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Reputation Battle Tied to 4th Circuit Nominee
Court Center | 2008/09/15 14:18
American International Group conspired with its law firm, McGuireWoods, to defame a Richmond attorney to try to avoid public embarrassment while a McGuireWoods lawyer sought a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, attorney Christopher Spencer claims in Federal Court.

Spencer claims the defendants conspired to defame him and abused the legal process. He says they did this by falsely blaming him for mishandling a major personal injury appeal while McGuireWoods was facing $90 million in malpractice claims.

"This case is about two men who used some of the largest insurance companies in America and abused the process of the court to trash the good name of (a) reputable lawyer," Spencer states in his federal lawsuit. "James Maddiona, a top official with one of the largest insurance groups in the world, AIG, and Patrick Regan, a Washington attorney, conspired to help AIG's longtime law firm avoid public embarrassment and to promote one of that firm's lawyer's to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals - all at Spencer's expense.

"AIG had hired McGuireWoods LLP ('McGuireWoods') and Earle Duncan Getchell Jr. to handle post-trial motions and to prosecute an appeal in a major personal injury case. Getchell and McGuireWoods certified that all the trial transcripts had been filed. The Virginia Supreme Court later found that certification was false. The appeal was dismissed as a result.

"AIG knew who was to blame. After all, the only reason Getchell and were (sic) in the case was so that they could handle the post-trial motions and the appeal. In fact, John S. Barr, inside 'general counsel' of McGuireWoods, actually admitted that Getchell and McGuireWoods were responsible. But McGuireWoods and Getchell needed a favor. As of 2005, they were looking at a total of Ninety Million Dollars ($90,000,000) in claims for malpractice against the firm's vaunted appellate team and Getchell. The law firm did not want this publicized. Getchell did not want these matters to interfere with his desire for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.

"Maddiona and Regan joined with Barr, Getchell, McGuireWoods and others in a scheme that would make McGuireWoods and Getchell look good by making Spencer look bad. They decided to make Spencer the fall guy for Getchell's and McGuireWoods' mistake and falsely claim that the dismissal was Spencer's fault and his alone.

"They participated in a public relations campaign based entirely upon false statements. They abused the process of the courts. They did these things to help McGuireWoods and Getchell, to gratify their own feelings and to hurt Spencer."

The alleged defamation came during the appeal of an $8.3 million personal injury award to Jessica Grigg, who was injured at Wintergreen Resort, a ski area, the complaint states.


'We're Not Cougars,' Women Say In Suit
Court Center | 2008/09/11 14:11
Three women say their girls' night out ended with a cable TV station setting them up to look like they were trolling for younger men, and then broadcasting the action as "The Great Cougar Hunt."

Christine Torres and Charnette Hildreth say they were celebrating Tammi Tary's birthday at the Chapter Eight dance club when an employee of defendant G4 Media asked if he could videotape them. The women say they refused.

Later, they say, two young men sat down at their table and began talking with them. The women say the men turned out to be paid props whom G4 used to portray them falsely as "cougars," or "sexually cunning 35+ females on the hunt for a much younger energetic male."

At the end of the evening, the women say, G4 employees approached them again, asking them to sign a release consenting to G4's use of their voices and likenesses. The women say they refused.

Eight months later, the women say, they discovered "The Great Cougar Hunt" on G4's cable station. The video portrayed their birthday party as a group of "older women" looking for younger men at a "world famous cougar hot spot."

According to the complaint, the video describes "cougars" as the "easiest, most ravenous" prey for younger men.

The women say they were "not attempting to meet or 'hunt' younger men." They say they do not even date younger men.

The plaintiffs say the defendants have lined their own pockets with a video that has exposed them to "contempt and ridicule and has caused others to shun or avoid (them)."

G4 originally was devoted to gaming programming, but now bills its content as "general male-interest programming."

The women demand punitive damages of at least $1 million. They are represented by Neville Johnson in Superior Court.


EU Court Unfreezes Assets of Saudi Charity
Court Center | 2008/09/08 14:23
Europe's highest court overturned a decision by the EU governments to freeze the assets of a Saudi businessman and a Sweden-based charity because of their alleged ties to terrorist groups.

The ruling allows judicial review of a regulation by the United Nations Security Council requiring member states to freeze the assets of individuals and organizations with ties to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida or the Taliban.

But the European Court of Justice said the Security Council should not have deprived Yasin Al-Qadi and the Al Barakaat International Foundation of their property without giving them a chance to defend themselves in court.


