Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judges Told to Toughen Reviews of Benefits Decisions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Judges Told to Toughen Reviews of Benefits Decisions

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court on Tuesday told federal judges to toughen their reviews of decisions by pension and welfare plans that deny benefits to workers.

Federal judges must evaluate the cases just as if the pension and welfare plan officials had not yet made any decision, the justices said in a unanimous ruling in a case involving Firestone Tire & Rubber Co.

The justices said federal courts have been employing a less stringent standard of review - generally not disturbing decisions by plan officials unless they are found to be ``arbitrary or capricious.''

The dispute stemmed from Firestone's sale of its plastics division in 1980 to Occidental Petroleum Corp. Last year Japan's Bridgestone Corp. paid $2.6 billion to acquire Firestone.

In other cases involving business, the Supreme Court clarified how federal copyright and patent laws apply to states, rejected an appeal by mining companies in a hazardous-waste case, rejected a challenge to the Securities and Exchange Commission's crackdown on fraud, and limited the ability of people to seek additional damages after winning a lawsuit.

- The court refused to let states and state agencies be sued for alleged violations of federal copyright law. It turned away a Radford, Va., case that highlighted a conflict between the Constitution's 11th Amendment shielding states from federal lawsuits and copyright law requiring all suits be filed in federal court.

Photographer Richard Anderson had sued Radford University, a state-run school, and some school officials over the unauthorized use in 1982 of copyright photographs.

- The court unanimously ruled that states may not offer the equivalent of patent protection for utilitarian and design ideas left unprotected by federal law. The justices killed a lawsuit in which a Florida boat manufacturer charged that its design for a fiberglass recreational boat was duplicated illegally by a competitor. …

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