Court won’t overturn bulletproof vest law

Associated Press / January 11, 2011

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused yesterday to hear a challenge against a federal law making it illegal for criminals to own bulletproof vests. The appeal had questioned Congress’s lawmaking ability under the Commerce Clause.

The high court refused to hear arguments from Cedrick B. Alderman, who was convicted under a federal law making it illegal for convicted criminals to own body armor that has been sold across state lines.

Congress passed that law in 2002, citing its authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate interstate commerce.

Alderman was convicted of armed robbery in 1999. Police caught him with a bulletproof vest in 2005, and he was sentenced to prison for 18 months.

Alderman said the law exceeded Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court refused to hear Alderman’s appeal.

Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said they would have heard the case.

Not hearing the case “threatens the proper limits on Congress’s commerce power and may allow Congress to exercise police powers that our Constitution reserves to the states,’’ Thomas said.

The court also agreed yesterday to settle a dispute between two states over how they share water from a river system.

Montana says Wyoming is taking too much water from the Tongue and Powder rivers in violation of a 1950 agreement. It asserts that more efficient irrigation in Wyoming is preventing runoff from rejoining the river and flowing downstream.

Attorney General Steve Bullock of Montana says his state wants to get the water it should. But Wyoming’s lawyer, Peter Kenneth Michael, says Wyoming is doing nothing wrong.