Businessman Says Joe Arpaio Ruined Him
Legal Topics | 2008/08/18 17:03
 Joe Arpaio, the publicity-hungry sheriff of Maricopa County, staged a media event by bursting into a man's home and accusing him of running an illegal chop shop, though Arpaio was simply serving a warrant for an unpaid traffic ticket, a man claims in Maricopa County Court.

Terry Jorgensen claims Arpaio also seized more than $100,000 in tools and jet skis and refused to return them, driving Jorgensen out of business and making him homeless.

In his pro se, but cogent, complaint, Jorgensen says Arpaio staged the raid on Feb. 6, 2003, then on April 6, 2006, charged him with six felonies, including running a chop shop. Jorgensen claims that in August 2007, "Superior Court Judge Roza Mroz ruled that the search warrant violated the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search, dismissed the case, and ordered the return of plaintiff's property. Although plaintiff has a court order for its return, the MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) refuses to return a single item."

Jorgensen says he was earning $100,000 a year when Arpaio staged his raid and ruined his business. He claims Arpaio's stunt cost him more than $500,000 and made him homeless.

Arpaio, the self-proclaimed "Toughest Sheriff in America," has made national news for years by, among other things, putting prisoners to work on chain gangs and housing them in tents.


Fifth Circuit rules on jurors using Bible
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/15 15:53
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday refused to grant a writ of habeas corpus to convicted murder Khristian Oliver, who had argued that his Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights were violated when the jury took Bible passages into account when deliberating on his eventual death sentence. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas had made a factual finding that the Bible did not influence the jury’s decision, and the Ninth Circuit held that Oliver did not present clear and convincing evidence rebutting that finding. The parties agreed that a particular Bible passage was consulted by jurors:
  
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him. Numbers 35:16-19 (KJV).

The Circuits are split on the proper approach to interpreting whether the Bible constitutes an improper external influence. The Ninth Circuit on Thursday held that in such a situation, "the juror has crossed an important line."

The state of Texas has come under criticism lately for executing two foreign nationals after the International Court of Justice ordered the US to stay such executions. Earlier this month, Texas executed convicted murderer Heliberto Chi, a Honduran man who had argued that he was improperly prevented from contacting his government in violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Last month, lawyers for Mexico made a similar argument before the ICJ in an unsuccessful attempt to block the execution of Mexican citizen Jose Ernesto Medellin.


Unsafe Practices Alleged At Firing Range
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/14 15:57
Andrews International, which runs a purportedly "lead-free" firing range in Burbank, fired its managers for protesting that company owner Randy Andrews repeatedly allowed lead bullets to be fired there, including a case where actor Brendan Andrews fired a machinegun, the managers claim in Superior Court.

John and Patricia Rives claim Andrews fired them for blowing the whistle on his illegal activities. The Rives claim the defendants, which include Advanced Tech Security, repeatedly violated their permit to run the Andrews International Training Center Indoor Firearms and Shooting Range in Burbank.

After being hired in May 2003, the Rives say, "Almost from the beginning, the plaintiffs realized that the 'lead-free' concept was being ignored by friends of family of owner Randy Andrews."

The Rives say Andrews repeatedly provided lead ammunition and assault rifles for their friends and family to fire, over the Rives' protests.

John Rives claims his blood was contaminated with lead by the unsafe practice, and when he complained, Andrews said he was "not concerned" about it, because it was "cheaper" to use lead ammunition.

"The last incident occurred in July 2007, when Vice President Don Anderson allowed Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser to utilize machine guns at the range using leaded ammunition," the complaint states. "Plaintiff told the weapons handler from the movie studio that only lead free ammunition was to be used, and he responded that he had the permission from Don Anderson to use this type of ammunition as it was cheaper and worked with these types of guns. Brendan Fraser actually complained about the smoke and he was warned to wash his hands, face and clothing before returning home.

"Plaintiff again protested this activity to Mr. Anderson; he also reported new test results which again showed elevated levels of lead in his blood. On August 14, 2007, after the last of these complaints, the plaintiffs were fired and given pretextual reasons therefor."

The Rives demand punitive damages. They are represented by Brian Brown of Tustin.


Woman Says Northwestern Won't Protect Her
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/13 15:50
A student claims that after she was raped by a fellow student, Northwestern University violated its own rules and delayed taking action against her rapist, subjecting her to further, distressing contact with him.

