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Justices Mull Environmental Law, Job Discrimination

The Supreme Court appeared divided over judges' authority to limit the U.S. Navy's use of sonar to protect whales and weighed a workplace harrassment case Wednesday. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal recaps the day in the courtroom.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now, two arguments before the Supreme Court, and to Judy Woodruff.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    On just the third day of their new term, the justices today tackled two of the main issues on their docket this year: environmental law and job discrimination.

    Here to walk us through both cases is NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

    Hello, Marcia.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    Hi, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right, these are two really interesting cases…

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    Yes, they are.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    … one of them, the United States Navy against the whales off the coast of California. Let's start by telling us what it is that the Navy and the Bush administration are — what they argue as they bring this case?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    The Navy is basically challenging a court order here that imposed restrictions on how it conducts very complicated, sophisticated sonar training exercises off the coast of Southern California.

    The judge here, in order to protect marine mammals, said that the Navy had to power off the sonar if a marine mammal came within 2,200 yards of the sonar source or power down 75 percent if the Navy detected activity in the water.

    The judge's order was the result of a lawsuit filed by an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which claimed the Navy had violated federal law by not doing an environmental impact statement before starting the training exercises.