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Wartime claims get a second look

By Associated Press
Published June 15, 2004

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ordered a lower court on Monday to reconsider if Holocaust survivors and heirs can sue the French national railroad for transporting more than 70,000 Jews and others to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

The case was one of four that justices sent back for more consideration in light of their ruling last week that a federal law allows American courts to hear old disputes over such things as wartime looted property, unless the suits are barred by treaties.

The other cases involve claims that women were used by Japan during World War II as sex slaves, that Austria is responsible for stolen art and that Poland took Jewish families' land.

An appeals court had said that the French railroad was not protected from litigation in the United States. The lawsuit alleges that Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais delivered 72,000 "passengers" to their deaths, billing per person per kilometer.

Federal courts can hear challenges to state taxes

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal courts can hear constitutional challenges to state taxes, a decision that could leave tax credits in most states vulnerable to federal court challenges.

In a 5-4 decision, justices said such lawsuits are permitted despite a 1937 law that says federal courts may not interfere with the "assessment, levy or collection" of state taxes.

The case arose from income tax credits given to Arizona residents for donating money for private school education.

Those contributions fund grants and scholarships and are part of a state effort to give parents more choices in educating their children. A group of Arizona taxpayers sued in federal court, arguing that the tax credits are an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

The Supreme Court agreed to let them continue the lawsuit.

Arizona had the backing of the Bush administration, which supports government funding for private parochial education, and 40 other states worried about federal challenges to their tax policies.

Those states are Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The court also . . .

* Declined to consider an appeal in which former U.S. hostages in Iran say a $33-billion lawsuit over their detention and torture more than 20 years ago should be reinstated.

* Rejected a lawsuit that said federal officials didn't do enough to safeguard 2-million acres of potential wilderness in Utah from off-road vehicles.

[Last modified June 15, 2004, 01:00:24]

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