The Supreme Court on Monday refused to squelch the lawsuit of a Tacoma, Wash., woman who says she was raped after a policeman left her stranded in a high-crime area late at night.
The justices, without comment, left intact a ruling that will force a trial on the woman's allegations against Washington State Trooper Steven Ostrander.In a separate case, the court refused to reinstate a $750,000 award won, and then lost, by a woman raped in a Cleveland-area public transit system parking lot.
The Tacoma woman's 1985 civil rights suit contends Ostrander violated her constitutional right by placing her in danger and failing to provide any protection.
In other action, the court:
- Let stand a ruling that boosted a federal judge's power to order predominantly white suburban schools to accept inner-city black students.
The justices, without comment, rejected an appeal by three Kansas City, Mo., suburban school districts facing such a desegregation order. The case is an outgrowth of a long-standing court battle over desegregation of Kansas City's public schools.
- Agreed to resolve a dispute over black lung benefits that may affect $650 million in claims by coal miners and their families.
The court said it will decide how difficult it should be for mining companies to challenge claims by as many as 3,500 miners.
- Allowed a state to automatically impose longer sentences for criminals who used guns.
The court, without comment, let stand a Montana law used to add 10 years to the 30-year prison sentence given a man who brandished a gun during a pizza shop robbery.
In a separate case, the court refused to let police in Massachusetts stop and search someone solely because that person reportedly was carrying a handgun in public.
- Let stand a ruling that the at-large system used in Norfolk, Va., city council elections violates the rights of black voters.
- Refused to kill a civil rights lawsuit against a Texas city that cracked down on "cruising" teenagers five years ago.
In the Tacoma rape case, at about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 23, 1984, Ostrander stopped a car driven by Robert Bell because its headlights were on high-beam.
After speaking to Bell, Ostrander arrested him on drunken-driving charges and called for a tow truck to impound the car.
The Tacoma woman says Ostrander, after ordering her out of the car, simply got into his patrol car and drove away. He says he offered to call a friend or relative who could give her a ride home but that she declined his offer.
Bell's car had been stopped in the Parkland area of Pierce County, south of Tacoma and about five miles from the woman's home. Court records indicate the area has the highest violent-crime rate in the county outside of Tacoma.
The temperature was 50 degrees, and the woman was wearing only a blouse and jeans. She says that after walking a half-block toward her home and having turned down several ride offers from strangers, she accepted one from an unknown man.
The woman's suit says the driver took her to a secluded area and raped her. Her lawyers said the rape impregnated her and resulted in the birth of a child.
A federal judge dismissed the suit but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, voting 2-1, reinstated it.