SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Diabetes, decisions and justice math
Court News | 2018/04/05 12:03
Visitors attending Supreme Court arguments surrender their electronics on entering the courtroom. So if something rings, chimes or buzzes, it's likely the device's owner is dressed in a black robe.

Last year, a justice's cellphone went off. But last month, when four electronic pings sounded during an argument, the device was different. It belonged to Justice Sonia Sotomayor and was alerting the justice, who is diabetic, that her blood sugar was urgently low.

The 63-year-old justice has had diabetes since childhood, but the sound was the first public notice that she was using a continuous glucose monitor.

Sotomayor's use of the device doesn't indicate a change in her health, experts told The Associated Press, but it does show her embracing a technology that has become more popular with Type 1 diabetics.

In 2013, when Sotomayor did an interview with the American Diabetes Association's "Diabetes Forecast," the magazine reported she was not using one. But in recent years the devices, which use sensors inserted under the skin, have become more accurate, said Cleveland Clinic endocrinologist Kevin Pantalone.

Monitors give users continuous information about glucose levels, rather than the snapshot they get from testing their blood with a finger prick. Information from the sensor gets sent every few minutes to a device where a user can see it charted. Most devices sound alarms at low and high glucose levels. Some monitors work with an insulin pump, which continuously delivers insulin.

It's not clear when Sotomayor began using the technology. She declined comment through a court spokeswoman. But the dinging during arguments on March 21 followed an incident in January where emergency medical personnel treated her at home for symptoms of low blood sugar.

Aaron Kowalski, an expert in diabetes technologies, said an event like that can prompt a person to try a monitor, but even people using the devices can experience low blood sugar that might result in an emergency call. Kowalski, who leads the research and advocacy efforts of JDRF, the Type 1 diabetes research organization, said about 15 percent to 20 percent of Type 1 diabetics now use such a device.



Drug companies want Supreme Court to take eye drop dispute
Court News | 2018/04/01 22:53
Eye drop users everywhere have had it happen. Tilt your head back, drip a drop in your eye and part of that drop always seems to dribble down your cheek.

But what most people see as an annoyance, some prescription drop users say is grounds for a lawsuit. Drug companies' bottles dispense drops that are too large, leaving wasted medication running down their faces, they say.

Don't roll your eyes. Major players in Americans' medicine cabinets — including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer — are asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the case.

On the other side are patients using the companies' drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. Wasted medication affects their wallets, they say. They argue they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles of medication were designed to drip smaller drops. That would mean they could squeeze more doses out of every bottle. And they say companies could redesign the droppers on their bottles but have chosen not to.

The companies, for their part, have said the patients shouldn't be able to sue in federal court because their argument they would have paid less for treatment is based on a bottle that doesn't exist and speculation about how it would affect their costs if it did. They point out that the size of their drops was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and redesigned bottles would require FDA approval. The cost of changes could be passed on to patients, possibly resulting in treatment that costs more, they say.

Courts haven't seen eye to eye on whether patients should be able to sue. That's why the drugmakers are asking the Supreme Court to step in. A federal appeals court in Chicago threw out one lawsuit over drop size. But a federal appeals court in Philadelphia let the similar case now before the Supreme Court go forward. That kind of disagreement tends to get the Supreme Court's attention.

And if a drop-size lawsuit can go forward, so too could other packaging design lawsuits, like one by "toothpaste users whose tubes of toothpaste did not allow every bit of toothpaste to be used," wrote Kannon Shanmugam, a frequent advocate before the Supreme Court who is representing the drug companies in asking the high court to take the case.


Another key redistricting case goes in front of high court
Court News | 2018/03/18 02:34
The Supreme Court has already heard a major case about political line-drawing that has the potential to reshape American politics. Now, before even deciding that one, the court is taking up another similar case.

The arguments justices will hear Wednesday in the second case, a Republican challenge to a Democratic-leaning congressional district in Maryland, could offer fresh clues to what they are thinking about partisan gerrymandering, an increasingly hot topic before courts.

