The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a retirement plan can charge women more than men for equal pension payments.
The court also agreed to decide whether:
A judge can be sued for ordering the sterilization of a 15-year-old girl who submitted to surgery in the belief she was undergoing an appendectomy.
Lawyers' free speech is denied when they are disciplined for talking or writing to possible clients.
Police with a search warrant can examine newsroom files in a hunt for photos of suspects.
State laws regulating pension plans are pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act.
The justices announned that they will hear arguments in these cases at the opening of their new term. They also acted on hundreds of other cases on a list of 1,028 that they discussed in secret conferences last week.
Most of the actions were denials without comment of petitions for review of lower court decisions. One of the losers was former President Nixon. Another was a teacher who was fired on the ground that his addmitted homosexuality constituted "immorality." One of the winners was a Chicago dentist who had been accused of raping an unconscious patient.
The retirement plan raising the issue of sex discrimination is run by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It sets employee contributions 15 per cent higher for females than males to compensate for the greater longevity of American women as a class as reported by mortality tables. The department assumed that retired women would live to collect more pension benefits than retired men.
President and retired female employees brought a class action alleging violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They won in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that the "average" longer life of women "is just the kind of abstract generalization" the 1964 law was intended to abolish.
Yesterday, in a related action, the Supreme Court let stand an Indiana decision striking down on a state plan that based on the same mortality tables, imposed equal charges on male and famale teachers - but paid about $15 less in monthly benefits to retired women than to retired men.
In the sterilization case, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Circuit Judge Harold D. Stump of DeKalb County, Ind., exceeded his judicial powers in 1971, when he ordered a tubal ligation for Linda Kay Spitler, then 15. The order had been requested by the girls mother on the main ground that Linda was spending nights with men.
In 1975, two years after Linda married Leo Sparkman, she learned from a physician that he had sterilized her after her mother had told her she needed to have her appendix removed. Linda sued, charging violation of her constitutional rights, assault and battery, and medical malpractice: her husband sued for potential loss of fatherhood.
The defendants included the mother, the judge, and the physician. The appellate court rejected Stump's claim of absolute judicial immunity.
In one of two lawyers' free-speech cases that the Supreme Court will decide, the South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Edna Smith, a young black lawyer, for having "solicited" a client on behalf of the nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union.
Smith, in a letter in 1973, told Marietta Williams of Aiken County that "the ACLU would like to file a law-suit" for her, at no charge, against the doctor who had sterilized her. At the time, mostly black, pregnant mothers such as Williams were being sterilized or threatened with sterilization as a condition of continuing eligibility for Medicaid.
The second case concerned the Ohio Supreme Court's indefinite suspension of Albert Ohralik from the practice of law for "unethical violations of the code of professional responsibility." Ohralik, who had an office in Cleveland and a home in Montville, says he merely had told two auto-accident victims of his availability under circumstances that did not constitute "solicitation."
In the newsroom files case, a Palo Alto, Calif., prosecutor sent police with a search warrant to the Stanford University student newspaper to look for staff photos and negatives of persons who may have participated in a violent demonstration in April, 1971. The demonstration - over the firing of a black hospital janitor - led to injuries of nine officers and substantial property damage.
The authorities did not claim that anyone on the staff of the Stanford Daily had done anything unlawful. But four policemen spent about 15 minutes examining filing cabinets, baskets and unlocked desk drawers and, the paper said, I . . . were in a position to have seen reporters' notes on interviews with confidential sources. They found no photos of interest beyond those the paper had published.
The search warrant had been issued without the Stanford Daily having had a chance to contest it in court. In contrast, the paper could have moved to quash a subpoena for specific documents. Mainly for that reason, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the paper an innocent third-party, had been accorded less constitutional protection than a suspect.
The court agreed with District Court Judge Robert F. Peckham that the newspaper was owed greater protection, because "a search presents an overwhelming threat to the press' ability to gather and disseminate the news..." He ordered the lawenforcers to pay the paper's attorneys fees; the prosecutors claim absolute immunity from such penalties.
In the case involving state regulation of pension plans, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the federal labor law pre-empted a Minnesota law requiring an employer ending a pension plan to pay benefits exceeding those in a collective bargaining agreement.
If the decision is upheld, Solicitor General Wade H. McCree says, serious doubt will be cast "on the states' ability to exercise fully their powers to enact measures to protect their public health and welfare."
The high court took other actions: Richard Nixon
In a case arising from the arrest of 1200 persons on the Capitol steps in May, 1971, the justices let stand a lower court's denial of a claim by the former President that executive privilege prevented litigants from screening White House tape recordings for possible pre-demonstration conversations with then-Attorney General John N. Mitchell. Homosexuals
The court refuse to review a ruling by the State of Washington's highest tribunal that an admission of homosexuality by Tacoma high-school teacher James M. Gaylord constituted "immorality" warranting dismissal. Other Issues
Thecourt let stand a ruling that Chicago police had to get a search warrant before battering down the door of a room where dentist Nicholas A. Polito was raping a drugged and gassed patient.
The court let stand a ruling that Kiwanis International, as a private club, can bar women from membership.
The court affirmed rulings allowing Kentucky and Tennessee to give financial aid to students at sectarian colleges.
The court granted review a Michigan decision barring a warrantless search for evidence of arson, after the fire was out.
The court let stand a decision allowing a Chicago Methodist church to fire organist/choir director William Whitaker for converting to the Anglican faith.