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Second Circuit Protects Plaintiff's Anonymity
Legal Watch | 2008/08/18 15:27
A woman who filed a lawsuit for physical and sexual assault should be allowed to remain anonymous, the 2nd Circuit ruled in a question of first impression.

Judge Cabranes found that the district court improperly dismissed the plaintiff's case due to her refusal to give her name.

While plaintiffs usually must state their names to give the opposition a chance to mount a defense, Cabranes ruled that the district court stuck to the letter of the law without considering whether plaintiff had a legitimate need to keep her identity hidden.

"The district court did not balance the plaintiff's interest in proceeding anonymously against the interests of the defendants and the public," Cabranes wrote.


9th Circ. upholds denial of Oregon domestic partnership
Legal Watch | 2008/08/15 14:12
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Thursday that Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury did not violate the constitutional rights of voters who signed a petition to hold a referendum on a state law establishing same-sex domestic partnerships. Bradbury struck over 200 signatures from the petition after officials found that many of the signatures did not match those on voter registration cards. He then announced that the petition was approximately 100 signatures short of the required number. Voters were not permitted to contest the decision by introducing extrinsic evidence, and so signators brought suit, alleging violations of due process and equal protection guarantees. The Ninth Circuit held that any burden placed on the plaintiffs' fundamental right to vote was minimal and held that there had been no constitutional violations:
The Secretary’s procedures already allow chief petitioners and members of the public to observe the signature verification process and challenge decisions by county elections officials. The value of additional procedural safeguards therefore is negligible, and the burden on plaintiffs’ interests from the state’s failure to adopt their proposed procedures is slight at most.
Plaintiffs had unsuccessfully asserted that Oregon was required to provide them with an opportunity to "rehabilitate" the stricken signatures, and also argued that the lack of uniform statewide rules for verifying referendum signatures violated Bush v. Gore.

The US District Court for the District of Oregon ruled in February that the domestic partnership law should be allowed to take effect after it was suspended last December. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the bill into law last May after it was passed by the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate. The law would have taken effect on January 1 of this year had there been no lawsuit.


Inmate Says He's Too Fat for Lethal Injection
Legal Watch | 2008/08/05 14:14
An obese death-row inmate claims his size could hinder the effect of one of the drugs used in lethal injection and will make it difficult for executioners to find his veins.

Richard Wade Cooey II filed a federal lawsuit asking Gov. Ted Strickland to bar his Oct. 14 execution until the state addresses his claims. At 5 feet 7, weighing more than 260 pounds, Cooey says he is too fat to be put to death. He claims the potential problems associated with his weight, including the possibility that the anesthetic will have a minimal effect on him, would render lethal injection a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Cooey, 41, was sentenced to death for raping and killing two women in 1986.


Comedian Says Heckler's Lawsuit Isn't Funny
Legal Watch | 2008/07/28 14:39
Toronto comedian Guy Earle has sued the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal to have a heckler's human-rights complaint against him dismissed.

In May 2007, according to Earle's petition in B.C. Supreme Court, he was hosting an open mic comedy night advertised as "Vancouver's Edgiest Comedy - Not for the Faint of Heart." His onstage persona, the petition states, was "an asshole comic." Lorna Pardy and two friends began heckling him by kissing and yelling, the petition states, and "in the course of trying to silence (Pardy), whom he regarded as an inconsiderate heckler, Mr. Earle used rude language which referenced (Pardy's) sexual preference. (Pardy) continued to heckle."

Earle claims he later tried to make peace with Pardy, but she allegedly threatened him and threw drinks in his face. Pardy later filed a human-rights complaint against Earle, despite an apology, and the tribunal denied Earle's application to dismiss. He claims the tribunal lacks jurisdiction and that the B.C. Human Rights Code is unconstitutional because it's overbroad, vague and it unreasonably infringes upon his right to freedom of expression.

"Guy Earle is not a homophobe," the petition states. "On the contrary, Mr. Earle has many friends and colleagues who are homosexual. He reasserts his unreserved apology to (Pardy) for any suffering she may have experienced as a result of his spontaneous expressions of frustration at her disruption of the performance."

Earle is represented by James Millar.


Court will review $2.8 million award to Iranian
Legal Watch | 2008/06/22 15:50
The Supreme Court will review a ruling that allows the brother of an Iranian terrorism victim to collect $2.8 million.

The justices said Monday they will consider overturning a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the case of Dariush Elahi, who is seeking the money as compensation for the killing of his brother, Cyrus, in Paris in 1990.

French authorities blamed the Iranian government for the killing.

In 2000, Dariush Elahi sued Iran in federal court in Washington. The Iranian government failed to respond to the lawsuit and, after a trial, a judge awarded Elahi $11.7 million in compensatory and $300 million in punitive damages.

When Dariush Elahi accepted $2.3 million from the U.S. government under a law that allows terrorism victims to collect damages from the U.S. Treasury, lawyers for the Bush administration and the Iranian government said he relinquished his claim to the rest of the original judgment.

But the appeals court said that he is entitled to collect another $2.8 million from a California company that owes Iran for a canceled weapons shipment.



Court Nixes Dog-Killing Deputy's Job Transfer
Legal Watch | 2008/05/23 14:46
A sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a dog while on duty should not have been reassigned to the same sheriff's department, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled.

Deputy David Freeman was bitten by a dog, and the owner refused to help him. Freeman responded by shooting the dog, causing injuries so severe that the dog had to be euthanized.

But the bitten deputy suffered only minor injuries that did not require a trip to the hospital.

Sheriff David Zoellner fired Freeman for violating department policy. Freeman appealed to the Leavenworth County civil service board, which transferred him to a "comparable position in the Jail Division."

Judge Marquardt affirmed the district court's ruling that the board had improperly placed Freeman in a different section of the same sheriff's department.

The district court found that the law's provision for Freeman to go to a different department means a "law enforcement office completely separate and apart from the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office."

The appeals court reversed the board's order to transfer Freeman to a different county, saying the board lacked the authority to do so.


Taser Stuns Coroners with Win in Autopsy Reports Case
Legal Watch | 2008/05/08 14:37

An Ohio judge has given medical examiners around the country a shock by ordering a coroner to remove any reference to Tasers in her autopsy reports on three men who died after police officers shot them with the stun guns.

Amnesty International estimates that since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the U.S. following Taser shocks, but the gun's manufacturer has been suing medical examiners who have cited its products in autopsy reports.

That aggressive strategy paid off big time after a four-day bench trial of Taser International's case against Dr. Lisa Kohler, the chief medical examiner of Summit County, Ohio. She had identified the physiological stress of being incapacitated by a 50,000-volt Taser as a contributory cause of the deaths of Dennis Hyde, 30, Richard Holcomb, 18, and Mark McCullaugh, 28.

“There is simply no medical, scientific, or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser X26 had anything to do with the death[s],” Court of Common Pleas Judge Ted Schneiderman said in a May 2 decision.

Under Ohio law, a judge can direct a coroner “to change his decision as to [the] cause and manner and mode of death.” Schneiderman ordered the county to delete any reference to a “contributing factor of electrical pulse incapacitation” in the Hyde and Holcomb autopsy reports and similar language in the McCullaugh report.



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