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Supreme Court takes campaign issue ads cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Friday granted certiorari in five cases [order list, PDF] and ordered all briefings on a challenge to the limits on pre-election advertisements introduced as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) [JURIST news archive; Campaign Legal Center backgrounder], upheld [opinion] by the Supreme Court in 2003, to be completed by April 18. The two consolidated cases, FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (06-969) [docket] and McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (06-970) [docket], stem from a District Court ruling that advocacy groups must be allowed to run issue ads in the two-months period immediately prior to elections [JURIST report]. AP has more.

The Supreme Court will also decide Beck v. Pace International Union (05-1448) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], which will determine whether a pension plan sponsor's decision to terminate a plan of a bankrupted corporation by purchasing an annuity, rather than to merge the plan with another, is a plan sponsor decision not subject to fiduciary obligations created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) [text; JURIST news archive].

In United States v. Atlantic Research Corp. (06-562) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the Court will decide whether a party that is potentially responsible for the costs of cleaning up hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) [EPA backgrounder] but does not satisfy the requirements for bringing an action for contribution against another potentially responsible party under 42 USC § 9613(f) [text], has a right to sue against the other party under 42 USC § 9607(a).

The Court will decide a Fourth Amendment dispute in Brendlin v. California (06-8120) [docket] on whether an automobile passenger, convicted on drug charges resulting from an illegal traffic stop, may contest the legality of the stop.

In Powerex Corp. v. Reliant Energy Services (05-85) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Supreme Court will determine whether a Canadian utility company owned by a Canadian provincial government but serving consumers in the US under an international treaty, is considered an "organ of a foreign state" under 28 USC § 1603(b)(2) [text] and thus entitled to immunity from claims against in federal courts.

Finally, Permanent Mission Etc. v. New York, NY (06-134) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] will deal with whether New York City is able to collect property taxes on real estate used for housing diplomats and families from foreign consulates and diplomatic missions that are entitled to tax-exempt status. The Supreme Court will review a ruling [PDF] made last April by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals that affirmed a lower-court decision that federal courts have the power to resolve the dispute. New York City is seeking $18.5 million in unpaid taxes and interest from India and Mongolia. The foreign governments have argued that sovereign immunity bars collection of the property taxes. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

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