(AP) The Supreme Court says states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona's voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal "Motor Voter" voter registration law.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which doesn't require such documentation, trumps Arizona's Proposition 200 passed in 2004. Arizona officials say their law is needed to stop non-Americans from voting in elections, while opponents see it as an attack on minorities, immigrants and the elderly.
But the high court agreed with the federal government in the case.
Court: 'pay to delay' generic drugs can be illegal
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that deals between pharmaceutical corporations and their generic drug competitors, which government officials say keep cheaper forms of medicine off the market, can be sometimes be illegal and therefore challenged by federal officials in court.
The justices voted 5-3 to allow the government to inspect and challenge what it calls "pay-for-delay" deals or "reverse settlements."
"This court's precedents make clear that patent-related settlement agreements can sometimes violate anti-trust law," said Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the court's opinion.
Reverse settlements 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.
Drugmakers say the settlements protect their interests but also benefit consumers by bringing inexpensive copycat medicines to market years earlier than they would arrive in any case generic drugmakers took to trial and lost. But federal officials counter that such deals add billions to the drug bills of American patients and taxpayers, compared with what would happen if the generic companies won the lawsuits and could begin marketing right away.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the dissent for himself and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said ordinarily the high court would say that any deal that would end costly and time-consuming litigation would be thought of as a good thing.
"The majority's rule will discourage settlement of patent litigation," Roberts said. "Simply put, there would be no incentive to settle if, immediately after setting, the parties would have to litigate the same issue - the question of patent validity - as part of a defense against an antitrust suit."
The Justice Department asked the court to rule that all reverse settlements were illegal, but Breyer said that was going too far. The deals' "complexities lead us to conclude that the FTC must prove its case," he said.
Justice Samuel Alito did not take part in the case.
The case is Federal Trade Commission vs. Actavis, Inc., 12-416.
High court says driver records protected
The justices voted 5-4 Monday in favor of South Carolina residents who objected to solicitations from lawyers to join a lawsuit against car dealers. Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinions that a lawyer's solicitation of clients is prohibited by a federal privacy law intended to shield motor vehicle records.
The court left it to lower courts to determine whether letters sent by the lawyers were predominantly efforts to recruit clients.
Among the lawyers named in the Supreme Court appeal is Richard Harpootlian, who also is chairman of the South Carolina Democratic party
Court says jury should have final say in minimums
The Supreme Court says a jury should have the final say on facts that can trigger mandatory minimum sentences in criminal trials.
The high court on Monday overturned the sentencing in Allen Alleyne's case in a 5-4 judgment. He was convicted of robbery and firearm possession in Richmond, Va. The jury said Alleyne's accomplice did not brandish a weapon, but the judge said he did, raising Alleyne's minimum sentence from five to seven years on that charge.
Alleyne's lawyers say the brandishing decision should have been the jury's. Instead, the judge made his determination using a lower standard of proof. The Justice Department argued that the current system has been used successfully for years.
The justices sent the case back for resentencing.
Court says pre-Miranda silence can be used
The 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. During police questioning, and before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights, Salinas did not answer when asked if a shotgun he had access to would match up with the murder weapon.
Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that question to convict him of murder, saying it helped demonstrate his guilt. Salinas appealed, saying his Fifth Amendment rights to stay silent should have kept lawyers from using his silence against him. Texas courts disagreed, saying pre-Miranda silence is not protected from use by prosecutors.