Supreme Court

May 04, 1993|By Washington Bureau

The U.S. Supreme Court issued these rulings yesterday:

Rent subsidies: The Supreme Court, by unanimous vote yesterday, revived a 1989 law that forced cutbacks in the amount of rent subsidies the federal government pays to private developers of low-income rental housing. A lower court had ruled that the 1989 law was unconstitutional because it said private developers had a guaranteed right to annual increases in subsidy levels. The Supreme Court, ruling in a case involving developers in California and Washington state, said no such guaranteed right existed, so there was no basis for striking down the 1989 law requiring subsidy reductions.

Gun crimes: In another unanimous decision, the court ruled that federal judges may not give a convicted criminal a longer sentence as a career criminal merely because a gun was used in the crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission has declared that use of a gun in a crime does not, by itself, make one a career offender; that declaration must be obeyed by federal judges, the court ruled in a Jacksonville, Fla., case. The justices said the comments the Sentencing Commission makes on how to apply its formal sentencing guidelines are as binding on federal judges as the guidelines themselves.

Criminals' privacy: The court, again voting 9-0, ruled that individuals who take part in a criminal conspiracy do not have a right to challenge police searches, unless those individuals' own right of privacy was violated. In a drug trafficking case from Arizona, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that those who organize and run a criminal plot can go to court to complain if the police invade the privacy of any member of the group.

Overtime work: The court, in a fourth unanimous decision, ruled that state and local governments have no duty under federal law to pay their workers in cash for overtime work, instead of giving them compensatory time off, unless those workers are members of a labor union with full bargaining rights. The decision came in a case involving a compensatory time policy for overtime work by deputy sheriffs in Houston.

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