Decisions in the Maryland case and the earlier one from Wisconsin are expected by late June. The arguments come nearly six months after the court heard a dispute over Wisconsin legislative districts that Democrats claim were drawn to maximize Republican control in a state that is closely divided between the parties.

The Supreme Court has never thrown out electoral districts on partisan grounds and it’s not clear the justices will do so now. But supporters of limits on partisanship in redistricting are encouraged that the justices are considering two cases.

“In taking these two cases, the Supreme Court wants to say something about partisan gerrymandering. It’s clear the Supreme Court is not walking away from the issue,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the New York University law school’s Brennan Center for Justice.

The justices’ involvement in partisan redistricting reflects a period of unusual activity in the courts on this topic. Over the past 16 months, courts struck down political districting plans drawn by Republicans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Federal judges threw out a state legislative map in Wisconsin and a congressional plan in North Carolina. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court invalidated the state’s congressional districts and replaced them with a court-drawn plan.



Court leaves black judge on case against white officer
Court News | 2018/02/24 06:24
The Alabama Supreme Court is refusing to make a black judge quit the case of a white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man.

The justices without comment Friday turned down a request from officer Aaron Cody Smith of the Montgomery Police Department.

Smith is charged in the shooting death two years ago of 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who authorities say was walking in his neighborhood when Smith shot him.

Defense attorneys sought a new judge based on social media posts of Circuit Judge Greg Griffin, who wrote about being stopped by police because he is black.

Griffin refused to step aside and accused the defense of injecting race into the case. Smith's lawyers appealed.


Supreme Court sides with Chicago museum in terror case
Court News | 2018/02/22 14:24
The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran.

The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups.

The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment.

The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday.

The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging.


Supreme Court blocks some redrawn North Carolina districts
Court News | 2018/02/07 16:49
The U.S. Supreme Court told North Carolina officials late Tuesday they must use some but not all of the state's legislative districts that other federal judges redrew for this year's elections.

The justices partially granted the request of Republican lawmakers who contend the House and Senate maps they voted for last summer were legal and didn't need to be altered.

A three-judge panel determined those GOP-approved boundaries contained racial bias left over from maps originally approved in 2011 and violated the state constitution. So the lower-court judges hired a special master who changed about two dozen districts in all. The judges approved them last month.

The Supreme Court's order means more than half of those districts redrawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily will revert to their shapes from last summer. The order said House district changes made in the counties that include Charlotte and Raleigh because of state constitutional concerns are blocked while the full case is appealed, but changes made elsewhere to alleviate racial bias must be used.

The maps containing the partial changes will be used when candidate filing for all 170 General Assembly seats begins next Monday.

Boundaries approved by the General Assembly last August kept Republicans in a position to retain veto-proof majorities in the chambers, which has helped them advance their conservative-leaning agenda this decade. But Democrats are bolstered after successful elections in other states last year. Tuesday's ruling means Democrats could find it harder to win more House districts than they hoped.

Dozens of North Carolina voters originally were successful in overturning the 2011 districts as racial gerrymanders. They subsequently asked Chief Justice John Roberts, who receives appeals from the state, to allow the lower court's directive and require the changes approved by the three judges be used.

The Republicans' request was considered by the entire court and the order reflected division among the justices. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have agreed to block all of the changes to the maps approved by the lower-court panel. Yet Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the GOP's request entirely, according to the order.


Greek court postpones decision in Turkish extradition case
Court News | 2018/02/06 00:55
A Greek court postponed ruling Tuesday on a Turkish extradition request for the second of nine Turkish citizens alleged to be left-wing militants and arrested in November, days before an Athens visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Naci Ozpolat, 48, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, is wanted by Turkey on charges of assisting a terrorist organization. He attended the hearing the court ended up adjourning until March 6, saying it needed more information from Turkey.

The nine suspects were arrested for alleged links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union have deemed a terrorist organization.

Turkey has charged them with terrorism-related offenses, forgery, arms and explosives possession and resisting arrest. All deny the charges.

A Greek court last week rejected a similar extradition request for the first of the nine on grounds he had been granted refugee status in France. The court said he was at risk of facing torture or other inhumane treatment if he were returned to Turkey.


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