High Court Rules on Insanity-Plea Cases

THE Supreme Court on May 18 ruled that people acquitted of crimes by reason of insanity may not be detained in institutions after regaining their mental health just because they might still be dangerous.

In a separate decision, the court made it more difficult for states to force mentally unstable criminal defendants to take anti-psychotic drugs while on trial. That 7-to-2 ruling overturned the murder conviction of a Nevada death-row inmate whose lawyers said drugs made him appear sane, but like a "zombie."

In other action May 18, the court:

* Agreed to decide whether states must refund taxes collected unlawfully from retired federal workers. Billions of dollars are at stake for state treasuries.

* Rejected two music-industry attempts to collect more money under federal copyright law for the tunes played in stores or on cable television.

* Rejected an appeal by San Francisco officials who sought more power for local governments to regulate street sales by nonprofit groups.

* Refused to stop a Justice Department special counsel investigating the House check overdraft case from reviewing every check processed by the House bank over a 39-month period.

* Made it easier to sue private citizens accused of acting with government officials to deprive others of their rights. The ruling said the broad legal immunity enjoyed by public officials does not protect private citizens.

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