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Supreme Court takes Iraq immunity, voting rights cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] Friday in four cases. In the consolidated cases of Republic of Iraq v. Beaty [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Republic of Iraq v. Simon [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether Iraq has sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts in cases involving alleged misdeeds that occurred during the Saddam Hussein regime. The plaintiffs in both cases sued the Iraqi government, alleging that they were detained and tortured during the 1990s Gulf War. The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit found in both Beaty and Simon [opinions, PDF] that the Iraqi government was subject to suit under the the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

In Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Mukasey [docket; jurisdictional statement, PDF], the Court will consider whether the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text] permits the appellant municipality to "bail out" from the pre-clearance requirement of Section 5 [DOJ backgrounder] if it can establish a history of compliance with the VRA, and whether Congress was justified by current voting discrimination when it extended the requirement in 2006 for another 25 years. Section 5 requires prior review before changes in voting laws can be enacted in certain states. The plaintiff was a municipal utility district in Texas that wanted to be exempted from the requirement. The US District Court for the District of Columbia found [opinion, PDF] in favor of the federal government.

In the consolidated cases of Ricci v. DeStefano [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Ricci v. DeStefano [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether a government employer may refuse to certify results of a civil service exam that would make disproportionately more white applicants than minority applicants eligible for promotion, because of fears of charges of racial discrimination. Plaintiffs were applicants who qualified for promotions based on their test scores but were denied promotions when the municipality refused to certify the test results in "voluntary compliance with Title VII." The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found [opinion, PDF] that the government employer's actions were protected.

Finally, in the consolidated cases of Horne v. Flores [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives v. Flores [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred in declining to modify an injunction against Arizona for failing to provide sufficient funding for non-English speaking school children. The circuit court affirmed [opinion, PDF] a lower court ruling that the state of Arizona was in violation of the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 [text].

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