Supreme Court roundup

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Pay for delaying generic drugs

WASHINGTON (AP) – Supreme Court justices appeared troubled Monday over whether to stop deals between pharmaceutical corporations and their generic drug competitors that the government says could keep cheaper forms of medicine from American consumers for longer periods of time.


Justices heard arguments from the Justice Department against what the government calls “pay-for-delay” deals or “reverse settlements.”


Such deals arise when generic companies file a challenge at the Food and Drug Administration to the patents that give brand-name drugs a 20-year monopoly. The generic drugmakers aim to prove the patent is flawed or otherwise invalid, so they can launch a generic version well before the patent ends.


Brand-name drugmakers then usually sue the generic companies, which sets up what could be years of expensive litigation. When the two sides aren’t certain who will win, they often reach a compromise deal that allows the generic company to sell its cheaper copycat drug in a few years but years before the drug’s patent would expire. Often, that settlement comes with a sizable payment from the brand-name company to the generic drugmaker.


Seats for gay marriage cases

WASHINGTON (AP) – The most expensive ticket to “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway: $477. The face value of a great seat for this year’s Super Bowl: $1,250. Guaranteed seats to watch the U.S. Supreme Court hear this week’s gay marriage cases: about $6,000.


Tickets to the two arguments that begin today are technically free. But getting them requires lining up days or hours ahead, or paying someone else to. The first people got in line Thursday, bringing the price of saving a seat to around $6,000.


For some, putting a value on the seats is meaningless.


“It’s just not possible,” said Fred Sainz a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, which began employing two people to stand in line Thursday.


The court will hear arguments today over California’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the court will take up the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage say the cases are so potentially historic that they want to be inside the courtroom to watch, no matter what the cost in time or money.


New affirmative action challenge

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a new case from Michigan on the politically charged issue of affirmative action offers an intriguing hint that the justices will not use a separate challenge already pending from Texas for a broad ruling bringing an end to the consideration of race in college admissions.


To be sure, the two cases involve different legal issues. The University of Texas dispute, with arguments already completed and a ruling possible soon, centers on the use of race to fill some slots in the school’s freshman classes. The Michigan case asks whether a voter-approved ban on affirmative action in college admissions can itself violate the Constitution.


But the broadest possible outcome in the current Texas case – overruling the court’s 2003 decision that allows race as a factor in college admissions would mean an end to affirmative action in higher education and render the new Michigan lawsuit irrelevant.


If the justices are planning to overrule that earlier decision, “then I would think they would hold this case,” the new one, and order lower courts to review it based on the Texas decision, said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine. He is representing students and faculty members in the Michigan case.


At the October argument in Fisher v. University of Texas, the court’s conservative justices sounded as if they were ready to impose new limits on the use of race in college admissions. More than five months have passed without a decision, which is not unusual in the court’s most contentious cases.


The appeal in the Michigan case comes from state Attorney General Bill Schuette, following a ruling from the sharply divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeals court, by an 8-7 vote, found fault with the 2006 constitutional amendment to outlaw “preferential treatment” on the basis of race and other factors in college admissions. The provision also applies to affirmative action in public employment and government contracting, but those issues are not being challenged.


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