forward to a Supreme Court hearing
on the issue.

06/24/02 Court upholds lower evidentiary burden in plea

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that prosecutors do not have to reveal all
of their evidence, including witness lists, to accused criminals who are
contemplating plea bargains. Such disclosure is mandatory when a case is
actually prosecuted. The Court overturned a 9th Circuit Court decision that
held that all evidence that could influence the defendant’s decision regarding
a plea had to be revealed.

06/24/02 Judges cannot impose death penalty, Court rules

In an attempt to reconcile two conflicting opinions, the Supreme Court today
overturned a 12-year-old decision that allowed judges to impose the death
penalty. In 1990’s Walton v Arizona, the Court allowed judicial imposition of
the death penalty. In 2000’s Apprendi v New Jersey, however, the Court did not
allow a judge to issue a finding of fact in sentencing proceedings which would
allow imposition of a harsher sentence than the facts decided by the jury would
allow. The ability of the judge to determine that some facts allowed
imposition of the death penalty was in conflict with Apprendi. Rather than
overturn Apprendi, the Court overturned Walton, in a 7-2 decision. In several
states, judges or panels of judges impose the death penalty; death sentences in
these states will have to be reviewed. In some other states, juries make a
recommendation of the death penalty, though a judge may overrule the jury;
these future of these sentences is uncertain. In all remaining states, juries
alone decide – these sentences are unaffected.

06/20/02 Utah loses bid to nab back congressional seat

The Supreme Court today ruled that Utah did not have a case against North
Carolina and the Census Bureau over reapportionment of the House of
Representatives. The apportionment, based on the results of the 2000 census,
gave North Carolina an extra congressional district while Utah lost one. The
House is a fixed size, with a proportion of the seats going to each state based
on their population. The dispute was over a method known as hot-deck
imputation to infer populations of homes that did not respond to the census
questionnaire. The Court’s vote was 5-4.

06/20/02 Executions of the mentally retarded are

The Supreme Court spared the life of Virginia death row inmate Daryl Atkins
today when it ruled that it was a violation of the 8th Amendment to execute the
mentally retarded. Atkins, who has an IQ of 54, shot and killed an airman in
1996 as Atkins attempted to steal beer money. The court, in its 6-3 ruling,
stated that “We are not persuaded that the execution of mentally retarded
criminals will measurably advance the deterrent or the retributive purpose of
the death penalty.” The ruling does not address the death penalty in general.
States that previously allowed the execution of the retarded are now bracing
for a rash of applications by death row inmates for IQ testing.

06/17/02 Unmirandized bus search ruled constitutional

The Supreme Court today ruled that passengers on a bus can have their luggage
and persons searched with the passengers’ consent, and no Miranda warning is
required, even though, legally, the searches can be refused. In the case of two
men you submitted to a pat-down search by police officers searching a Greyhound
bus, a kilo of cocaine was found. The passengers were not told they could
refuse the search, and the two were arrested. In the 6-3 ruling, the majority
wrote that the evidence clearly showed that the consent to search was not
coerced. The facts of the case may lead to limited applicability, hinging as it
is upon the lack of coercion.

06/17/02 Door-to-door religious solicitation upheld

Religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have a right to solicit door-
to-door, the Supreme Court ruled today. The court struck down a law that
required such groups from obtaining a permit to conduct solicitations. The rule
was struck down on 1st Amendment free speech grounds, and applies to religious
groups as well as the door-to-door distribution of hand bills. The court ruled 8-
1 on the case.

06/10/02 ADA cannot force an employer to overlook employee

A unanimous Supreme Court today ruled that companies do not have to give disable
workers jobs that would be of detriment to their own health. In the case of
Chevron v. Echazabal, an subcontractor with liver disease sought to be hired by
Chevron, working in an area of a refinery with chemicals that could have
worsened his condition. Echazabal’s employer laid him off when Chevron asked
that he be assigned to another job. Echazabal’s argument hinged upon a
provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which allows an employer to
refuse to hire or advance an employee to a position where the employee would
pose a threat to others. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s rule
extends the “threat to others” provision of the law to a “threat to self” rule
which Chevron relied upon. Chevron argued that the rule makes sense in the
context of Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations which requires
employers to provide “safe and healthful working conditions.”

