High court to settle debate on sentencing

The United States Supreme Court is set to resolve one of the most perplexing and controversial issues facing the criminal justice system: the establishment of standards for sentencing those accused of federal crimes. The justices indicated Monday that they will decide sometime in 1989 whether the rules set down by the United States Sentencing Commission which took effect last November meet constitutional requirements.

More than 50 federal judges have refused to implement these regulations, questioning not only the guidelines themselves, but the composition of the commission which drew them.

However, almost as many other jurists have used these rules to impose sentences.

Regardless of whether the high court upholds or invalidates the commission's regulations, thousands of prisoners will have to be re-sentenced in compliance with the Supreme Court finding.

A Missouri case, US v. Mistretta, will be used by the court to weigh the guidelines.

The Reagan administration has requested priority hearing and early resolution by the court.

In other action Monday, the court:

Voted 6 to 3 in a Kentucky case that states may not ban all direct mail advertising sent by lawyers to potential clients.

Standing behind a First Amendment free speech right, the justices said that attorneys may send truthful, nondeceptive letters to people who they know have specialized legal problems.

Held 7 to 2 that private firms may be in violation of antitrust law when they lobby organizations that play an important role in influencing business legislation.

This ruling upheld an $11.4 million jury award against a company accused of ``packing'' a meeting of the National Fire Protection Association when this group adopted a safety code for electrical wiring.

Ruled 5 to 3 that the US Postal Service must pay interest on a back salary owed to a worker who won a lawsuit charging it with illegal discrimination.

The court's majority held that the postal service should be viewed more like a private business than a government agency.

Refused to review a racial desegregation case from Yonkers, N.Y., thereby leaving intact rulings that require local officials to build subsidized housing for minorities in predominantly white sections of the city and create ``magnet'' schools to reduce segregation.

Thwarted the attempt of a newspaper - on First Amendment grounds - to obtain the names and addresses of jurors who served in a celebrated New York murder trial.

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