The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to rule whether a criminal's rights are violated if the jury is warned he may be out on the streets in his lifetime unless he is sentenced to death.

The justices will hear a California case that questions whether a jury in a murder case can be told that a sentence of life imprisonment without parole--the alternative to the death penalty -- can be modified and shortened (California vs. Ramos).

The court agreed to set guidelines for law enforcement officers seeking to search the boats of suspected drug runners. The justices' final decision could have a significant impact on the ability of the Coast Guard and other officials to fight illegal drug smuggling off U.S. coasts (Florida vs. Casal).

The nine justices declined to give hearings to any of four appeals of court-ordered school desegregation plans -- from Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and North Little Rock, Ark.

The court also refused to disturb one of the largest age-discrimination awards ever won, leaving I. Magnin department stores to pay $2.3 million for firing three employes in their 50s (Federated Department Stores vs. Cancellier).

The justices left intact a state court's ban on the use of testimony from witnesses who are hypnotized to improve their memories (California vs. Shirley).

The court let stand a New York law that bars minors, even when pregnant, from marrying if one parent objects to the union (Axelrod vs. Coe).

An accused Nazi concentration camp commander lost his bid for Supreme Court review of a court order stripping him of his citizenship because of war crimes (Linnas vs. U.S.).

The court refused to enter a hymn-singing dispute that had moved from the pews of Chicago's Catholic churches into federal courts. The justices, without comment, left intact a ruling that a publisher's package licensing arrangement for hymns used in church is acceptable under federal antitrust law (Catholic Bishop of Chicago vs. F.E.L. Publications, Ltd.).

The court refused to revive a lawsuit against a Texas district attorney over a policy of refusing to prosecute most family-violence cases. The justices, without comment, left intact rulings that Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry is legally shielded from such suits. Curry's immunity was challenged by the families of two women who were murdered by their husbands after the women unsuccessfully sought help from prosecutors and the Fort Worth police department (Miller vs. Curry).

The court refused to step into a libel controversy pitting Business Week magazine against a Wisconsin lawyer. The justices let stand a ruling giving the lawyer a chance to prove at trial that the magazine, owned by McGraw-Hill Inc., was negligent by saying he had been fired (Mertz vs. Denny).