Justices Decline to Hear Some 2,000 Cases

(NY TIMES)   The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear appeals concerning the Pledge of Allegiance, the Confederate flag and license plates bearing the words “Choose Life.”

In those and some 2,000 other cases that accumulated during the court’s summer break, the court let stand rulings from lower courts without comment.

The case involving the Pledge of Allegiance, Frazier v. Smith, No. 08-1351, concerned a Florida law that requires public school students who object to reciting the pledge to get a parent’s permission to be excused from the exercise. A federal appeals court upheld the law last year.

The Supreme Court also declined to disturb, in Barr v. Lafon, No. 08-1325, a federal appeals court ruling that a Tennessee high school could forbid displaying the Confederate flag as part of its dress code. The appeals court said the ban “is constitutional because of the disruptive potential of the flag in a school where racial tension is high and serious racially motivated incidents, such as physical altercations or threats of violence, have occurred.”

For at least the fifth time, the Supreme Court declined to wade into the heavily litigated question of whether state motor vehicles departments may or must offer specialty license plates that say “Choose Life.” In declining to hear Choose Life Illinois v. White, No. 08-1283, the court let stand a decision that Illinois was not required to offer “Choose Life” plates along with some 60 other styles because it had “excluded the entire subject of abortion from its specialty plate program” and so was not taking sides in the abortion debate.

The Supreme Court declined to hear a First Amendment challenge from a deputy sheriff in Kentucky who was fired the day he announced his candidacy for his boss’s job. In ruling against the deputy sheriff, the appeals court said that “the simple announcement of a candidacy” does not amount to the sort of political speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The case was Greenwell v. Parsley, No. 08-1328.

The Supreme Court also declined to revisit a pair of fractured rulings from 1972 that said the Constitution does not require states to insist on unanimous juries in criminal cases. Only two states, Louisiana and Oregon, allow convictions by non-unanimous votes. On Monday, the Supreme Court let stand, in Bowen v. Oregon, No. 08-1117, the conviction of Scott Bowen, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for sexual offenses in Oregon on a 10-to-2 vote.

The court took no action on Monday in a case involving prisoners at Guantánamo Bay who have been determined to pose no danger, Kiyemba v. Obama, No. 08-1234. The specific question in the case is whether federal judges have the authority to order the release of such prisoners from the Uighur region of China into the United States. The justices will consider the case at their private conference on Friday.


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