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9th Circuit Declines Serial ADA Plaintiff's Appeal
Court Center | 2008/04/08 14:29
The 9th Circuit refused to reconsider wheelchair-bound activist Jarek Molski's challenge to an order requiring Molski and his attorneys at the Frankovich Group to obtain special permission before filing any new lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

    U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie labeled Molski a vexatious litigant after he crusaded across the state, filing discrimination claims against businesses that failed to properly accommodate disabled patrons. His lawsuits sought large damages and usually settled quickly.

    A three-judge panel affirmed the orders against Molski and his preferred law firm in a decision the full 9th Circuit declined to reconsider. But eight judges signed Judge Berzon's dissenting opinion, in which he called for less Draconian sanctions that do not "infringe the fundamental right to access the courts."


Ohio Settles Lawsuit Over Youth Prisons
Court Center | 2008/04/04 15:07

The state of Ohio plans to pour money and resources into its juvenile detention system after settling a lawsuit alleging serious violations.

The state is promising $30 million in additional annual spending and the hiring of more than 100 extra guards. It also will hire additional psychologists, nurses, social workers and teachers, improve its off-hours programs for children and revamp its program for sex offenders.


A report released late last year found Ohio's youth prisons are overcrowded and understaffed and fail to educate children behind bars or keep them safe. It also found cases of excessive use of force.

The settlement ends legal challenges that began in 2004 with allegations of excessive force being used against girls at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility.

A judge must still approve the settlement filed Thursday in federal court in Columbus.

The state is satisfied the agreement will bring much-needed change to the system, said Tom Stickrath, director of the Youth Services Department. He said the extra funding is a strain during tight budget times but eventually could lead to lower costs as the system improves.

The annual budget for the system, which serves about 1,700 children, is about $260 million.

"It's certainly a long-term investment in doing the right thing for the youth in our system, for the juvenile courts across the state and ultimately for the citizens," Stickrath said in an interview.

"It's a difficult time to be looking at any extra resources but I think it's a needed investment in our future," he said.

A veteran civil rights attorney who helped coordinate the lawsuit commended the state for settling.

"The plan safeguards public safety while working toward more youth being served in smaller, more appropriate, community-based facilities," said Cincinnati attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein.

In 2004, lawyers with the Children's Law Center of Kentucky sued the state over allegations of excessive force being used against girls at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. Around the same time, the Department of Justice launched an investigation over the same allegations.

Twelve employees at the Scioto facility were eventually charged with abusing and endangering inmates and in early 2005 the agency's director was forced to resign.

A year ago, the Children's Law Center and other groups updated the 2004 suit to include the entire agency, saying the state had made inadequate progress on its promises to address their concerns.

In addition to overcrowding and excessive force, a report found that guards regularly place children in solitary confinement for inappropriately long periods of time, a practice that "is unconstitutional on its face" and should cease immediately.



9th Circuit: County Can't Use RICO
Court Center | 2008/03/25 16:14

An anti-illegal immigration lawsuit turned out to be much better as a metaphor than as a lawsuit.

When a former leader of Canyon County, Idaho, invoked civil RICO lawsto sue four corporations for hiring illegal immigrants, the move madeheadlines all the way up to The New York Times: The newspaper viewed it as a prism to understand how the immigration issue split the Republican Party.

But an ideologically balanced panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disposed of the complaint last week.Canyon County didn't have standing to argue that the companies' allegedhiring of illegal immigrants unfairly upped the cost of providingpublic services, Senior Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled.

"We find it particularly inappropriate to label a governmental entity'injured in its property' when it spends money on the provision ofadditional public services," Tashima wrote, "given that those servicesare based on legislative mandates and are intended to further thepublic interest."

Senior Judge William Canby Jr. and Judge Consuelo Callahan joined Tashima.



Man Pleads Guilty After Verdict Tossed
Court Center | 2008/03/20 15:59
A man who was on death row for nearly 20 years until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his verdict because of racial discrimination has pleaded guilty to the 1985 slaying for which he was originally sentenced to die.

Thomas Miller-El accepted a deal with prosecutors Wednesday that spares the 56-year-old from heading to death row for a second time but virtually assures he will never leave prison.

A judge sentenced Miller-El to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to capital murder and aggravated robbery in the killing of a hotel clerk. He waived his right to appeal in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty, reported Thursday.

The plea appeared to end a two decades-old saga in which Miller-El, who is black, had his original conviction tossed in 2005 by the high court on the grounds of racial discrimination in jury selection.

