Supreme Court Decisions In Brief
The Supreme Court took the following actions Monday:
_Ruled that judges cannot impose stiffer punishments on criminal defendants who plead guilty but refuse at sentencing to give details about the crime. The 5-4 ruling in a Pennsylvania drug case said holding such defendants’ silence against them would impose ``an impermissible burden on the exercise of the constitutional right against compelled self-incrimination.″
_Ruled that prosecutors don’t violate lawyers’ rights to practice their profession by having them searched and interfering with their ability to advise a client appearing before a grand jury. The unanimous decision said such a search in a California case, ``whether calculated to annoy or even to prevent consultation with a grand jury witness,″ did not violate a lawyer’s constitutional rights.
_Refused to review a South Carolina judge’s order that barred pretrial reporting on a secretly recorded conversation between a murder defendant and his lawyer. The justices turned down a Columbia, S.C., newspaper’s arguments that the judge’s 1997 ``prior restraint″ on publication was unconstitutional.
_Said it will review the death sentence of convicted Virginia killer Terry Williams, whose scheduled Tuesday execution was postponed last week. The justices said they will decide whether Williams should get a federal court hearing on his claims that he was denied adequate legal help during his sentencing trial.
_Clarified the deadline for transferring cases from state court to federal court, saying the 30-day clock begins to run when someone is formally served and receives a copy of a lawsuit. Even though an Illinois company was faxed a copy of a lawsuit two weeks before it was formally served, the 30-day clock did not begin to run until formal service was completed, the justices’ 6-3 ruling said.
_Refused to revive a Waco, Texas, television reporter’s libel lawsuit over coverage of a federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in 1993. John McLemore’s lawsuit accused Dallas-Forth Worth station WFAA-TV of airing reports that implied McLemore had tipped the religious sect about the raid.