NY Judge dismisses challenge to gay marriage recognition
Court Center | 2008/09/08 14:22
Judge Lucy Billings of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that challenged the decision made by New York Governor David Paterson to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. The lawsuit, brought by conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defense Fund [advocacy website], asked the court to declare that Governor Paterson's May 14, 2008 Executive Directive recognizing such marriages "contravenes New York law" and asked the court to "permanently enjoin the Directive's enforcement, because it exceeds the Governor's lawful authority." In dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Billings wrote
Governor Paterson's Executive Directive dated May 14, 2008, requiring state agencies to recognize same sex marriages legally solemnized in other jurisdictions is consistent with New York's common law, statutory law, and constitutional separation of powers regarding recognition of marriages legally solemnized outside New York. ... The court therefore denies the declaratory and injunctive relief sought by the amended petition and grants respondents' motions to dismiss this proceeding.
Governor Paterson's Executive Directive notes a February decision by an intermediate New York appellate court in Martinez v. County of Monroe  holding that legal same-sex marriages performed outside the state are entitled to recognition in New York. The memo was dated one day before the California Supreme Court overturned a state ban on same-sex marriage in In re Marriage Cases.


Court Chides Judiciary for Relying on Wikipedia
Court Center | 2008/09/03 14:28
An immigration judge should not have relied on information the Department of Homeland Security gleaned from Wikipedia to bolster its case for denying asylum to an Ethiopian immigrant, the 8th Circuit ruled.

The government used the free online encyclopedia to glean information about the purpose of a laissez-passer, the travel document that petitioner Lamilem Badasa claimed would establish her identity.

The Board of Immigration Appeals stated that it did "not condone or encourage the use of resources such as Wikipedia.com in reaching pivotal decisions in immigration proceedings," but held that the immigration judge's denial of asylum was "supported by enough evidence to find no clear error."

However, Judge Colloton said the immigration judge might not have denied asylum without the use of Wikipedia. The court also reiterated that anyone can edit the entries in the online reference.

"Because the BIA's ultimate conclusion that Badasa failed to establish her identity is not adequately explained," Colloton wrote, "we must remand for further proceedings.


Landlord Can Demand Gold Coins, Court Says
Court Center | 2008/09/02 14:17
The owners of a building in downtown Cleveland have the right to ask for payment in gold coins, the 6th Circuit ruled.

The landowner, 216 Jamaica Avenue, sued S&R Playhouse Realty to enforce a "gold clause" in the original lease for the Halle Building, which was signed in 1912.

Instead of being paid the annual $35,000 rent in cash, Jamaica asked to be paid in 35,000 gold coins. The district court declined to enforce the clause, but Judge Sutton reversed the decision.

Gold clauses were used as a safety net against the effects of inflation until they were outlawed by Congress in 1933. Forty-four years later, Congress reversed field and allowed gold clauses to be enforced again.

Despite this winding road, Sutton ruled that the 99-year lease signed by the Halle brothers in 1912 is still standing because the 1982 assignment agreement between the two parties obligated S&R to the terms of the lease.

"The parties to a contract are free to structure it however they wish, so long as they do not offend a constitutional, statutory or common-law prohibition," Judge Sutton wrote.

The judge also refuted S&R's objection that there was no "meeting of the minds" by noting that the assignment agreement quoted extensively from the 1912 contract.

"That clarity precludes S&R from establishing that the parties failed to have an objective meeting of the minds," Sutton wrote.

Since the gold clause is enforceable, Sutton remanded the case to district court to determine how much S&R will have to pay.


Sixth Circuit Upholds Nudity Ban in Ohio
Court Center | 2008/08/19 14:27
Ohio's prohibition on nudity and sexual activity at establishments where alcohol is served is not unconstitutional, the 6th Circuit ruled.

The district court had issued an injunction preventing the enforcement of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission's Rule 52.

J.L. Spoons Inc., the owner of a group of Ohio strip clubs, had claimed that Rule 52 violated its First Amendment rights, because some artistic dance performances may be found to violate the rule.

Judge Siler overruled the district court, stating that the rule is not unconstitutionally over-broad.

"Persons desiring to perform mainstream works of art involving nudity and sexual activity may do so in an establishment that is not licensed to sell liquor," Siler wrote. "Mainstream works of art that merely suggest sexual activity will not be burdened."


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