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Summary of Supreme Court Action

January 19, 2000

The Supreme Court took these actions Wednesday:

_Heard arguments on whether a Colorado law violates anti-abortion protesters’ free-speech rights by limiting ``sidewalk counseling″ in the name of protecting patients’ privacy. The law requires protesters to stay 8 feet away from people entering healthcare clinics unless the person consents.

_By a 5-4 vote, made it easier for court-appointed lawyers to refuse to file appeals for criminally convicted clients whose claims they think are frivolous. The justices upheld California’s rules on what court-appointed lawyers must do in such circumstances.

_Ruled unanimously that criminal defendants’ convictions need not be thrown out whenever a trial judge mistakenly fails to remove a potential juror who showed signs of bias. Such errors do not violate fair-trial rights if defendants use automatic challenges to remove such people and then are convicted by juries with no biased members, the court said in an Arizona case.

_Upheld, 5-4, the death sentence of a man who murdered a Virginia state trooper. The court said the sentencing jury was adequately instructed, although the four dissenting justices said the jurors who sentenced the killer likely wanted to spare his life.

_Ruled that Guam Gov. Carl Gutierrez was lawfully re-elected in 1998 and need not face a runoff vote. The unanimous ruling reversed a lower court decision that said a runoff would have to be held.

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