06/10/02 Sex offender program ruled constitutional

In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today held that a Kansas program for
sex offenders, where the convicts are required to own up to their crimes and
provide a sexual history, a history which is not privileged and could be used
against them in future proceedings, does not violate the prisoners’ 5th
Amendment rights against self-incrimination. The Court found that the
incentives, such as commissary privileges, offered to participants do not amount
to compelled self-incrimination. Writing for the Court, Justice Kennedy said,
“A prison clinical rehabilitation program, which is acknowledged to bear a
rational relation to a legitimate penological objective, does not violate the
privilege against self-incrimination if the adverse consequences an inmate faces
for not participating are related to the program objectives and do not
constitute atypical and significant hardships in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life. Along these lines, this Court has recognized that
lawful conviction and incarceration necessarily place limitations on the
exercise of a defendants privilege against self-incrimination.” The case is
McKune v. Lile.

06/06/02 New Department proposed by White House

The President announced to the nation today that he was requesting that
Congress form a new Department of Homeland Security. The Department would be a
full Cabinet-level organization tasked with coordinating homeland security
efforts. Under the White House plan, several groups and organizations would be
moved from their current departments to the new one. These include the Coast
Guard, the Border Patrol, the Customs Service, the Transportation Security
Administration, the Secret Service, and the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. The FBI and CIA would not become a part of the new department, but
they would be required to provide data and analysis to the department so that
it can fulfill one of its other roles – analyzing all incoming data and
providing a daily threat report for the government. The last new department
added to the Cabinet was the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1988.

05/31/02 Capitol demonstration limits overruled

A federal appeals court unanimously overturned a ban on sidewalk protests in
front of the Capitol Building, calling the ban a clear violation of First
Amendment rights. In 1997, Robert Lederman was arrested by Capitol Police for
protesting on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol. The sidewalk, the court
noted, was regularly used by pedestrians and tourists, and rejected the
government’s argument that it was part of a security zone that allowed the
prohibition of protest and leafleting. Lederman also sued the officers who
arrested him, but the court found that they enjoyed qualified immunity in the
commission of their jobs, even though the rule has been found

05/30/02 New powers for FBI announced

In a move that law enforcement representatives are calling long overdue, and
which civil libertarians are calling scary, the FBI has given itself new
investigatory powers. At the same time as the FBI will allow its field agents
to do research on the Internet and using public sources in libraries, it is
granting those agents wider autonomy, including the ability to start
investigations and conduct them for up to a year before getting authorization
from Washington. The changes announced by FBI Director Robert Mueller reverse
decades of self-imposed restraint that many have said allowed the FBI to miss
key signs and clues that could have led to intervention in the 9/11

05/29/02 Supreme Court sides with state over United

In a now-familiar 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of South Carolina
over the Federal Maritime Commission in a dispute over docking rights for a
gaming ship. Justice Breyer, in a rare move, criticized the majority from the
bench as well as in a written opinion, stating that the decision could
jeopardize federal efforts at worker safety and even national security. The
case surrounded a gaming ship, the Tropic Sea, which was denied docking rights
in Charleston Harbor in 1999. The owners asked the Maritime Commission to
intervene, but each court the case went through found for the state. Justice
Thomas, writing for the majority, said that the decision was made to favor the
state and maintain one of the balances of power established in the

05/20/02 Misdemeanor cases with possible jail time must afford public

In a now-familiar 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court today ruled that when a state
prosecutes someone for a misdemeanor, the state must supply counsel even when
the crime would involve a suspended sentence. The Court has already ruled in
prior cases on the need for public counsel in all cases, felony or misdemeanor,
where jail time occurs. This is the first time that the same standard has been
applied for crimes where a suspended sentence is the norm. Saying that only 16
states do not afford as much or more protection than the Constitution, Justice
Ginsburg rejected cries that taxed justice systems would now become more so.

05/16/02 Appeals court rules web site content illegal

In a closely-watched case, an appeals court has ruled that a web site’s
placement of abortion doctors’ faces in “wanted posters,” along with personal
information, does not qualify as free speech and can be restricted by the
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The 6-5 ruling is sure to be
appealed to the Supreme Court as the owner of The Nuremberg Files web site
fights to keep his content on the Internet. The court ruled that the wanted
posters amounted to illegal threats, and not free speech. The decision reverses
the same court’s upholding of the site’s rights last year. The court sent the
punitive damage award back to lower courts for downward adjustment.

