Court to rule on car safety items

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cars must be equipped with air bags or automatic seat belts - perhaps as soon as next year - or whether the Reagan administration can kill the new equipment rule.

The justices will hear an appeal by the administration and auto manufacturers of a ruling ordering all cars made after next Sept. 1 to be equipped with ''passive restraints.''

In another case, the justices without comment refused to step into a dispute over how to handle the huge number of death and injury lawsuits filed after two skywalks in a luxury Kansas City, Mo., hotel collapsed and killed 114 people.

In other action today, the high court:

* Promised to decide whether a South Dakota man should serve the rest of his life in prison for writing a bad check for $100 and other nonviolent crimes.

* Agreed to hear a case touching police stations across the country - whether police can look inside a purse when booking someone into jail.

* Accepted for argument the Florida death sentence of Elwood Barclay, who joined in what one judge described as the ''random racial hate murder'' of Stephen Orlando, a white teen-age hitchhiker, in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., in 1974.

* On a 6-to-3 vote in an obscenity case, left intact a court order declaring a Tallmadge, Ohio, adult bookstore a moral nuisance and barring it from selling any more erotic materials.

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