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Kelley / Uustal Wins More Than $1 Million in Back Pay for Former Alamo Employee
Firm News/Florida | 2008/07/17 21:44
McDonald Clark was the marketing genius behind Alamo-Rent-a-Car’s glory days.    When Alamo was taken over by Republic Industries in 1996, Republic entered into a new employment contract with Clark which provided for certain payments to Clark for 10 years if his contract was not renewed.  Republic later changed its name to AutoNation and spun off Alamo into a separate company.  When Alamo went bankrupt, AutoNation refused to make the payments.

Clark hired the attorneys at Kelley / Uustal to fight to enforce the agreement.  After six years of litigation, the jury found that Clark was entitled to $1,098,800.  The jury deliberated for only a few minutes after the four-day trial, which included testimony from a host of former Republic executives, including Steve Berrard and Michael Karsner.

“McDonald had a contract which was negotiated by Republic, written by Republic on Republic letterhead, and signed by Republic’s CEO, Steve Berrard,” explained John Uustal, who tried the case with his partner, Todd Falzone.  “Republic tried to use Alamo’s bankruptcy as an excuse to avoid responsibility.  But the jury didn’t buy it.  A deal’s a deal.”

Clark’s five-year contract with Alamo included a 10-year, $100,000-a-year salary continuation benefit that would begin at the end of the contract.  One year into the contract, Alamo was sold and Republic, now AutoNation, renegotiated the contract.  In 2000, the contract was not renewed, and Clark began receiving his salary continuation payments.  By November of 2001, however, Alamo filed bankruptcy and the payments stopped.

“AutoNation’s CEO gave Mr. Clark his word that this contract would be fully honored.  But when it came time for them to make good on that promise, AutoNation turned its back,” said Falzone.  “Thanks to the Judge and Jury, we had a fair trial and a just verdict.”

Mr.  Clark’s claim for attorney’s fees is still pending.


Feds Say Retiree Was Nazi SS Guard
Headline News | 2008/07/17 14:21
The Department of Justice wants to revoke the citizenship of an 86-year-old Seattle-area man, claiming he participated in a Nazi SS mobile death squad unit operating in Serbia during World War II. Prosecutors say Peter Egner was a guard in an Einsatzgruppe unit responsible for the deaths of more than 6,000 Jewish women and children at Semlin concentration camp near Belgrade.

Egner admitted serving as a guard at the camp during an interview with federal authorities in 2007. On his application for naturalization, filed in 1965, Egner claimed he was an infantry sergeant in the German army; he omitted his SS service, prosecutors say. They seek the immediate deportation of Egner, who is living in a retirement home in Bellevue


New Jersey court strikes down sex offender residence laws
Court Center | 2008/07/16 14:30

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey on Tuesday struck down two municipal ordinances that prohibited convicted sex offenders from living near schools, parks, playgrounds and day care centers. The Appellate Division ruled that New Jersey's statewide sex offender registry program, known as Megan's Law, preempted the local ordinances and provided the state and all municipalities with a uniform rehabilitation and public safety plan. The court explained:

The far-reaching scope of Megan's Law and its multilayered enforcement and monitoring mechanisms constitute a comprehensive system chosen by the Legislature to protect society from the risk of reoffense by CSOs and to provide for their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. The system is all-encompassing regarding the activities of CSOs living in the community. We conclude that the ordinances conflict with the expressed and implied intent of the Legislature to exclusively regulate this field, as a result of which the ordinances are preempted.

The court added that the ordinances, which prohibited CSOs from living within 2500 feet of a variety of locations frequented by children, had the effect of barring CSOs from upwards of two-thirds of the towns which had enacted the ordinances, and violated provisions of Megan's Law that expressly prohibited disclosing CSO information for the purposes of denying individuals housing and accommodations. AP has more.

Courts in other states have also overturned or restricted laws seeking to limit housing options for registered sex offenders. In May, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned [opinion, a 2006 state law that prohibited sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, or youth center. Last November, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously overturned a state law that prohibited registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds and other areas where children gather. Civil rights groups had criticized the law as overly strict, saying that the state's roughly 11,000 registered sex offenders would have been barred from living in almost any residential area. In February 2007 a federal judge ruled that California's Proposition 83, which prohibited California sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any place where children regularly gather, could not be applied retroactively to more than 90,000 paroled sex offenders because there was nothing in the measure to indicate that intent.



Dallas Schools Accused Of Racist Policy
Headline News | 2008/07/15 14:15
The Dallas Independent School District discriminates against black children and poor children in school spending, parents and students claim in Federal Court. They say one predominantly black school is so underfunded it has bathrooms with no doors inside classrooms.

Plaintiffs, including The Coalition to Maximize Education, cite a litany of alleged racist abuses involving a $1.3 billion bond approved in 2002 and a $1.35 billion bond in 2008.

They claim DISD bond manager John Williams was fired after complaining that the DISD was re-allocation bond money from black neighborhoods to other schools.

They claim a 2002 DISD facilities study found $2.3 billion worth of work was needed, primarily in black schools, but the DISD ignored that list in its 2008 study, though those needs had not been addressed.
   
