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The Supreme Court says employers can prohibit their workers from banding together to dispute their pay and conditions in the workplace, an important victory for business interests.

The justices ruled 5-4 Monday, with the court's conservative members in the majority, that businesses can force employees to individually use arbitration, not the courts, to resolve disputes.

The outcome does not affect people represented by labor unions, but an estimated 25 million employees work under contracts that prohibit collective action by employees who want to raise claims about some aspect of their employment.

The result could prompt a new round of lawsuits aimed at limiting class or collective action to raise allegations of racial discrimination.

The Trump administration backed the businesses, reversing the position the Obama administration took in favor of employees.

The court's task was to reconcile federal laws that seemed to point in different directions. On the one hand, New Deal labor laws explicitly gave workers the right to band together. On the other, the older Federal Arbitration Act encourages the use of arbitration, instead of the courts.


In President Donald Trump's former life as a casino owner, he might have cheered Monday's ruling from the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law that barred every state but Nevada from allowing betting on most sporting events.

But the Trump administration opposed the outcome reached by the high court at least in part because it could signal trouble in its legal fight against so-called sanctuary states and cities. Seven of the nine justices — five conservatives and two liberals — backed a robust reading of the Constitution's 10th Amendment and a limit on the federal government's power to force the states go along with Washington's wishes.

The federal anti-gambling law is unconstitutional because "it unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion. "It's as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals."

There is a direct link between the court's decision in the sports betting case and the administration's effort to punish local governments that resist Trump's immigration enforcement policies, several legal commentators said.

"The court ruled definitively that the federal government can't force states to enforce federal law. In the immigration context, this means it can't require state or local officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities," said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's immigrants' rights project, said the ruling reinforced decisions from the 1990s, including one that struck down part of a federal gun control law that required local police to determine if buyers were fit to own handguns.

"It reiterates that the real thrust of the 10th Amendment and the principles of law in this area is that the fed government can't tell the states or cities how to legislate," Jadwat said. The amendment says that powers not specifically given to the federal government belong to the states.

The gun law decision split the court's conservatives and liberals in 1997, in keeping with conservatives' complaints about the federal government's overreach and the importance of states' rights. But on Monday, Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined their more conservative colleagues.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision, but it had called on the court to uphold the federal law at issue — the department's usual practice when federal laws are challenged — by arguing that there was no constitutional violation.

In the most recent ruling about sanctuary cities, the federal appeals court in Chicago held last month that the federal government cannot withhold public safety grants from cities that won't go along with Trump's immigration enforcement policies.

In lawsuits challenging the administration, cities argue that turning local police authorities into immigration officers erodes trust with minority communities and discourages residents from reporting crime. The administration says sanctuary jurisdictions allow dangerous criminals back on the street.

The administration's efforts to crack down on places that don't comply with immigration authorities have taken several forms. Trump issued an executive order aimed at withholding federal money from recalcitrant jurisdictions. The administration also has sued California over three laws aimed at protecting immigrants in the country illegally.


Massachusetts' highest court is set to hear arguments in a case sparked by the misconduct of a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at a state drug lab for eight years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the state's public defender agency will ask the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to order the dismissal of all convictions that relied on evidence from the drug lab during Sonja Farak's tenure.

Prosecutors already have agreed to dismiss thousands of cases tainted by Farak, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

The ACLU and Committee for Public Counsel Services also are asking the court to establish protocols for instances of misconduct.


A U.S. appeals court says employees at Native American casinos can receive protection under a federal labor law.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday that federal officials reasonably concluded that the National Labor Relations Act applies to tribal employers. The judges said the law does not violate tribes' right to self-government.

The decision came in a fight over efforts to unionize employees at Casino Pauma, a Southern California casino owned by the Pauma Band of Mission Indians.

A judge ruled in 2015 that the tribe committed unfair labor practices under the NLRA when it tried to stop the distribution of union leaflets. The 9th Circuit upheld that ruling.




The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld a 2015 law limiting State Auditor Rebecca Otto's duties.

Wednesday's unanimous decision ends Otto's years of challenges and mounting legal fees. A district court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals had previously ruled against Otto, triggering her appeal to the Supreme Court.

The legal saga began after the Legislature passed a law allowing more counties to hire private firms for annual financial audits. Otto has argued that law was a constitutional breach of her duties that significantly downgraded the state's oversight of county finances.

But the state's high court disagreed. Wednesday's ruling maintained that the law left the auditor's oversight of those private audits intact. A spokesman for Otto did not immediately return a request for comment.


Pennsylvania's highest court will decide whether a woman's use of illegal drugs while pregnant qualifies as child abuse under state law.

The Supreme Court recently took up the case of a woman who tested positive for suboxone and marijuana at the time she gave birth early last year at Williamsport Hospital.

A county judge ruled that did not qualify as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law, but the intermediate Superior Court said drug use while pregnant can make bodily injury to a child likely after birth.

Court records indicate the child spent 19 days in the hospital being treated for drug dependence, exhibiting severe withdrawal symptoms.

"Mother's actions were deplorable but this court must follow the law," wrote Clinton County Judge Craig Miller in May, ruling the county child welfare agency had not established child abuse occurred.

The mother's lawyers argue lawmakers never intended the child protection law to apply to acts during pregnancy.

"No one thinks using drugs while pregnant is good, but using the criminal justice system and the civil child abuse system to punish people for doing so just makes a bad situation much, much worse," said the woman's lawyer, David S. Cohen.

Amanda Beth Browning, lawyer for the Clinton County Department of Children and Youth Services, declined comment.

In a filing with Supreme Court, the woman's lawyers said most states, with a few exceptions, "have taken a non-punitive approach to the issue."

"Almost every major medical and public health organization has recognized that punishing women for drug use during their pregnancies is counterproductive to public and private health," wrote lawyers for the mother, identified by initials in court records.


The Supreme Court is leaving in place a ruling that revived two federal lawsuits stemming from the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to get involved in the cases, leaving in place a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The appeals court ruled in July 2017 that a federal trial court had improperly dismissed federal civil rights claims in the lawsuits, which were brought by Flint residents. The trial court ruled that a federal law called the Safe Drinking Water Act precluded those claims, but the appeals court disagreed.

The Supreme Court's decision not to get involved means the cases will return to the trial court to move forward. Other similar lawsuits are also at the trial court level.

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