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CHILDREN FROM TROUBLED HOMES CAN'T SUE COURTS, STATE OFFICIALS

Children from troubled families may not turn to federal courts and sue state officials who fail to protect them adequately, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The court's 7-2 decision said that neither a 1980 law aimed at helping children from troubled homes nor a civil rights law are available to children who say they were abused or neglected because of mistakes or inaction by state officials.At issue was the scope and impact of the federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. It provides money for states and in return requires them to make "reasonable efforts" to keep children with their families and to assure adequate care for children facing adoption or placement in foster homes.

A group of children sued the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, contending that the agency was too slow in assigning caseworkers for children from troubled homes.

Lower courts said the children could file such a federal lawsuit under the 1980 act and a 19th Century civil rights law.

But writing for the high court Wednesday, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said, "Congress did not intend to create a private remedy for enforcement of the (1980 law's) `reasonable efforts' clause."

In other action, the court:

- Made it easier for prosecutors to win multiple convictions against some defendants, particularly those accused of criminal conspiracies.

The justices unanimously reinstated major parts of a federal conviction against Frank Dennis Felix in an Oklahoma drug case.

A lower court said Felix was the victim of unconstitutional double jeopardy because previously he was convicted of related drug offenses in federal court in Missouri.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, writing for the high court, said, "A conspiracy to commit a crime is a separate offense from the crime itself. The conspiracy charge against Felix was an offense distinct from any crime for which he had been previously prosecuted."

- Upheld the right of Congress to temporarily bar legal challenges to logging in the habitat of the threatened northern spotted owl.

The 9-0 ruling could permit some 16 Pacific Northwest timber sales worth more than $30 million to the industry and the federal government. The sales were allowed under a 1989 law that has since expired.