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Supreme Court Begins New Term With Labor Arbitration Case, Upholds Exxon Valdez Award

Aired October 2, 2000 - 1:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: For the highest court in the land, the first Monday in October means the start of a new term. Between now and next summer, justices will hear and resolve dozens of constitutional controversies, all against the backdrop of a shakeup in the executive branch with this election year.

CNN's Charles Bierbauer joins us now with a preview from the Supreme Court -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the case today before the court involves the United Mine Workers and a West Virginia coal company asking the court to override an arbitrator's requirement that the company reinstate a heavy truck driver who twice has tested positive for marijuana use. The courts will have to resolve differences on how to deal with arbitration as lower courts have struggled to try and reconcile these.

Arguing the case for the coal company was John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, ATTY. FOR EASTERN ASSOCIATED COAL CORP.: The issue is important not only in area of drug testing, where it's come up quite frequently, led to a circuit conflict, which I think is why the court took case, but in any number of areas where employers are trying to enforce workplace standards that arbitrators may not agree with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: The coal company says there's a greater public interest. What is that interest? Here's attorney Tom Goldstein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM GOLDSTEIN, APPELLATE ATTORNEY: This is the Homer Simpson case. I mean, it's the question of whether or not he really is running the nuclear reactor. You know, the public likes to feel that, OK, you have protection in arbitration, but we still would rather you're not, you know, running something that could explode and kill me. And I think that the unions care enormously about this case because they feel so strongly about the protection provided under collective bargaining, and so it matters a lot to them as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: Other examples, perhaps, the driver of a train, the pilot of an airplane or the captain of an oil tanker, such as the Exxon Valdez where alcohol was a problem.

Coincidentally, the court today denied an appeal by Exxon Corporation. That denial will require Exxon to continue to be liable for $5 billion in damages as a result of that oil spill in Alaska.

Other cases coming up quickly: clean air, clean water, disabilities. All of these will be addressed by the court in the term just under way today -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Charles Bierbauer, and thank you.

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