Plaintiff Sarah Poe sued Northwestern under an assumed name. She says she was raped in 2007 and pressed charges against the man, "resulting in Northwestern hearing board findings and sanctions against the rapist, which the rapist appealed. Then, however, Northwestern's administration first unjustifiably delayed proceedings, contrary to the provisions in Northwestern's Student Handbook and other written agreements between Northwestern and Plaintiff. When, after a delay of over five months, a Northwestern appeals board denied the rapist's appeal and the rapist sought another review, Northwestern's president, or his designee, refused to complete the limited review within the reasonable time allowed by the Student Handbook and to provide a decision in writing as Northwestern promised Plaintiff. Instead, Northwestern's president or his designee took no action at all, intending that the entire proceeding should permanently remain pending and unresolved, and that the effectiveness of the findings and sanctions against the rapist would be permanently stayed, thereby effectively denying Plaintiff any resolution of the charge and any assurance that Northwestern would keep the rapist away from her as the hearing board ordered. Plaintiff brings this action to compel Northwestern to complete the disciplinary procedures against the rapist as specified in the Student Handbook by issuing a written decision on the so-called presidential review and thereby to end the prolonged anxiety and uncertainty to which Plaintiff has been subjected by Northwestern's violations of its own contractually promised procedures."

The plaintiff is represented in Cook County Chancery Court by Damon Dunn.


VA Properly Denied Voter Registration, Court Rules
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/12 15:41
The Department of Veterans Affairs was fair in its denial of a Democratic group's attempt to register voters at one of its buildings, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Judge Graber found that the district court erred when it ruled Steven Preminger and the Santa Clara County Democratic Committee lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.

However, the VA prevailed, because the Democrats failed to prove that the VA had violated their First Amendment rights.

A nurse at the VA's Menlo Park nursing home called the VA police after one of the Democrats showed up for the voting drive wearing a John Kerry button.

Since the nursing home building is not a public forum, the VA is allowed to make a "reasonable" restriction on free speech, in this case a prohibition of "partisan activities."


SEC investigating bank over auction-rate securities sales
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/11 15:45
The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. disclosed Friday in its quarterly report that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating possible breaches of procedure by one of the bank's subsidiaries in auction-rate securities sales and purchases. Auction-rate securities are long-term bonds with varying interest rates that change based on weekly or monthly auctions. In the report, bank officials wrote:

   The Company self-disclosed to the SEC that Mellon Financial Markets LLC placed orders on behalf of issuers to purchase their own Auction Rate Securities. The SEC is conducting an investigation of those transactions. MFM is cooperating fully with the SEC in its investigation.

On Thursday, the SEC agreed to a preliminary settlement with financial firm Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. over the firm's auction-rate securities practices, and Friday the agency entered into a similar settlement with the firm UBS. UBS is also facing a lawsuit filed late last month by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for allegedly misrepresenting auction-rate securities as low-risk despite the actual volatility of such investments.


Former Bush Assistant Sues over 'Swing Vote'
Areas of Focus | 2008/08/08 16:08
Bradley Blakeman, a former member of the Bush administration, claims the movie "Swing Vote" is based on a copyrighted treatment he gave to actor Kelsey Grammer, who passed it along to Disney's Touchstone Pictures without his knowledge or permission.

Blakeman sued for copyright infringement in Federal Court, claiming the newly released "Swing Vote" - a comedy about an incumbent president and his challenger vying for the deciding vote of a man named Bud Johnson - is so similar to his "Go November" treatment that it "can only be explained as a deliberate copying on the part of the defendants."

Blakeman's script allegedly features a "down-to-the-wire" presidential election that hinges on swing voters.

The plaintiff claims he pitched the idea to Grammer in 2006, and the "Frasier" star agreed to develop the movie and play the incumbent Republic president.

Instead, Grammer allegedly pitched the idea to Touchstone and Treehouse Films, and was cast as the incumbent president in "Swing Vote."

Blakeman is a former deputy assistant to President Bush and is a regular political commentator for Fox News, MSNBC and others. He also played a prominent role in the 2008 HBO movie "Recount."

He seeks a declaration that "Swing Vote" infringes on "Go November" and an injunction barring the defendants from exploiting Blakeman's work. He also demands proper credit, along with actual and punitive damages. He is represented by Todd Rubenstein of Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger LLP.


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