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Supreme Court rules in telecom antitrust, special needs child legal representation cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in five argued cases Monday, including Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that a plaintiff filing an antitrust lawsuit under the Sherman Act [text] must allege specific facts in the complaint showing that defendants participated in a conspiracy. William Twombly filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that telephone and Internet service providers created after the breakup of AT&T in the early 1980s conspired by blocking local competitors from their service areas and agreeing not to compete with one another. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [PDF text] that Twombly's pleading, which inferred a conspiracy by the defendants' "parallel conduct," was sufficient, but the Supreme Court overruled the federal appeals court. Instead, the Supreme Court said that a complaint under §1 of the Sherman Act should be dismissed "when it alleges that major telecommunications providers engaged in certain parallel conduct unfavorable to competition, absent some factual context suggesting agreement, as distinct from identical, independent action." Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Souter, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens. AP has more.

In Winkelman v. Parma City School District [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that parents of special needs children - in this instance parents of a child with autism - have independent, enforceable rights under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) [20 USC §1400 text] and can therefore represent themselves in IDEA litigation. The high court overturned the Sixth Circuit decision [PDF text] in the case, which held that IDEA confers rights held only by the child and while parties are permitted to represent themselves in court, non-lawyers are not permitted to represent other parties pro se, and therefore the parents in the case could not proceed without an attorney. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy, along with a partial dissent [text] from Justice Scalia. AP has more.

In Office of Senator Dayton v. Hanson [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Court held that it does not have jurisdiction to consider a lawsuit brought by an employee of Sen. Mark Dayton who alleged that he was fired in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act and that Dayton's office failed to pay him overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed [PDF text] a lower court ruling denying Dayton's motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on immunity under the Constitution's Speech or Debate clause. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that it lacked jurisdiction under §412 [text] of the Congressional Accountability Act because "Neither the order of the District Court denying appellant's motion to dismiss nor the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming that order can fairly be characterized as a ruling 'upon the constitutionality' of any provision of the Act." Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Stevens. Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in consideration or decision of this case.

In Roper v. Weaver [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court dismissed its writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. In the case, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned [PDF text] a capital sentence on the grounds that the prosecutor's penalty phase closing argument was "unfairly inflammatory." In its decision Monday, the Supreme Court cited its ruling in Lawrence v. Florida [text; JURIST report], handed down earlier this term, and said that the district court had erroneously dismissed Weaver's habeas petition as premature. Read the Court's per curiam opinion [text], along with a concurrence [text] from Chief Justice Roberts and a dissent [text] per Justice Scalia.

In the final decision in an argued case, the Court held in Hinck v. United States [Duke Law case backgrounder] that "the Tax Court provides the exclusive forum for judicial review of a refusal to abate interest under §6404(e)(1) [text]" of the Internal Revenue Code. The Hincks filed a lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims seeking review of the IRS decision refusing their request for an abatement of interest. Their lawsuit was dismissed, a decision upheld [PDF text] by the Federal Circuit. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts. AP has more.

The Court also issued a per curiam decision [text] in Los Angeles County v. Rettele, where the Court held that police did not act unreasonably when, executing a valid search warrant on a home, they ordered innocent residents of different race than the suspects the police were looking for out of bed, where they were sleeping unclothed, and had them stand unclothed for several minutes before they were allowed to dress. The police believed that one of the suspects they were looking for could be armed, and the Supreme Court held that the police actions were reasonable in this case and that there was no Fourth Amendment violation, even though it was clear that the plaintiffs were not the suspects named in the search warrant:

The deputies needed a moment to secure the room and ensure that other persons were not close by or did not present a danger. Deputies were not required to turn their backs to allow Rettele and Sadler to retrieve clothing or to cover themselves with the sheets. Rather, "[t]he risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation." ...

The Fourth Amendment allows warrants to issue on probable cause, a standard well short of absolute certainty. Valid warrants will issue to search the innocent, and people like Rettele and Sadler unfortunately bear the cost. Officers executing search warrants on occasion enter a house when residents are engaged in private activity; and the resulting frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation may be real, as was true here. When officers execute a valid warrant and act in a reasonable manner to protect themselves from harm, however, the Fourth Amendment is not violated.
The Court's decision was accompanied by a concurrence [text] from Justice Stevens.

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