The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide which federal court is empowered to resolve a dispute between Virginia and the federal government over coal strip-mining regulations.

At issue is an effort by the Interior Department to enforce more stringent federal strip-mining regulations under a 1977 law and a suit by Virginia and several strip miners in federal court in Virginia.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned a Virginia federal judge's order barring the department from taking further actions against the operators.

The appeals court said the judge had no power to act in the case since all such suits must be filed in the District.

The case is Va. Dept. of Conservation v. Clark.

In other action yesterday, the high court let stand a ruling that the El Segundo, Calif., police department discriminated against a woman seeking to become an officer, because she had an affair with a male officer.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that the department did not apply the same moral standard to male and female applicants.

The case is El Segundo v. Thorne.

The court also agreed to decide if police who seize a car must obtain a warrant before searching luggage or containers they suspect contain drugs.

The case is Oklahoma v. Castleberry.