05/13/02 Supreme Court upholds another Internet porn law

The Supreme Court today ruled 8-1 that the 1998 Child Online Protection Act
(COPA) is not unconstitutional in its use of “community standards” to determine
whether material is obscene. The law, which has never taken effect due to the
challenges filed immediately upon its enactment, has other provisions that the
Court found to be not constitutionally sound. The Court sent the law back to
the lower courts for a more thorough review of the constitutionality of its

05/02/02 Proposal to new Homeland cabinet-level office

Frustrated by the White House’s continued refusal to have Director of Homeland
Security Tom Ridge testify before Congress, some in the Senate have proposed the
idea of making the office a Cabinet department. A bipartisan group of Senators
introduced a bill that would create the department, create a Secretary that
would be answerable to Congress, and give the department a budget, something
Ridge operates without at this point. The senators indicated that agencies such
as the Coast Guard and the Customs Service would fall under the new department’s

04/29/02 Court rules that seniority takes precedence over

The Supreme Court ruled today that a company’s rules concerning job placement
and seniority can legally override federal law requiring accommodation of the
disabled. In a 5-4 ruling, the Court agreed with US Airways, which granted a
position in the company to someone with seniority to get the job, when someone
with a disability claim also asked for the job. In 1990, Roger Barnett injured
his back while working for US Airways. He asked to be transferred to a position
in the company mail room. Two other employees with seniority also sought the
mail room position, and Barnett was not given the job. Writing for the Court,
Justice Stephen Breyer noted that he thought that most seniority systems would
prevail when put up against a disability accommodation claim.

04/16/02 Virtual child porn law struck down

1996’s CPPA, the Child Pornography Prevention Act, came under the scrutiny of
the Supreme Court today, and lost. A provision of the CPPA which outlawed
“virtual” child porn, images where it appears that minors were used but where
make-up or digital enhancement was used to modify adult subject, was struck
down in a 6-3 decision. Ruling that the law’s rules against “any visual
depiction [that] is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit
conduct” was overly broad. The Court stated that the CPPA could have banned
entire books because of one image, essentially overruling the Court’s
established rules. The case, one of many brought to the Court, was Ashcroft v
Free Speech Coalition.

04/04/02 Senators urge appearance by Ridge

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge offered to appear informally before the
Senate Appropriations Committee, an offer rejected by the committee’s chair,
Robert Byrd (D-WV). Ridge has refused to testify before Senate hearings,
insisting that his office is not under the auspices of the Congress, but only
of the President. The President’s office argues that since Ridge is in an
advisory and coordinating role only, and not directly in charge of any funds,
he is not answerable to Congress. Senators Byrd and Ted Stevens (R-AK) wrote
to President Bush to set up a meeting to discuss the impasse.

04/01/02 Court reverses itself in job discrimination

After deciding in December to hear a case that asked if a 1967 law that allowed
workers to sue employers for job discrimination if a company policy or decision
impacted older workers disproportionately, the Supreme Court today reversed
itself, saying in an unsigned, unanimous decision that the decision to hear the
appeal was “improvidently granted.” The ruling essentially means that the
Court thinks it made a mistake. The case, brought by 120 former Florida Power
Corp. workers, was dismissed after oral arguments were heard. Prior to the
hearing by the Supreme Court, the workers’ case had been rejected by the Court
of Appeals, which said the case could not be pursued under an age
discrimination claim.

03/26/02 Court upholds zero-tolerance eviction policy

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Housing and Urban Development Department
(HUD) policy that allows for zero drug tolerance for tenants of federally
subsidized housing. The case was brought by tenants of the Oakland Housing
Authority who had been evicted after guests of the tenants were found to be
using or selling drugs. The tenants were not accused of having any involvement
in the drugs, but the Authority’s policy, authorized by HUD, is for tenants to
be evicted even if the drugs are found on guests or household members. Using a
plain language test, the Court found that the rules concerning eviction were
unambiguous and constitutional. Justice Breyer did not take part in the

03/25/02 Utah and North Carolina set to meet in court

In a battle over a congressional district, one which Utah lost to North Carolina
after the last census tabulation, the case may hinge on the interpretation of
the word “actual.” The Census Bureau uses a bit of mathematical and statistical
magic to account for some households, a detail that usually goes unnoticed. But
in the 2000 census, that bit of magic shifted a seat from Utah to North
Carolina. The magic involves households in which the Bureau cannot confirm
population after six visits. The Bureau guesses that such homes have as many
people living in them as the next nearest neighbor. North Carolina agrees with
studies that show that this method is accurate 75% of the time. Utah argues that
such households should be counted as 0. The difference would shift the seat
back to Utah. The Supreme Court will hear the case tomorrow.