Maynard Jackson Junior High School has restrooms "inside many of the classrooms," the complaint states. "Many of them have no stall doors, creating an untenable privacy situation for the coeducational students."

The complaint states: "DISD's neglect of Maynard Jackson, for example, resulted in the exposure to poisonous gases in the facility. Numerous reports were given to the administration about the situation. For years there have been sewer problems at this school and in some instances raw sewage was on the front lawn of the campus. The stench was so strong that students and personnel complained."

Plaintiffs claim the DISD is continuing its racist spending policies with the $1.35 billion bond that voters approved in May, by "diverting resources away from communities that are in the most need".

It cites Roosevelt High School, South Oak Cliff High School, D.A. Hulsey Middle School and James Madison as more exampled of underfunded, dilapidated campuses.

Conditions in black school are so wretched that parents have their children bused to other schools, and the DISD uses the declining enrollment to justify cutting funding even more, parents say.
 


Ibuprofen Strip Search Violated Student's Rights
Court Center | 2008/07/14 14:30
School officials violated the Fourth Amendment of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her for two Advil tablets, a divided 9th Circuit ruled.

Judge Wardlaw, writing for the 6-5 majority, found that officials at Safford (Ariz.) Middle School were not protected by qualified immunity.

While searching for the source of a drug problem at the school, officials received a tip that a girl named Marissa had supplied students with Advil to take at lunchtime.

Marissa implicated another student named Savana Redding, an honor student who had never been in trouble before. Redding was summoned to the principal's office.

Although a search of Redding's backpack revealed no drugs, she was still taken to the bathroom by a school nurse and forced to strip to her underwear. She also had to expose her private parts to prove she had no drugs.

The only link to implicate Redding was the testimony of a student who was caught red-handed, Wardlaw noted. Even the anonymous tip about Marissa's drug possession did not mention Redding.

"Officials who strip-searched Savana acted contrary to all reason and common sense as they trampled over her legitimate and substantial interest in privacy and security of her person," Wardlaw wrote.

Judges Gould, Silverman, Hawkins, Bea and Kozinski dissented.


Anti-Smoking Drug Induces Violent Psychosis, Patient Claims
Headline News | 2008/07/11 14:14
Pfizer's smoking-cessation drug Chantix induced manic, violent psychosis requiring hospitalization, a man claims in Federal Court. He claims Pfizer failed to warn about the side effects, which have "caused serious injury and death."

Chantix is supposed to work by inhibiting nicotine receptors in the brain. Those receptors are controlled by dopamine, a neurotransmitter, the complaint states: "Essentially, Chantix regulates/restricts dopamine and blocks pleasure sensors to depress the normal flux of emotions experiences by humans in daily life."

Brian Kline claims Pfizer concealed and misrepresented the risks of Chantix (varenicline), knew that it was unsafe and had "caused serious injury and death," but failed to warn of it. He claims he took the drug, "which caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries and damages including but not limited to manic behavior, aggressive and violent behavior and diagnosis of psychotic disorder for which the plaintiff was hospitalized in August 2007.

Kline claims Pfizer intentionally excluded from its clinical trials people with histories of depression or psychological disorders. He claims that Chantix is derived from cytosine, and that Pfizer knew or should have known that cytosine was linked as early as 1972 to suicides and attempted suicides.

Kline demands punitive damages. He is represented by Scott Levensten


Federal court orders hearing on mental retardation claim
Headline News | 2008/07/10 14:24

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Wednesday ordered a federal court to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider whether a man sentenced to death for murder might be mentally retarded. After Michael Wayne Hall was convicted of the 1998 killing of a 19-year-old woman, he claimed at state habeas proceedings that he was mentally retarded. While Hall's state habeas claim was pending in Texas, the Supreme Court decided Atkins v. Virginia, holding that the execution of mentally retarded individuals is unconstitutional and outlining heightened standards for determining a defendant's developmental status. The Fifth Circuit held Wednesday that Hall is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to prove his contentions because:

[T]he facts before us are a core manifestation of a case where the state fails to provide a full and fair hearing and where such a hearing would bring out facts which, if proven true, support habeas relief...[T]he state court's erroneous factfinding and its refusal to accept more than paper submissions despite the development of a new constitutional standard and a lack of guidance from the state on that standard deprived Hall of a full and fair hearing at the state level...Given the material errors in credibility determinations and factfinding at the state level, we are persuaded that the determination of Hall's claim, caught in the immediate uncertainty following Atkins, was so freighted with a risk of error in factfinding that the failure of the district court below to conduct a meaningful hearing was an abuse of discretion in these unusual and unique circumstances.
Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Judge Patrick Higginbotham asserted that the district court should enter an order that unless the state provides Hall with a constitutionally adequate evidentiary hearing within 120 days, Hall will no longer be eligible to receive a death sentence

In August 2007, the European Union urged Texas officials to halt all executions in the state and to consider introducing a moratorium on death sentences. EU officials specifically praised the ruling in Atkins and asked the state to expand it to those with severe mental illness. Texas has since maintained its death-penalty policy, and other states have followed suit. In 29 states, the defendant carries the burden of proving mental retardation in death-penalty cases to receive a lesser sentence.



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