Free speech The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 yesterday that it is unconstitutional for states to forbid accountants from offering their services by telephone or through in-person visits. Striking down such a ban in Florida, the court said accountants' attempts to drum up business by personal contact are a form of free speech protected by the Constitution. Only Justice Sandra Day O'Connor dissented from the ruling written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Federal jury duty In a 6-3 decision, the court declared that federal court rules bar alternate jurors from sitting in on jury deliberations on a verdict in a federal criminal case. But being allowed to do so despite that rule ordinarily is not serious enough to throw out the guilty verdict. So long as the alternates merely sit in, under orders not to take part, there is no reason to suspect that they influenced the jury, the court ruled in a thrift institution "kickback" case from Louisiana.
Sex harassment Taking the federal government's suggestion, the court in a brief order told lower courts to give a female doctor, Dr. Maureen Polsby, a chance to show that she had a good excuse for delaying the filing of a lawsuit complaining that her boss at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., had made unwanted sexual advances to her. Lower courts dismissed her case for having been filed too late.
CASE TO BE HEARD
Money laundering The court agreed to spell out the scope of the federal government's power to punish an individual for arranging cash transfers to avoid "money laundering" reports to the government. That decision will come in a case in which a gambler paid off a $160,000 debt to a Reno, Nev., casino with small amounts of money obtained from several banks. Federal law requires reports of every cash transfer of more than $2,000.
Airliner bombing Without comment, the court turned aside a plea to reinstate a $2.76 million verdict that had been won against Trans World Airlines for deaths or injuries when a terrorist bomb exploded on a flight from Rome to Athens in 1986. A federal appeals court ruled that the jury had no basis for awarding more than the $75,000 ceiling in damages that an international treaty ordinarily allows for each passenger killed or injured in an international aircraft incident.