03/19/02 Supreme Court overturns agency’s FMLA rule

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today found a Department of Labor rule
regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act to be counter to the FMLA’s intent,
and hence unconstitutional. In the case of Ragsdale v Wolverine World Wide,
Tracy Ragsdale was granted 30 weeks of medical leave by Wolverine. When she
failed to report back to work after the 30 weeks, Wolverine fired her. Ragsdale
sued, stating that Labor rules required Wolverine to give her the 12 weeks
required by the FMLA, in addition to the 30 Wolverine granted. The Court found
that under the rule, Ragsdale was correct, but that the rule itself was contrary
to the intent of Congress. Said the Court, “Regardless of how serious the
problem an administrative agency seeks to address, … it may not exercise its
authority in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure
that Congress enacted into law.”

03/19/02 Ridge refuses to testify before Congress

In a move seen by some as another indication of the White House’s contempt for
the legislative branch, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has refused to
testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The President’s
administration has said that because Ridge is not a cabinet officer, but rather
an advisor to the President, he cannot be compelled to testify. However, some,
including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, argue that since Ridge is
coordinating efforts across departments, and has cabinet-level status, he
should be cooperating with Congress, not battling it. Supporters of the
administration’s stand say that Ridge is too busy to visit each congressional
committee. This latest row has had some speculate that the Office Homeland
Security might need to be converted into a Department with legal Cabinet-level

03/05/02 Vermont towns support instant run-off voting

50 out of 54 town that had Instant Run-Off Voting on their ballots or town
meeting agendas passed advisory articles, designed to prompt the state
legislature to move instant run-off bills out of committee. In Vermont, Chapter 2, Section 47 specifies that in the
elections for Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and Treasurer, if there is no
clear winner (no majority winner), then the legislature, when it convenes its
next session, will choose a winner from the top three vote-getters. In this
vote, it is entirely possible that the plurality winner will not be chosen. The
instant run-off vote would allow voters to specify not only their first choice,
but also their second choice, and so on, if they wish. If no candidate
received a majority of the vote, the ballots that chose the lowest vote-getter
would be removed, and any second choice votes would be added to the remaining
candidates. This would continue until there is a majority winner. Though many
think the new system could be implemented with out a constitutional amendment,
it seems likely that an amendment would be required. In this case, the 2003
legislature could pass an amendment, which would have to be confirmed by the
2005 legislature, and approved by the voters after that.

02/25/02 Supreme Court rejects appeals in 1st Amendment

The Supreme Court today rejected two 1st Amendment cases that had been eagerly
anticipated by some. The first was brought to the Court by Indiana, in an
attempt to overturn a Federal District Court’s decision that a monument to the
Ten Commandments could not be placed on the grounds of a government building.
The appeal was rejected without comment. The second case involves a home in
Tampa, Florida. The home is used to house women who broadcast their daily
activities over the Internet. The so-called Voyeur Dorm was to be shutdown for
violating zoning laws governing adult entertainment businesses. The U.S.
Appeals Court had ruled that the zoning law could not apply to the home because
it does not physically host customers. The adult entertainment industry praised
the rejection as an upholding of its rights to free-speech.

02/22/02 GAO files suit against White House

The next step in the Government Accounting Office’s dispute with the White
House over information about the National Energy Policy Development Group has
been taken. The GAO today filed suite in federal court, the first time it has
ever done so, to force the White House to turn over the information it has been
requesting. The suit sets up a battle between the Executive and Legislative
branches of the government, with the Judicial branch to referee. In a terse
statement, the GAO stated that it “[hopes] that the litigation will be resolved

02/19/02 Student grading is not a violation of privacy

In a unanimous vote today, the Supreme Court reversed a Circuit Court ruling
that declared that student grades for a single test or paper are “educational
records,” and as such are subject to privacy protection. As such, a practice
known as “student grading,” where students exchange papers and grade them as
the teacher recites correct answers, was illegal. The Supreme Court decided
that the papers are not subject to protection, nor that students are acting as
agents of the educational facility when they perform student grading. The case
arose when a student who graded another student’s paper announced the grade to
the class.

02/15/02 House passes campaign finance bill

The House approved a bill yesterday, on a 240-189 vote, which would more
closely regulate campaign finances. The House bill is similar to one passed in
the Senate last year. The Senate will take up the House bill as soon as it is
transmitted, according to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Accrediting the
recent scandal over the collapse of Enron, and the contributions made to
politicians by the doomed company, hopes are high for supporters that the time
is right for the bill. Bill foes state that many of the provisions are
unconstitutional violations of free speech.

