By Reid Wilson - 06/22/09 11:23 AM EDT
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up Valerie Plame Wilson's lawsuit against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, effectively killing the civil suit that accused key Bush administration figures of outing Wilson as a CIA operative.
Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, had sued Libby, the longtime chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, for his role in leaking Plame's name to the media at a time her husband was questioning the Bush administration's claims against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The Obama Justice Department followed the Bush administration's lead in opposing the lawsuit, arguing the Wilsons have no grounds on which to sue the former administration officials.
“The Wilsons and their counsel are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case, but more significantly, this is a setback for our democracy," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
"This decision means that government officials can abuse their power for political purposes without fear of repercussion," added Sloan, whose group had backed the Wilsons' lawsuit. "Private citizens like the Wilsons, who see their careers destroyed and their lives placed in jeopardy by administration officials seeking to score political points and silence opposition, have no recourse.”
Also on Monday, the court agreed to hear a case that tests the limits of a suspected criminal's Miranda rights, giving new justices the ability to weigh in on the 40-year-old practice for the first time.
Justices will hear arguments next term in the case of a Florida man who was arrested for allegedly possessing a firearm even though he was a convicted felon. Officers in Tampa advised the man he had the right to talk to a lawyer before answering questions.
The man's conviction was overturned by the Second District Court of Appeals, which held the phrasing of the Miranda rights given were insufficient under the Fifth Amendment, and that Miranda requires a suspect be given the impression that he or she has the right to a lawyer present during questioning.
The appeals court ruling withstood the test of the Florida Supreme Court, and with the U.S. Supreme Court set to take up the case it will present the first opportunity for Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito to rule on Miranda warnings.
Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter, looks more likely to face a confirmation vote before the court starts its new term in October, giving three new justices the chance to have their say.
Miranda rights were last examined in a 2004 case in which officers in Missouri were prohibited from trying to extort confessions before giving warnings. The practice of reading a suspect his or her rights, codified in the 1966 case, withstood its strongest challenge in 2000, when then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist and six associate justices said the warnings had become a part of the national culture.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will also take up a case that tests a 2006 law that gives the federal government the right to indefinitely confine prisoners identified as sexually dangerous persons. The case stems from four men held in federal custody for at least two years past the dates their respective prison sentences were to end.
The court will decide whether Congress had the power to enact the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, the 2006 measure named for the son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, murdered in 1981 in Florida.
The Fourth Circuit said Congress did not have the power to confine prisoners based on a designation of sexual danger, given the absence of any proof backing up such a designation.