- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005


The Supreme Court yesterday let stand a lower court ruling that allows state prosecutors to pursue charges against two fired America West pilots accused of being drunk in the cockpit.

Without comment, justices turned aside the appeal from Thomas Cloyd of Peoria, Ariz., and co-pilot Christopher Hughes of Leander, Texas. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had ruled in July that Florida’s prosecution should have run its course before the federal courts got involved.

The pilots had backed their Airbus, carrying 124 passengers, from a gate at Miami International Airport for a flight to Phoenix in July 2002. Miami-Dade police officers, alerted by airport security guards that the pilots had smelled of alcohol when leaving the terminal to board their plane, raced to stop the jet and had it returned to the gate before takeoff.

Blood-alcohol results for Mr. Cloyd and Mr. Hughes were above the state drunkenness standard of 0.08 but below the federal standard of 0.10.

The pilots had argued that Congress carved out aviation safety as an area of federal jurisdiction and left no room for state prosecution unless there is a loss of life, injury or damage. America West is a unit of America West Holdings Corp.

Also yesterday, the Supreme Court:

• Declined to consider the proper standards for allowing individuals to file class-action lawsuits against corporations, in a case accusing six health maintenance organizations of fraud.

• Let stand a lower court ruling that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System must proceed with its securities fraud lawsuit on behalf of WorldCom Inc. bondholders in federal, rather than state, court.

• Rejected an appeal from a Norfolk gun dealer, Bob’s Gun & Tackle Shop, over a federal agency’s authority to demand information about transactions involving used firearms.

• Refused to consider a challenge to an ordinance that requires employers that do business with the city of Berkeley, Calif., to pay workers a so-called living wage.

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