"The attitude currently in the DA's office is not conducive to the tone that existed back when Mr. Miller-El's case was tried," said Doug Parks, Miller-El's attorney.

The Supreme Court cited a manual, written in 1969 and used until at least 1980, that instructed prosecutors on how to exclude minorities from Texas juries. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter called racial discrimination in Dallas County's jury selection process unquestionable.

Miller-El was sentenced to death row in 1986 by a 12-member jury that included one black. Prosecutors struck 10 of the 11 blacks eligible to serve.

Miller-El pleaded guilty to killing Holiday Inn clerk Douglas Walker during a robbery. Walker and co-worker Donald Ray Hall were bound, gagged and shot. Hall, who was paralyzed in the shooting, identified Miller-El as the triggerman.



Court Rules in Favor of Wash. Primary
Court Center | 2008/03/18 18:07
The Supreme Court has upheld the state of Washington's open primary election system.

By a 7-2 vote, the court says the state may use a primary system that allows the top two vote-getters to advance to the general election, even if they are from the same party.

Washington never held a primary under the new system because of legal challenges.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that overturning Washington's plan would have been an "extraordinary and precipitous nullification of the will of the people."

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said Washington's system would cause a political party to be associated with candidates who may not represent its views. Scalia was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Lawyers for the political parties said David Duke has identified himself as a Republican, despite GOP repudiation of his racial views, while perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche has called himself a Democrat, despite wide disagreement with Democratic leaders.

Under Washington's system, all candidates for a particular office may list their political party preference after their names.

The top-two plan was created after state voters approved a law in 2004 allowing them to pick their favorite candidate for each office. The top two vote-getters would advance to the November general election, even if they are from the same party.

The major parties challenged the law in federal court, asserting a First Amendment right to select their own nominees without outside interference.

A federal judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the election plan.

Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna argued there was no evidence that the parties would be harmed, since they can publicize through advertising and other means which candidates they support.

Tuesday's decision is the second of two this year on the rights of political parties. In New York, the justices said the state's method of electing trial judges, which gives party bosses effective control of the process, does not violate the Constitution.



Miami appraiser pleads guilty to fraud scheme
Court Center | 2008/03/11 16:58

A Miami real estate appraiser has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for her involvement in the Southwest Ranches-area fraud scheme in Broward County, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said.

Martine Yanisse Castrillon is one of 15 defendants charged with buying homes through straw buyers at an inflated price, and then getting cash back at the closings. So far, nine defendants have pleaded guilty to various federal charges in the indictment.

Castrillon admitted that she did fraudulent appraisals -- valuing the properties at the amount requested by another defendant, not the true market price -- and forged the name of the certified appraiser who was to review her work.

According to the indictment, co-defendants Lazara Villalba and Henry Quintero-Lopez would offer the owner's full asking price and then inflate the contract purchase price to allow their companies, New World International and D&H Investments of South Florida, to receive a finder's fee, assignment fee or additional funds to allegedly construct improvements to the properties. They would then recruit individuals, who, for a fee, acted as straw buyers of the properties. Villalba and a co-defendant would obtain fraudulent pay stubs, IRS documents, verification of employment and verification of deposit forms; documents would be submitted to cooperating mortgage brokers and the loans were approved to purchase the properties.

Castrillon faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud counts and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.



US court dismisses suit on Barr's Plan B pill
Court Center | 2008/03/07 10:57
A U.S. court dismissed on Tuesday a lawsuit against U.S. health regulators over their decision to allow the sale of Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc Plan B contraceptive without a prescription.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Barr were sued by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and other groups that sought to overturn the FDA's decision.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted FDA's and Barr's motion to dismiss the suit.

The court said it agreed with defendants that plaintiffs failed had "to identify a single individual who has been harmed by Plan B's OTC (over-the-counter) availability," according to the ruling.

Plan B was approved in 1999 and the FDA broadened the approval in 2006 to allow sale to adults without a prescription. The pills must be kept behind pharmacy counters and only sold to girls younger than 18 years old with a doctor's order.

Separately, on Monday, another U.S. court found the patent for Bayer AG's Yasmin contraceptive drug to be invalid, paving the way for Barr to sell a generic version.

"It's a big win for Barr," Natixis Bleichroeder analyst Corey Davis said of the Bayer ruling. "This could be one of those nice generic products with a long tail on it," he said.


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