Court gears up to hear controversial cases
Washington — So falls the barrier against women. Only a little more than 100 years ago the US Supreme Court allowed the State of Illinois to exclude all women from practicing law. On this "first Monday in October," the constitutionally designated first day of the new Supreme Court term, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed out of the robing room and sat in the seat reserved for the newest member of the court on the far left of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.
As if to underscore the arrival of women in the legal profession, the first three lawyers admitted to practice in the Supreme Court on its opening day were also women.
During its first day the court also agreed to handle one of the hottest political disputes in Washington, a debate over whether a single house or committee of Congress can overrule action by an executive agency. The so-called "legislative veto" has been touted as a major tool to cut through red tape in the bureaucracy.
However, the US solicitor general's office argues that legislative veto would weaken the presidency and violate the constitutional separation of powers doctrine.
The case, which will likely set a historic precedent, centers around a Kenyan national who is fighting deportation. The US Immigration and Nationalization Service acted in his favor, but a resolution passed by the House of Representatives overruled the immigration service.
Acting on hundreds of cases that have piled up on the high court docket over the summer, the justices:
* Agreed to decide whether Nebraska can deny bail to an accused rapist "where the proof is evident or the presumption great."
* Agreed to rule in a dispute over wherher rural Burke County, Ga., discriminates againts black voters by requiring all county commissioners to run for election on a county-wide basis. Although more than half of the voting-age residents are black, the county has not elected a black official since the Reconstruction era following the Civil War.
* Refused to allow Morton Halperin, one-time security adviser to President Nixon, to join in a suit against the former president. A Pentagon employee, Ernest Fitzgerald, is suing Nixon for firing him when Mr. Fitzgerald blew the whistle on cost overruns in the building of transport planes. Mr. Halperin already has won a suit against Nixon for wire-tapping his family telephone ans is still seeking damages from the former president.