updated 3/22/2004 12:19:26 PM ET 2004-03-22T17:19:26

The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal questioning the conduct of a federal judge involved in lawsuits over the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas.

The high court did not comment in rejecting a pair of appeals from survivors and from families of children who died in the fire that swept the complex in April 1993.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith, the only federal judge sitting in Waco, refused to recuse himself despite what the Davidians called a demonstrated bias against them.

At one point the judge referred to part of the Davidians’ case as “bullcrap,” lawyers for surviving family members alleged. He also allegedly referred to a witness as a “crazy, murdering son of a bitch.”

Smith dismissed most of the claims against the federal government in 1999, and dismissed the rest of the case following a trial in 2000 in which an advisory jury found the government was not negligent.

The cases are Thompson v. Chojnacki, 03-838 and Brown v. United States, 03-849.

Also Monday, The Supreme Court:

—Refused to hear an appeal over contaminated meat that sickened 60 patrons of two Sizzler restaurants and killed a 3-year-old girl.

The court did not comment in turning down a request from Excel Corp., a meat company that supplied restaurants with contaminated beef four years ago. The Wichita, Kansas, company wanted the justices to overturn a Wisconsin appeals court that had held the meat company responsible for an outbreak of E. coli.

A Wisconsin appeals court reinstated 14 lawsuits against Excel last year, holding that the company can be sued despite what the company claims are federal standards protecting it from liability.

At issue in the Supreme Court appeal is an interpretation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which requires inspection of meat products, slaughterhouses and processing plants and bars the shipment of “adulterated” meat.

The Agriculture Department has said that the mere presence of the bacteria E. Coli on steaks or other meats does not mean the beef is adulterated. The bacteria is killed during normal cooking.

The Wisconsin court wrongly ignored that interpretation of whether meat is adulterated, Excel’s lawyers argued. As a result, meat processors could be subject to different standards depending on how individual courts view the question, the lawyer argued.

Brianna Kriefall of Milwaukee died after eating fruit from a Sizzler salad bar.

The case is Excel Corp. v. Kriefall, 03-862

—Refused to revive a lawsuit filed by the fisherman who rescued Elian Gonzalez and demonstrators and neighbors of the shipwrecked Cuban refugee’s Miami relatives.

The group alleged their constitutional rights were violated during the raid to seize Elian four years ago and return him to his father in Cuba. A federal appeals court had ruled last year that the 52 plaintiffs could not sue former Attorney General Janet Reno.

Reno has immunity from then suit, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June, reversing a lower court decision.

Armed federal agents removed Elian, then 6, from his Cuban-American family’s home before dawn on April 22, 2000. Reno said she had to order the raid because the family refused to turn over the boy following a five-month custody fight.

“Reno ordered the commencement of a raid to seize Elian by force, knowing that a strike force of 151 heavily armed federal agents would be unleashed on the Gonzalez family’s home and neighborhood,” lawyers for Donato Dalrymple and the others wrote.

The plaintiffs said they were kicked, punched, thrown down and gassed with pepper spray and tear gas.

Dalrymple later aligned himself with Elian’s Miami relatives and was trying to hide with Elian in a bedroom closet when a uniformed agent burst and took the boy at gunpoint.

The case is Dalrymple v. Reno, 03-841.

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