Court bolsters anti-crime image

In two decisions, the US Supreme Court buttressed its current reputation for strong law-and-order leanings. But it also reinforced - though narrowly - its tendency to allow federal government intervention to avert discrimination by states.

In the first decision, the court unanimously rejected a ruling that electronic surveillance in police work was unconstitutional. The verdict, allowing that police may use a hidden electronic beeper to track a car under surveillance, is consistent with the court's apparent desire not to hamper police unnecessarily, says Monitor legal correspondent Curtis J. Sitomer. It may also be a clue to a ruling due later on whether to modify the so-called exclusionary rule. The question: Should police who make ''good faith'' mistakes in searches and seizures be penalized by having the criminal evidence they uncover thrown out of court?

In the second decision, the justices split 5 to 4 in a case where it ruled that the federal government can enforce age-bias protections for state- and local-government workers. Wyoming had argued that these federal requirements, which prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of age against workers between 40 and 70, amount to interference with traditional state functions. At issue was whether Wyoming could force a wildlife warden to retire.

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