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Today’s Supreme Court Actions

January 12, 2000

The Supreme Court took these actions Wednesday:

_Gave police wide power to stop and question people who run at the sight of a police officer. The 5-4 ruling in a Chicago case did not give police a blanket right to stop anyone who runs upon seeing the police, but it said such flight can help create enough suspicion of criminal activity to justify a stop.

_Heard arguments over whether grandparents can be given a broad right to seek court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren over the parents’ objections. Most justices voiced concerns about a Washington state law that allowed ``any person,″ relative or nonrelative, to such visitation rights whenever it was found to be in a child’s best interest.

_Ruled unanimously that Congress can protect motorists’ privacy by barring states from selling the personal information on drivers’ licenses. The justices rejected South Carolina’s argument that the law violated states’ rights.

_Upheld the right of citizen groups to sue alleged polluters under the Clean Water Act even though any financial damages awarded would be paid to the federal government. The 7-2 ruling also said polluters sued by private citizens under federal environmental laws cannot necessarily avoid paying damages by stopping their misconduct while the case is ongoing.

_Ruled unanimously that people convicted of a crime do not have a constitutional right to refuse a lawyer’s help and represent themselves on appeal. The right to represent oneself at trial, guaranteed by the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, does not extend to the appeal process, the justices said.

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