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Key cases before the Supreme Court this fall

September 30, 2012

Major cases before the Supreme Court this fall

Human rights: Can victims of human rights abuses abroad sue the accused perpetrators in U.S. courts? Since the 1980s, lawyers representing victims of torture, rape and murder abroad, including in Paraguay, Mexico and Nigeria, have sued in American courts. The justices are debating whether to throw out all these claims because the abuses took place outside U.S. territory. (Kiobel vs. Royal Dutch Petroleum, Oct. 1)

College admissions: Can a rejected white applicant sue a state university for considering race as an admissions factor? The court will decide whether to limit or end affirmative-action policies that give a preference to minority students. (Fisher vs. University of Texas, Oct. 10)

International wiretapping: Can lawyers, activists and journalists who work with people abroad sue to challenge U.S. wiretapping policy if they have reason to believe their phone calls and emails are being monitored? The plaintiffs contend the expanding wiretapping begun under President George W. Bush is unconstitutional, but the Obama administration says they lack standing to sue. (Clapper vs. Amnesty International, Oct. 29)

Dogs and drugs: Can police take a trained dog to the front porch of a house to sniff for marijuana without obtaining a search warrant? The Florida Supreme Court said this was an illegal search, but state and federal prosecutors say a dog sniffing around a house or a car is not a search. (Florida vs. Jardines, Oct. 31)

Job discrimination: Can an employee sue for illegal discrimination if she is subjected to sexual or racial harassment by the person who directs her daily work, even if this manager is not a supervisor who hires or fires employees? No, said the U.S. appeals court in Chicago. Federal law bars discrimination by "employers," and the justices must decide who is an agent of the employer. (Vance vs. Ball State University, Nov. 2)

—David G. Savage

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