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Rabbi Loses Supreme Court Case Over Frequent Flyer Miles

The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that an airline customer cannot sue after being thrown out of a frequent flyer program.

The court ruled 9-0 that Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg cannot pursue his claims against Northwest Airlines, which merged in 2010 with Delta. He sued after he was ousted from Northwest's WorldPerks loyalty program for complaining too often about getting bumped from flights and repeatedly seeking compensation.

The decision (attached below) means airlines have sole discretion to drop frequent flyers.

The court held the federal Airline Deregulation Act barred Ginsberg's lawsuit. The act says states have no say in regulating the price, route or service of an air carrier.

Ginsberg said the airline told him it took action in part because he allegedly sought compensation after booking reservations on full flights, knowing he would be bumped to another flight.

Northwest said he filed 24 complaints and that the contract allowed it to terminate membership for abuse of the program at its sole discretion.

All Same-Sex Spouses Have Employee Benefit Rights: Labor Dept.

Legally married gay couples are entitled to participate in employee benefit plans, even if the state they live in does not recognize gay marriage.

Same-sex spouses can now participate in private retirement and healthcare plans overseen by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Department of Labor said in a landmark memo (full-text document attached below).

The terms “spouse” and “marriage” under employee-benefit rules now apply to gay married couples. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, which extended federal benefits to those in same-sex marriages.

In effect, a gay couple that is legally married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage will be considered married regardless of where they live.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the ruling a “historic step forward” and said the department would work to implement it in a way providing “maximum protection” for American workers.

The relationship between government and religion will once again become a point of discussion at the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Justices agreed to consider whether a New York town could open meetings with a prayer.

Two residents sued Greece, New York, in 2008, saying it was endorsing Christianity, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 1983 case, Marsh v. Chambers, that legislative sessions could begin with a prayer in most circumstances, citing the "unique history" of the practice throughout U.S. history.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York last year unanimously ruled against the city's policy in the attached ruling. Still, other courts around the country have found such invocations -- if inclusive and limited in scope -- to be permissible.

The petition will be argued later this year or early in 2014, with a ruling ready by the spring.

Warrantless DUI Blood Tests Rejected by Supreme Court

Police usually must try to obtain a search warrant before ordering blood tests for drunken-driving suspects, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The justices sided with a Missouri man who was subjected to a blood test without a warrant and found to have nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

The high court struck down Missouri's guidelines giving police broad discretion to forego getting a judge's prior approval before executing a search.

"We hold that in drunk-driving investigations, the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream does not constitute an exigency in every case sufficient to justify conducting a blood test without a warrant," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the Court.

Did the Supreme Court move too quickly to address whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry?

Should the states instead be left to continue the gay marriage experiment for a while?

Those were some of the sentiments expressed by Supreme Court Justices as California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, was argued before the High Court.

This full oral argument transcript may shed light on where the Justices stand on this issue. Or maybe not. After all, trying to extrapolate where the Justices will ultimately vote is fraught with pitfalls.

For what it’s worth, here are are some of the Justices’ comments (followed by the full transcript after the jump).

“I just wonder if this case was properly granted,” said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“You want us to step in and assess the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones and/or the Internet?” said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

“Why is taking a case now the answer?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.

Justice Kennedy, who likely holds the decisive vote, also voiced sympathy for the children of gay and lesbian couples.

“There’s some 40,000 children in California that live with same-sex parents. They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important.”

Of course, Justice Kennedy also spoke of uncertainty about allowing same-sex marriage.

“We have five years of information to pose against 2,000 years of history or more.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that a former grad student who purchased books cheaply overseas can then resell them on eBay for a profit.

The California student, Supap Kirtsaeng, argued he was protected by the first-sale doctrine. The doctrine holds that copyright owners can’t ban resales of their products.

The High Court, in a 6-3 ruling, held the doctrine protects resellers even when the goods are lawfully manufactured outside the United States.

Supreme Court Rules Government May be Liable for Flooding

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the federal government may be required to pay damages when it releases water from a dam that causes temporary flooding for a property owner downstream.

The 8-0 ruling carries potential significance for future cases involving temporary seizure (or” taking”) of property.

The case looked at the politically charged issue of when government activity that affects private property constitutes a “taking” that requires payment to a landowner.

The 5th Amendment states that the government must pay owners of private property that it takes for public purposes.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said temporary flooding of private land by the government is “not categorically exempt” from liability under the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause.

Feds, States Take Obamacare Case to the Supreme Court

The Department of Justice and a group of 26 states have filed simultaneous petitions for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court as part of the states' constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The petitions seek review of a recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit. That decision held that the individual mandate portion of the Act was unconstitutional, but also upheld the constitutionality of the majority of the Act.

Supreme Court Halts Texas Execution

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted an application for a stay of execution by a Texas man just hours before the execution was scheduled to take place. The stay of execution is temporary pending the disposition of the condemned man's application for a writ of certiorari to argue his claims before the Court that his death sentence was tainted by the racially prejudicial testimony of a psychiatrist.

Supreme Court, in 5-4 Decision, Rules Halting Prop 8 Video OK

In a 5-4 per curiam opinion (see below), a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices held that a San Francisco federal court's failure to give the public notice and a chance to comment about broadcasting live, streaming video of California's Proposition 8 ('Prop 8') trial violated a local legal rule, justifying the decision to halt the trial's broadcast.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a blistering dissent, concluding that the case did not satisfy any of the majority's 6-point legal standards for halting the broadcast. He was joined by Justice Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.