- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Utah lost a Supreme Court appeal yesterday in the state's fight to wrest a congressional seat from North Carolina, which edged out Utah based on the 2000 census.
The court, without comment, rejected Utah's request to decide whether it is constitutional to include some Americans living abroad in the national head count, while excluding others. Utah claims it was cheated of a congressional seat because the Census Bureau did not count thousands of state natives serving as Mormon missionaries overseas.
The Census Bureau counts people living overseas only if they are in military or government service.
In other action yesterday, the court:
Agreed to decide how much lawyers can make when suing the government on behalf of the disabled. The ruling, expected next year, will affect lawyers who handle Social Security cases for people who claim they are disabled and entitled to government help.
Turned down a challenge to New Jersey's broad ban on semiautomatic weapons. The ban, enacted in 1991, forbids the possession, sale or transport of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition clips.
Refused to consider whether a judge was wrong to leave an accused killer under guard in a courtroom while prospective jurors were questioned outside in the hall. The court could have used the case to give defendants more rights to be involved in their trials.
In the Utah case, the state's governor argued that the counting method does not live up to the Constitution's requirement for an "actual enumeration, " and discriminates based on what kind of work people do.
The method also could be an unconstitutional government intrusion on religion, because Mormons who know they will be excluded from a census may avoid overseas missionary work, the state's appeal argued.
In the formula used to determine House seats, Utah lost to North Carolina, another fast-growing state, by 856 residents. The figures gave North Carolina its 13th seat and left Utah with three.
The Bush administration asked the court to dismiss the case, or to uphold a lower court's ruling against Utah.
The Supreme Court took the latter option without comment.
The Supreme Court already has ruled it constitutional to count federal employees working overseas, but that 1992 case left open the question of how to treat other Americans living abroad.
Utah sued in January, asking that the Census Bureau either be forced to include Mormon missionaries, or forced to exclude federal employees. Either outcome likely would have given the state the additional congressional seat. North Carolina joined the Census Bureau as a defendant.
A special three-judge panel ruled in March that forcing the Census Bureau to include Mormon missionaries would skew the count, because a disproportionate number of them would hail from one state. That would lead to challenges from other groups of Americans temporarily living overseas, the panel said.

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