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News Briefs II

Supreme Court Rejects Miranda Case over Booking Questions

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court on Monday spurned Maryland's request to reinstate the conviction of a suspect who was asked at police headquarters whether he used drugs before he was warned he had the right to remain silent.

By declining to take the case, the justices let stand a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals which found that a response to a standard booking question about drug use could not be used against a defendant unless he first had been read his Miranda rights. The Maryland attorney general had argued that the booking question was not meant to be part of a criminal interrogation, requiring a warning, but rather was asked for routine administrative purposes.

The high court's refusal to take up the Maryland case lessens the chance that incriminating answers to booking questions can be used against a defendant at trial. The court's order - issued without any comment - also is a reminder of the enduring force of Miranda vs. Arizona, the controversial 1966 decision that sealed the Warren Court's liberal reputation, prompted police outrage and drove politicians to run on "law and order" platforms.

While the Supreme Court has allowed some exceptions to Miranda, for example, in situations when an officer may quickly ask "Where's the gun?" the justices have declined over three decades to reverse a ruling that requires suspects in custody to be warned they have the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present.

U.S. Starts Investigation Into Union Dispute in Mexico

Los Angeles Times
SAN DIEGO

The U.S. Labor Department launched an investigation Monday of a frustrated attempt by Tijuana, Mexico, factory workers to create an independent union, a move that will mean deeper scrutiny of labor practices in Baja California's growing "maquiladora" industry.

The independent union got a majority of the votes in an election at the Han Young factory Oct. 6, but a dozen of its supporters have lost their jobs and the Tijuana labor board has refused to recognize the union.

The ill-fated union effort at Han Young, which manufactures chassis for Hyundai Precision America in San Diego, was cited by a dozen U.S. congressmen in their opposition to President Clinton's recent bid for fast-track authority to negotiate new free-trade agreements. They said the union dispute underscores their concerns about companies moving operations to nations with low wages and few worker safeguards, robbing Americans of jobs.

"We are very concerned about the seriousness of the allegations," said Irasema Garza, secretary of the U.S. Labor Department's National Administrative Office, which has reviewed seven previous complaints of labor practices in Mexico since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.

The Tijuana labor board rejected the independent union Nov. 10, saying the 54-34 majority vote did not prove all 116 Han Young workers supported it. They said the workers were ineligible to join the metal workers union and that the union was not properly registered - contentions union advocates reject.