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High court won't hear challenge to restricted accident reports

By The Associated Press
12.02.03

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear the case of a group of lawyers and chiropractors who were challenging a Kentucky law restricting the release of accident reports by state police.

The high court let stand a ruling in June by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the law did not infringe on First Amendment rights.

The accident reports can be useful to chiropractors and lawyers in soliciting clients.

But under the law, which was amended in 1994, accident reports can be viewed by people involved in the accidents, their insurers and their attorneys. Parents of minors involved, as well as news organizations, also have access.

Soon after the law was amended, the plaintiffs sued an assortment of government officials, including a custodian of accident reports at a state police post. Injunctions sought by the plaintiffs kept the case bouncing between district and appeals courts for years.

The ruling by the three-judge appeals court panel said the law does not restrict or regulate expression but rather restricts access to confidential information held by the government.

Donald Cox, a Louisville attorney representing the group, could not be reached.

Attorneys for the Kentucky State Police also could not be reached.

The case is Amelkin v. McClure, 03-498.

Meanwhile, the high court also said yesterday that the California atheist who wants the words “under God” stripped from the Pledge of Allegiance can argue before the Court next year.

The Court granted an exception to Michael Newdow, a doctor and lawyer who is not a member of the Supreme Court Bar but wanted to argue the case himself.

Newdow has been writing and filing his own legal arguments so far, but he hasn’t had his law license for the three years required to qualify for the Supreme Court Bar.

The Court did not comment in granting his request. Justice Antonin Scalia, who has recused himself from the case, did not participate in the decision. Scalia had been criticized for bringing up the Pledge of Allegiance case during a speech at a religious event early this year.

The justices are reviewing an appeals court decision that found that the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the reference to God. Arguments have not yet been scheduled.

“It is a tribute to our system of law that any individual with sufficient desire can, by himself, ensure that our government remains true to its constitutional ideals,” Newdow had told the court in a filing.

Also yesterday, the court turned down a request by the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State to participate in the argument.

The case is Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, 02-1624.


Previous
Kentucky accident reports can stay restricted
Lawyers, chiropractors lose challenge to state law in federal court ruling, but news outlets, some individuals can still gain access to records. 06.03.03

Related

Supreme Court takes up Pledge of Allegiance fight

Justices agree to consider whether 'one nation under God' should remain part of patriotic oath as it is recited in most classrooms. 10.14.03

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