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Supreme Court upholds 'soft money' ban

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday summarily affirmed [order list, PDF] a lower court's ruling [JURIST report] in Republican National Committee v. Federal Elections Commission [materials], upholding a ban on the use of "soft money" in elections. The Federal Election Campaign Act [text] prohibits national political parties from soliciting, receiving or spending non-federal campaign funds in conjunction with federal campaign funds for certain federal election activities. The Republican National Committee (RNC) [party website] argued that the ban was overbroad and a violation of First Amendment [text] rights. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas noted they would allow the case to proceed to oral arguments.

The court granted certiorari in Thompson v. North American Stainless [docket; cert. petition, PDF], where it will decide if a third party is afforded protection against retaliation when they have made claims about bias in the workplace that were not directly related to their own treatment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act [42 USC § 2000e-3(a) text] prohibits retaliation against a worker who has complained of bias in the workplace, but it is unclear whether that protection extends to a third party associated with the worker complaining of the bias. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] affirmed [opinion, PDF] the district court's ruling and held that the statute only protects workers personally engaging in the protected activity, in this case complaining of workplace bias. The court has also been asked to decide if a civil remedy can be sought by third party, if the court of appeals ruling is upheld.

The court vacated the judgments against former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (D) [official profile; JURIST news archive] and former Health South [corporate website] CEO Richard Scrushy [JURIST news archive]. Their cases were remanded to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] for proceedings consistent with the court's ruling in Skilling v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted in 2006 [JURIST report] on federal bribery and corruption charges. The convictions were appealed and Siegelman had two counts of mail fraud reversed for lack of evidence. The court of appeals later denied a request [JURIST report] by Siegelman and Scrushy for an en banc rehearing of their convictions on charges of corruption.

The court declined to grant certiorari in Pfizer Inc. V. Abdullahi [cert. petition, PDF], where the court was asked to determine if Alien Tort Statute (ATS) [28 USC § 1350 text] jurisdiction extends to include a private actor based on the alleged state action by a foreign government. The lawsuit was filed against Pfizer [corporate website] by two Nigerian families alleging that the company violated international law when it administered an experimental antibiotic to Nigerian children without the consent or knowledge of their patients. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the ATS. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] reversed the lower court ruling [JURIST report] and held that the ATS does allow for jurisdiction in the case.

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