WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, opening its 1987-88 term one justice shy of a full bench, said today that it will rule on a New York law allowing large men-only clubs to turn away female and minority applicants and told a San Francisco men's club that it may not keep women off its payroll.
In the New York City case, the justices said they will decide whether clubs with more than 400 members should be subjected to the law banning discrimination by public accommodations.
The other case involved California's Bohemian Club, whose 2,000 members are male. The club hoped to overturn a state court order to include women among its employees.
The court started the term with fewer than nine justices for the first time since 1971. The Senate is still considering President Reagan's nominee for the ninth seat, Judge Robert H. Bork, who was selected in July to succeed retiring Lewis F. Powell Jr..
In the California case, the justices, citing the lack of a "substantial federal question," turned away arguments that the club's members have the right to hire men only.
The club limits its membership to men who profess an interest in the arts. Its members include President Reagan, former presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, Vice President George Bush, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, authors Herman Wouk, and William F. Buckley Jr. and former California Gov. Edmund G. (Pat)' Brown.
The club owns a facility in San Francisco and a 2,500-acre camping area near Monte Rio called the Grove.
Most of the club's 90 full-time employees in San Francisco are men. Women are employed in jobs that do not require their presence at club functions.
All of the 10 full-time club employees at the Grove are men, as are about 250 temporary employees hired for the club's annual retreats there.
In the case the court agreed to consider, the New York State Club Assn., comprised of 125 private clubs and associations, had challenged the New York law soon after it was enacted in 1984.
The law exempts "distinctly private organizations"--but not non-religious groups of over 400 members--from the anti-bias requirements.
In previous decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled that states may force the U.S. Jaycees and Rotary International to admit women as members.
In other decisions today, the court:
--Refused to allow Florida authorities to execute serial killer Theodore R. Bundy for murdering a 12-year-old girl and said the state must rule on his competency to stand trial.
--Refused to move from India to the United States a massive lawsuit against Union Carbide stemming from a 1984 disaster at a Bhopal chemical plant that killed more than 2,000 people and injured 200,000.
--Refused to enter a dispute between the National Football League and the Los Angeles Raiders over the rights of sports teams to relocate. The case revolves around the steps the NFL took to keep the Raiders in Oakland during the 1980 and 1981 football seasons and whether those actions violated antitrust law. In 1982 a federal judge ordered the league to allow the team to move to Los Angeles.
--Let stand a ruling that the Los Angeles Police Department should have obtained judicial approval before using a motorized battering ram to crash into a "rock" house and serve a warrant.