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Supreme Court to decide when claims belong in federal court

[JURIST] The Supreme Court Monday granted certiorari to a case raising the question of when plaintiffs can sue in federal court, as opposed to state court. The question has lately sparked an important political debate, as plaintiffs often prefer to pursue claims in state courts, where payouts are larger for class-action lawsuits. Earlier this month, President Bush signed new legislation [official bill text] aimed at steering more of these lawsuits to federal court. The case that the Supreme Court will hear will require the justices to clarify what determines a corporation's "citizenship" when a company has subsidiaries in multiple states. At issue is whether Virginia tenants can sue their landlord, Lincoln Property Co., in Virginia state court over exposure to toxic mold in their apartment. The Texas-based company has a subsidiary in Virginia. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the suit was permitted on grounds that Lincoln was a "citizen" of Virginia [opinion text]. The case is Lincoln Property Co. et al v. Roche, 04-712. Read the Court's full order list [PDF].

3:28 PM ET - The Supreme Court also granted certiorari in two other cases Monday:

  • In Richards v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, 04-631, the court will consider whether states can tax motor fuel that is sold on Indian reservations. The justices will consider whether states may tax non-Indian companies that distribute fuel to reservations with the expectation that the companies would then be able to recoup their costs from tribal retailers. Federal law does not allow taxing of tribal retailers without congressional approval. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor [opinion] of the Indian tribes saying the tax violates tribal sovereignty and also created a barrier to interstate commerce. The Court is expected to hear arguments in the fall with a ruling expected in July 2006. AP has more.

  • In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 04-473, the Court will consider whether a whistleblower prosecutor may sue his former employers for retaliation after reporting wrongdoing by the sheriff's office. The issue involves the First Amendment [text] which protects government workers from discharge if their conduct involves a 'public concern' rather than personal issues. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the prosecutor's speech was constitutionally protected and therefore the district attorney's office did not have immunity. AP has more.

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