Court Roundup

Pennsylvania
Borough moving nativity scene over suit threat

ELLWOOD CITY, Pa. (AP) — An attorney plans to erect a nativity display in front of a former church to dispel a threatened lawsuit by an atheists’ group who opposed a display in front of a western Pennsylvania borough building.
Attorney Joseph Bellissimo says he’s paying for the new display in Ellwood City, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The borough had its own display for about 50 years.
Residents wanted to fight the threatened lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis., but borough officials feared they’d lose. The foundation’s co-president, Annie Gaylord, says the group simply didn’t want the display on public property.
Bellissimo tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the borough manager approached him about putting up the new display. The lawyer owns and plans to convert the former church building into a restaurant.

California
Disabled man gets $1.6M in excess force suit

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A disabled man who was handcuffed tightly enough to cause nerve damage has won $1.6 million in an excessive force lawsuit filed against Los Angeles police.
A day after the verdict, the jury returned to court on Thursday and decided Officer Alex Tellez should pay an additional $90,000 himself. City officials, however, can choose to indemnify Tellez.
The city plans to appeal.
The Los Angeles Times says police were investigating the 2009 armed robbery of a store where a son of 56-year-old Allen Harris worked.
Officers with a warrant went to the Harris apartment in Inglewood and arrested the son, who was never charged.
Harris was ordered to put his hands up, but he told the officers he couldn’t comply because he was partially paralyzed.
He was then handcuffed.


Pennsylvania
Protester to stay farther away from abortion clinics

PITTSBURGH (AP) — An abortion protester has agreed to stay 25 feet further away from the entrance to a Pittsburgh abortion clinic to settle a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit which claimed she pushed two volunteers who were escorting women into the downtown facility.
Lawrence Paladin Jr., the attorney for Meredith Parente, says the 56-year-old Penn Hills woman continues to deny pushing anybody. She settled the suit Thursday by agreeing to stay 40 feet away from clinic doors. A city ordinance already requires protesters to stay at least 15 feet away.
Federal attorneys sued Parente last year, seeking $5,000 in damages for the volunteers and a $15,000 fine.
Paladin says Parente settled the case — in which she doesn’t acknowledge wrongdoing — to avoid the risk of those penalties at a trial that was to begin next week.

Utah
Woman injured in carousel accident sues for $300k

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — A Washington City woman injured when a panel fell from the ceiling of a St. George carousel is suing for more than $300,000 in damages.
A lawsuit filed this week claims Linda Williamson suffered head, neck, eye and back injuries when two fiberglass panels fell July 15, 2011. Her attorney, Ronald Truman, tells The Spectrum she can’t do the same tasks she could before, and her husband has picked up responsibilities.
St. George purchased the refurbished carousel for $275,000 in an effort to make one of its parks more family-friendly. City officials say more than 1,000 people per day used the ride when it first opened.
St. George City Manager assistant Marc Mortensen says the city agreed to pay Williamson’s medical bills. But her lawyer claims payments have stopped.


Rhode Island
State seeks to toss judge from pension case role

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The state has asked the Rhode Island Supreme Court to block a lower court judge from ruling in the state’s landmark pension law.
A lawyer for the state says Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter is not impartial because her mother receives a state pension and her son is a state trooper. She ruled on Oct. 19 that she would not recuse herself from a challenge by public employee unions to the pension law.
The state says her son and mother could be substantially affected by the decision, citing the state Supreme Court judicial code that says a judge should be disqualified if a parent or child has an economic interest in a case.
Taft-Carter says her family members’ financial interests are insignificant that would not affect her impartiality.
A hearing is set for Dec. 7.

New Jersey
AG files suits alleging storm price gouging

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey has filed the first lawsuits for alleged price gouging stemming from Superstorm Sandy.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa on Friday announced the state is suing seven gas stations and a hotel in northern New Jersey.
The gas stations are accused of raising pump prices anywhere from 17 to 59 percent higher during the state of emergency related to the storm.
The hotel is accused of raising room rates by 32 percent.
VIolators can be fined up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for a second offense.
The state’s Consumer Affairs Division has received nearly 2,000 complaints about alleged storm-related price gouging. Chiesa says about 83 percent of the complaints involve gas stations.
Chiesa says price complaints may subside, but other storm-related scams may increase.


Missouri
KKK sues another town over right to pass leaflets

DESLOGE, Mo. (AP) — For the second time in recent weeks, the Ku Klux Klan is suing a Missouri town over the right to hand out leaflets.
A judge ruled in October that Cape Girardeau must allow the KKK to leaflet there. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that on Thursday, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan filed a federal suit against the city of Desloge, claiming it was barred from distributing handbills on two recent occasions.
The suit claims violation of First Amendment rights and was filed by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Desloge City Attorney Joe Goff says the KKK representative wanted to stand in traffic and a city ordinance prohibits doing so. Goff says leafleting would be allowed in parking lots or door-to-door.


South Dakota
Evangelist sues SD school over free speech issue

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A Christian evangelist in the Rapid City area is suing the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, saying the school infringed on his right to free speech by not allowing him to preach in open areas around campus.
The Tennessee-based Center for Religious Expression filed the federal lawsuit on Mark Gavin’s behalf. It says the school considered his preaching to be commercial speech rather than religious speech and told him he must pay $50 for an area inside the student union. Gavin wants to preach outside of the center.
Gavin declined comment to the Rapid City Journal. A statement from the School of Mines said school policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

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