01/30/02 GAO set to sue Executive branch

The Government Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the Congress,
has announced that it plans to sue the Executive to force the release of
information pertaining to Vice President Dick Cheney’s meetings for the
National Energy Policy Development Group. Cheney is trying assert executive
privilege to deny the records to the GAO, saying that the when the executive
needs to bring in outside advisors, it must be able to guarantee that advice
and comments remain secret. The GAO counters that it is not asking for notes
or transcripts, but simply a listing of who met with whom, when, for what
topic, and how much the meetings cost. A letter to the President noted that it
had planned to bring suit in September, plans which were delayed by the
September 11 terrorist attacks. “This will be the first time that GAO has
filed suit to enforce our access rights against a federal official,” the letter
comments. “We hope it is the last time that we will have to do so.”

01/16/02 Cable is cable, says Court

The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, ruled that cable attached to utility
poles by cable television companies is to be seen as cable under the Pole
Attachments Act, even if the cable carries high-speed Internet traffic as well
as cable television. Relying on the long-established “plain text” rule, the
Court said “No one disputes that a cable attached by a cable television
company, which provides only cable television service, is an attachment by a
cable television system. If one day its cable provides high-speed Internet
access, in addition to cable television service, the cable does not cease, at
that instant, to be an attachment by a cable television system.” The decision
upholds an FCC ruling and overrules a ruling of the Eleventh Circuit. Justices
Thomas and Souter joined in an opinion that partially concurred and partially
disagreed with the majority. Justice O’Connor did not participate.

01/15/02 Clarification of rules for vehicle searches

Stops and searches of vehicles by police need not be based on any one solid
reasonable suspicion, if a large number of lesser suspicions can be reasonably
be seen to add up to a solid reasonable suspicion, the Supreme Court ruled
today. The case, U.S. v Arvizu, involved a man stopped in Arizona by a Border
Patrol agent. The agent searched the car and found 100 pounds of marijuana.
The Circuit Court divided the officer’s suspicions and found that none of them
taken alone gave reasonable suspicion for the stop. The Supreme Court,
however, overruled the Circuit Court, chiding it for not looking at the
suspicions in total, coupled with the experience of the agent. Said the
unanimous Court, “Considering the totality of the circumstances and giving due
weight to the factual inferences drawn by [the agent, he] had reasonable
suspicion to believe that respondent was engaged in illegal activity.”

01/15/02 Unanimous Supreme Court rules on Free Speech

The Supreme Court today ruled that if rules for the use of a public forum are
content-neutral, they need not contain all the procedural safeguards the Court
has required in past cases. In the case of Thomas v Chicago Park District, a
group advocating the legalization of marijuana was denied a permit to hold a
rally in a Chicago park. The city requires permits for any event held on
public grounds that will involve more than 50 people. The rules for the
permitting process are strictly codified, as are appeals processes. The
petitioners applied for several permits, some of which were denied, and some of
which were approved. The Court said that if the regulation was content-based,
it would fall under its Freedman rules, but since the regulation had no
reference to content, it was free of the Freedman rules.

01/09/02 Supreme Court rules juries must be better informed during

In a close 5-4 ruling, the more liberal side of the Supreme Court, and swing
vote Sandra Day O’Connor, ruled that when facing a choice between sentencing a
convicted murderer to either life in prison or the death penalty, the jury
should know if the life sentence can include parole. In the case of murderer
William Kelly, the jury was not told a life sentence would include no
possibility of parole, and they applied the death penalty. Kelly argued that
if the jury knew he could never be released, a life sentence might have been
forthcoming. The Court sent the case back to state courts, where a new
sentencing hearing is likely. The case is Kelly v. South Carolina.

01/09/02 Rules for unregulated barges clarified

In an 8-0 decision (with Justice Scalia not participating), the Supreme Court
ruled that uninspected vessels, like tugs, fishing boats, and barges, are
subject to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules. The
counter argument had been that safety aboard such vessels was maintained by the
Coast Guard and OSHA had no jurisdiction. The Court recognized the limited
ability of the Guard to regulate thousands of small vessels, and said that just
because the Guard does maintain jurisdiction over some safety aspects (such as
life preservers) does not pre-empt the OSHA regulations. The case is Chao v.
Mallard Bay Drilling.

01/08/02 Work injuries not always covered by ADA

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court today rejected a Tennessee woman’s
plea for relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Ella Williams
worked for Toyota when she developed carpal tunnel syndrome, preventing her
from doing many assembly line tasks. Though initially assigned to less
strenuous duties, she was eventually fired for being unable to perform on the
line. She sued under the ADA. The Supreme Court noted that Williams was able
to perform a vast majority of her work-at-home duties, such as bathing and
cooking, and as such, she did not qualify as disabled under the ADA. Labor
activists cried foul, but business representatives celebrated, noting the ADA
is the “Americans with Disabilities Act” and not the “Americans with Injuries
Act.” The case is Toyota v. Williams.

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2010

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