Other cases before court

February 25, 1992|By Washington Bureau

Case to be heard

Impeachment. The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether the full 100-member Senate must act as the court to try any impeachment case, or whether it can delegate part of the task to a Senate committee. The Senate has used a committee to review impeachments in the last three cases -- including the one that ousted U.S. District Judge Walter L. Nixon Jr. of Jackson, Miss., for allegedly taking bribes. His appeal says that the full Senate must hear all the evidence itself before voting to oust a judge or any other federal official. Nixon vs. U.S. (No. 91-740).

Cases rejected

Mental patients. The court refused to hear a plea, in an Indiana case, that patients at state mental hospitals have a constitutional right not to be forced to work without pay. The Indiana Supreme Court had overturned an award of $14 million in back pay, plus $14 million in interest, to patients who had been required to work for free while they were at 10 state mental institutions. Sonnenberg vs. Bayh (No. 91-975).

War on drugs. Rebuffing the Justice Department, the court refused to consider a request that it give police more power to investigate because of the special needs of the "war on drugs." The department had contended in an appeal that, in order to give officers more leeway in detecting drugs being moved on public highways, the justices should permit officers who stop motorists for traffic offenses to engage in wide-ranging questions about whether they were carrying anything illegal. The case grew out of a traffic stop in Utah in 1990. U.S. vs. Walker (No. 91-943).

Cocaine parties. The Justice Department gained something of a victory when the court in another case voted to leave intact a lower court ruling that sharing cocaine at parties in one's home can be prosecuted as a conspiracy to distribute drugs. The issue arose in a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, case. Vogt vs. U.S. (No. 91-8435).

Helmsley conviction. Without comment, the court refused to review hotel magnate Leona Helmsley's tax evasion conviction, four-year prison term and more than $9 million ordered in fines and restitution. She contended that federal prosecutors built part of the case against her with testimony she had given under a promise of legal immunity. Helmsley vs. U.S. (No. 91-778).

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