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Court Considers Spotted Owl Protection Ruling

THE Supreme Court heard arguments Dec. 2 over the endangered Northern spotted owl and how far Congress can go in limiting action of the federal courts.The case involved an obscure amendment to a federal appropriations bill for fiscal year 1990 that details how logging could proceed for that single year in parts of the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. That amendment said in part that an agreement between Oregon and the United States Bureau of Land Management over timber cutting in certain national forests and federally controlled lands in Oregon and Washington included "adequate consideration" of environmental laws for a series of specific l awsuits regarding management of the spotted owl. The amendment allowed limited logging in the areas indigenous to the spotted owl, which is protected by the Endangered Species Act. Environmentalist groups claimed the amendment violated the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine by telling the federal courts how to apply existing laws in specific pending legal cases without changing those laws. The government contends it did in essence change those environmental protect laws, if only for a one-year period and only for specific instances. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals halted the planned timber sales, prompting the government's appeal. In other action Dec. 2, the court: * Refused to revisit the issue of how much force police can use to obtain a blood, urine, or breath tests from a suspected drunken driver. The court let stand the ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that Newport Beach, Calif., must pay $2,500 in compensatory damages to a man who was handcuffed to a hospital chair and had blood drawn from his arm against his will. * Let stand a ruling that voids a $50 million punitive-damage award against Korean Air Lines for its 1983 flight over Soviet airspace that led to the downing of Flight 007 and death of 269 people. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had ruled that the Warsaw Convention governing international flights bars punitive damage recovery, even in cases where a jury found the deaths were caused by the "willful misconduct" of the airline. * Let stand a ruling that an Arizona couple cannot sue California for letting a convicted child molester repeatedly violate parole and leave the state, leading to the murder of their eight-year-old girl.

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