WASHINGTON - A new Supreme Court term opened today as a former Nazi concentration camp guard lost an appeal over the government's decision to revoke his U.S. citizenship.
Justices declined to review the case of John Hansl, a member of the SS Death's Head battalion that guarded concentration camps at Sachsenhausen near Berlin in 1943 and Natzweiler in France in 1944.
In other decisions today, ex-Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent lost an appeal in a dispute over royalties, and the Court declined to revive a libel lawsuit filed against two Philadelphia newspapers by a critic of violent rap lyrics. The Court also refused to consider whether a Texas law making it a crime to promote sex toys shaped like sexual organs is unconstitutional.
The new court will see abortion, race and other familiar issues resurface. President Bush's two conservative appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, give opponents of abortion and affirmative action reason to hope the high court will move in their direction. It was only a few years ago that a different mix of justices seemingly settled some of these questions in high-profile cases.
The outcome of new challenges to a type of late-term abortion, called partial-birth abortion by opponents, and the use of race in assigning students to public schools will "tell us a little bit about the soul of the Roberts court," said Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In the "Kiss" case, justices declined to consider lower court rulings dismissing Vincent's claim that he is owed royalties for his contributions to the heavy metal band's 1983 album Lick It Up. Vincent, whose real name is Vincent Cusano, played with Kiss from 1982 to 1984.
In the case involving the newspapers, longtime civil rights activist C. DeLores Tucker, who died last year, had accused two papers of mischaracterizing her dispute with the estate of slain rapper Tupac Shakur and others. Shakur wrote lyrics that rhymed Tucker's name with an obscenity.
Tucker had sued Shakur, alleging, among other things, that her husband, William Tucker, had suffered loss of "consortium" because of the emotional distress brought on by Shakur.
The Philadelphia Daily News and The Legal Intelligencer, a daily newspaper covering legal affairs in Philadelphia, were among the news organizations that reported on the lawsuit and interpreted loss of consortium to mean harm to the Tuckers' sex life. Tucker said the claim had nothing to do with sex, but with "advice, society, companionship, i.e., defendants' effect upon the 'family union.'"