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Other Matters Before the Supreme Court

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coeur Alaska Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council By a 6 to 3 vote, the court upheld a federal permit to dump waste from an Alaskan gold mine into a nearby lake, even though all its fish would be killed. Environmentalists feared the ruling could weaken protection of other lakes, streams and waterways from mining waste. The justices said a federal appeals court wrongly blocked on environmental grounds the Army Corps of Engineers waste disposal permit for the Kensington gold mine 45 miles north of Juneau. The mine, which had been closed since 1928, has been awaiting a resumption of operation, pending resolution of the waste-disposal issue.

Florida v. Powell The court agreed to hear a case that will decide whether a suspect has to be told that he has a right to have a lawyer present during questioning by police. The appeal is from Kevin Dwayne Powell, who was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. When he was arrested, police gave Powell a Miranda warning telling him he had a right to a lawyer before questioning. But Powell's attorneys said police did not tell him he had a right to have a lawyer during his interrogation.

U.S. v. Comstock The court will decide the constitutionality of a federal law that permits sex offenders to be kept behind bars after they complete their prison terms. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, ruled in January that Congress overstepped its authority when it enacted a law allowing for indefinite commitment of people who are considered "sexually dangerous." The challenge to the law was brought by four men who served prison terms ranging from three to eight years for possession of child pornography or sexual abuse of a minor. Their confinement was supposed to end more than two years ago, but the government determined that there would be a risk of sexually violent conduct or child molestation if they were released.

Wilson v. Libby The court will not revive a lawsuit that former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson brought against members of the Bush administration. A lower court last year threw out the lawsuit in which Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, accused Vice President Richard B. Cheney and several high-ranking administration officials of revealing her identity to reporters in 2003. The lawsuit named presidential adviser Karl Rove; Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

-- Associated Press

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