- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a challenge by members of Congress to President Clinton's authority to commit U.S. troops to NATO action in Kosovo.
Justices also handed down a number of business-related decisions, including leaving in place the $5-billion judgment against Exxon Mobil Corp. for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill that polluted 1,000-plus miles of Alaska shoreline, but the company said other pending appeals will postpone payment.
The high court also:
Terminated a lawsuit by two gun manufacturers against a 1994 law banning semiautomatic "assault weapons" or copycat models of any caliber.
Let stand a lower court ruling in which a bisexual supervisor was freed from sexual harassment charges because he propositioned both a husband and the man's wife.
The Kosovo war-powers case was filed by 31 members of Congress who charged that the president overreached his authority under the Constitution or the 1973 War Powers Act by having U.S. troops participate in the NATO bombing campaign over Yugoslavia that began on March 24, 1999.
Lower courts ruled that the members of Congress suffered no "actual injury" that would give them legal standing to sue and that, in any event, Mr. Clinton's termination of the action on June 10 made the matter moot and no longer subject to court determination.
The appeals court said Congress could have ended the U.S. combat role by cutting off funds for the operation.
In the gun case, a Florida company called Navegar, better known by its Intratec brand on the semi-automatic TEC-DC9 and TEC-22 model handguns, and Penn Arms, a Pennsylvania company that makes a 12-gauge revolving-cylinder shotgun, questioned the authority of Congress to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of their products under the interstate-commerce clause of the Constitution.
The 1994 amendment to the Gun Control Act of 1968 defines semiautomatic "assault weapons" to include a list of specified firearms and "copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber."
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia called the law a permissible "regulation of activities having a substantial effect on interstate commerce." The high court refused without comment to review that ruling.
The gun makers said that decision conflicted with recent high court opinions narrowing the scope of interstate-commerce legislation.
"Legislative measures designed to suppress the national market in a particular article of commerce are legitimate exercises of commerce-clause authority," the Clinton administration argued in defense of the law.
Without comment, justices refused to review a ruling that Indiana state employees Steven and Karen Holman nullified their case against shop foreman Gale Uhrich by claiming he sexually harassed both of them from 1995 to 1997 and retaliated against them for rebuffing his advances.
"Because the complaint specifically and unequivocally claimed that the same supervisor had been sexually harassing the male and female plaintiffs by soliciting sex from each on separate occasions and then had retaliated against each, we affirm the district court" dismissal of the case, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said in the decision that the high court let stand.
The Holmans said in court papers that Mr. Uhrich harassed the wife "by touching her body, standing too closely to her, asking her to go to bed with him and making sexist comments," and that he harassed Mr. Holman "by grabbing his head while asking for sexual favors, which requests were refused."
With the case dead, the Holmans' surprised attorneys were left wondering if they might have done better by suing separately, or if only one of the spouses had sued under Title VII of the federal civil rights act, which currently allows action for either homosexual or heterosexual harassment.
"An educated human resource manager who knows of the Holman case now can advise a supervisor to purchase immunity from Title VII by taking care to harass members of both sexes," said Shane Mulholland, attorney for the Holmans.
"We have harassment being perpetrated by your equal-opportunity bisexual harasser that is not covered, not prohibited. Why aren't the courts focusing more on the conduct than on the sexual orientation of the harasser?" Mr. Mulholland said.
Originally, the 1964 law known as Title VII was understood to prohibit disparate treatment in hiring, firing and promotion on the basis of whether the employee or applicant was male or female.
A 1986 Supreme Court decision extended that to include sexually based conduct by a male or female supervisor toward a worker of the opposite sex. A 1993 decision added an "abusive working environment" to the definition of sexual discrimination. The Supreme Court's 1998 Oncale decision ruled that such acts by a homosexual against someone of the same sex also may be unlawful discrimination.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide