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Supreme Court hears arguments in deadly force, tax refund cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Scott v. Harris [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-1631 [docket], where the court must decide whether a police officer violated a fleeing suspect's constitutional rights by using deadly force when he bumped his police car into the suspect's car to end a high speed chase. Victor Harris was pursued by Coweta County, Georgia police when he refused to pull over while speeding. Video taken from the dashboard of the police car showed the ensuing collision, which resulted in Harris' paralysis and eventual suit against former sheriff's deputy Timothy Smith for violation of the Fourth Amendment [text]. The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] held [decision, PDF] that Scott's qualified immunity [definition] claim under the Fourth Amendment was an insufficient defense because he acted unreasonably. The accident video was not played in court, but at least half of the bench appeared to have seen the footage; Justices Breyer and Kennedy each implied the video evidenced that contrary to the appeals court holding Harris was driving erratically. The Court is expected to rule by July. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in EC Term of Years Trust v. United States [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs; Medill News Service backgrounder], 05-1541 [docket], where the Court considered if an individual taxpayer is entitled to a $3 million refund of wrongly collected taxes, even though the deadline for appealing to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] had expired. EC Term of Years Trust sued the IRS under the wrongful levy statute, 26 USC 7426 [text], but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] upheld [decision] a lower court decision foreclosing the action under the nine-month statute of limitations in tax refund statute 28 USC 1346 [text].

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