US Supreme Court Docket

December 1999

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Food and Drug Administration, et al. v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, et al.
(No. 98-1152)

Subject:
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, tobacco

Question:
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate products as "drugs" or "devices" when they are "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body." 21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)(C) and (h)(3). FDA has found that the nicotine contained in tobacco products is a highly addictive substance that causes significant mood-altering effects, and that tobacco products are intended by tobacco manufacturers to have substantial effects on the structure and functioning of the human body, including satisfying a user's addiction and acting as a sedative, stimulant, and appetite suppressant. The question presented is whether, given FDA's findings, tobacco products are subject to regulation under the Act as "drugs" and "devices."

Decisions:

Briefs:

Guy Mitchell, et al. v. Mary L. Helms, et al.
(No. 98-1648)

Subject:
1st Amendment, establishment clause, private schools

Question:
Section 7351(b)(2) of Title 20 permits local educational agencies receiving federal financial assistance to lend secular, neutral, and nonideological instructional equipment, instructional materials, and library materials acquired with that federal assistance to religious schools for the benefit of their students, as part of a program also serving public school students and nonsectarian private school students. The question presented is whether, in analyzing the claim that 20 U.S.C. 7351(b)(2), as applied in this case, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the court of appeals was limited to considering the nature of the equipment and materials lent to religious schools, or whether it should also consider safeguards intended to prevent such equipment and materials from being diverted to religious use.

Decisions:

Briefs:

Monday, December 6, 1999

Lonnie Weeks, Jr. v. Ronald J. Angelone
(No. 99-5746)

Subject:
Death penalty, jury, sentencing instructions

Question:
When a capital sentencing jury informs the judge that it does not understand the sentencing instructions held facially constitutional in Buchanan v. Angelone and specifically asks whether it is free to consider a sentence less than death if it finds one or more aggravating factors, is the judge constitutionally required to clarify that a death sentence is not mandatory upon the finding of an aggravating factor but that the jury should consider mitigating evidence as well in making its sentencing decision?

Decisions:

Briefs:

Carl T. C. Gutierrez, et al. v. Joseph F. Ada, et al.
(No. 99-51)

Subject:
Elections, Guam

Question:
Did the Ninth Circuit prejudicially err in holding that the first paragraph of the Organic Act of Guam (48 U.S.C. § 1422), which is applicable solely to gubernatorial elections and requires runoff elections only when a gubernatorial slate has not received a majority of votes in that election, forced a runoff election despite petitioners having received the majority of all valid votes cast in the gubernatorial race

  1. by rewriting the statutory words "in any election" to state "in any general election in which the gubernatorial election is a part,"

  2. by rewriting the statutory words "a majority of the votes cast in any election" to mean a "majority of ballots cast in any general election," and

  3. by counting as "votes" ballots that are invalid under Guam election statutes, thereby placing the Ninth Circuit in direct conflict with the Third Circuit's interpretation of the identical language of the Virgin Islands Organic Act (48 U.S.C. § 1591) in Todman v. Boschulte, 694 F.2d 939 (3d Cir. 1982)?
Decisions: Briefs:

Tuesday, December 7, 1999

United States v. Gary Locke, et al.
(No. 98-1701)

Subject:
Supremacy Clause, state oil tanker regulations

Question:
Whether regulations adopted by the State of Washington governing staffing and operation of ocean-going oil tankers engaged in coastal and international commerce are preempted to the extent that they conflict with international obligations of the United States and Coast Guard regulations for such tankers promulgated pursuant to federal statutes and international conventions and agreements.

Decisions:

Briefs:

International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) v. Gary Locke, et al.
(No. 98-1706)

Subject:
Supremacy Clause, state oil tanker regulations

Decisions:

Briefs:

Alexis Geier, et al. v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc., et al.
(No. 98-1811)

Subject:
Supremacy Clause, airbags, national traffic and motor vehicle safety laws

Question:
Whether an automobile manufacturer's compliance with a federal motor vehicle safety standard promulgated pursuant to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1431 (the "Safety Act"), preempts state common law claims that an automobile was defectively designed because it lacked an airbag where (1) the Safety Act expressly provides that "[c]ompliance with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard . . . does not exempt any person from any liability under common law;" and (2) the federal safety standard was a minimum performance standard that encouraged, but did not require, the installation of airbags in cars?

Decisions:

Briefs:

Wednesday, December 8, 1999

United States, et al., Petitioners v. Leslie R. Weatherhead
(No. 98-1904)

Subject:
Freedom of Information Act

Question:
Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that the Freedom of Information Act's national security exemption, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(1), does not apply to a letter sent in confidence from the government of Great Britain to the Department of Justice concerning a sensitive extradition matter, where the State Department officials' uncontested affidavits explain that disclosure and the resultant breach of the British government's trust will damage the United States' foreign relations both by impairing the United States' ability to engage in and receive confidential diplomatic communications and by impeding international law enforcement cooperation.

Decisions:

Briefs:

United States, Petitioner v. Roy Lee Johnson
(No. 98-1696)

Subject:
Supervised release

Question:
Whether a federal criminal defendant's term of supervised release commences on the date of his actual release from prison or on the earlier date on which he should have been released in accordance with a retroactively applied change in the law.

Decisions:

Briefs:

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