National Roundup

$47M settlement reached in deadly boiler explosion

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A $47 million settlement has been reached in an explosion that launched a van-sized boiler through the roof a St. Louis box company and onto a nearby laundry business, killing four people and injuring three more.

The Simon Law Firm said in a news release that the settlement was reached last month during mediation in advance of a trial that had been scheduled for August. KSDK-TV reports that it covers multiple wrongful death, personal injury and property damage cases.

The April 3, 2017, explosion inside the Loy-Lange plant killed Kenneth Trentham, who was working there. The nearly 2,000-pound (900 kilograms) tank then flew into nearby Faultless Healthcare Linen, killing Christopher Watkins, Tonya Gonzalez-Suarez and Clifford Lee.

The victims’ attorneys blamed “a prolonged series of errors” that included deficient repairs.

New Jersey
Sanitation worker who lost leg gets $4.35M settlement

POINT PLEASANT, N.J. (AP) — A former sanitation worker who lost part of his leg when an SUV struck and pinned him to a garbage truck last year has agreed to a $4.35 million legal settlement.

Lamar Bland was working around the truck on Ocean Road in Point Pleasant when he was struck on Oct. 2. Doctors tried to save his injured left leg, but ultimately had to amputate it below the knee.

The SUV driver said his windshield was fogged up that morning and that the crash occurred when he took his eyes off the road to reach for his coffee cup. He eventually pleaded guilty to a careless driving charge in municipal court records show.

Bland’s lawyers say he’s been unable to work since the accident and has suffered serious physical pain.

Judge suspended after wrongly trying to help acquaintances

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has suspended a judge for 30 days without pay after a professional group found he violated standards of conduct by improperly helping one person charged with prostitution and trying to help another charged with marijuana possession.

In the ruling Thursday, justices also publicly reprimanded the judge, Frank Sutton of Hinds County Justice Court.

Court papers show the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found “clear and convincing evidence that Judge Sutton’s conduct constituted misconduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as ... the Mississippi Constitution.”

The commission found that Sutton asked an investigator in 2018 to “help him out” because Sutton knew the family of a woman who was charged with prostitution. The investigator refused, and Sutton remanded the charge to files, which means it has not been prosecuted.

Sutton is also pastor of Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church. The commission found that in June 2018, he improperly asked a Hinds County sheriff’s investigator whether a marijuana charge against a church member’s son was a misdemeanor or a felony. It was a felony.

The Supreme Court wrote that Sutton represented himself and did not file an answer to Commission on Judicial Performance’s complaint against him.

Mississippi justice court judges are not required to be lawyers. The state bar directory does not list any licensed attorney named Frank Sutton.

Judicial watchdog group calls for judge to be suspended

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Judicial Qualifications Commission is recommending that the Florida Supreme Court suspend a Broward County judge without pay for grabbing a courthouse employee by the neck and shaking him.

In a recommendation submitted to the high court, commission’s lawyer Alex Williams says Circuit Judge Gina Hawkins should be suspended immediately.

The SunSentinel reports a suspension at this stage of a judicial misconduct complaint would be unusual but not unprecedented.

The commission’s report says Hawkins was upset with a male employee on June 11 because she hadn’t received her docket. They stepped into the hallway where she grabbed him. Video surveillance captured the incident.

Day later Hawkins reviewed the video with the chief judge, who advised her to report the incident to the commission. Williams says Hawkins’ description contradicts the video.

Stevens’ body to lie in repose at Supreme Court on Monday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says the body of former Justice John Paul Stevens will lie in repose at the court on Monday.

Stevens died on Tuesday at age 99. He served nearly 35 years as a justice before retiring in 2010.

Members of the public can pay their respects from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., following a private ceremony in the court’s Great Hall.

Stevens will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a private service the next day. He will be the 13th justice buried at Arlington.

The court last opened the building to mourners in 2016, following the death of sitting Justice Antonin Scalia.

New Jersey
Appeals court tosses $7.7M whistleblower case award

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey appellate court has reversed a $7.7 million jury award to a former Department of Corrections employee in a whistleblower case.

The panel also ordered a new trial after it found the trial judge improperly admitted evidence that undermined the jury’s 2015 verdict in favor of Lisa Easley in her suit against the department.

Easley claimed she was fired for cooperating with a federal investigation of former deputy commissioner Lydell Sherrer. He was convicted of soliciting bribes from employees, including Easley, in exchange for guaranteed employment.

After an internal investigation found Easley solicited bribes for Sherrer, she was fired.

The department contended evidence presented to the jury depicted Easley as a victim. Its lawyers argued she wasn’t a whistleblower because she only cooperated after being approached by the FBI and subpoenaed to testify.