National Roundup

Virginia

Transgender teen sues school over restroom policy

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A transgender teenager said in a lawsuit Thursday that he has been stigmatized by a policy that bars him from using the boys' restrooms at his eastern Virginia high school.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Gavin Grimm in the lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board. The complaint says Grimm, 16, used the communal restrooms without incident until the board, responding to complaints from local residents, adopted a policy in December requiring transgender students to use a private facility.

"To avoid the stigma of having to use separate restrooms, Gavin has tried to avoid using any restroom during the school day," the lawsuit says.

The ACLU said the lawsuit is the first of its kind in Virginia, but several similar cases have been brought in other state courts and at least two in federal courts elsewhere.

Gloucester County Attorney Ted Wilmot, who represents the school board, said that he had not seen the complaint and that any comment would be premature. He said the board likely will discuss how to respond at its next meeting, set for June 18.

According to the complaint, Grimm was designated female at birth but has a male gender identity. It says he has been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, a medical condition characterized by distress stemming from conflict between a person's gender identity and the person's assigned sex at birth.

The lawsuit says Grimm started refusing to wear girls' clothes by age 6, and by ninth grade most of his friends were aware of his gender identity. He told his parents he was transgender in April 2014, and they took him to a psychologist who diagnosed his condition and developed a treatment plan that includes "social transition" to his gender identity.

"For transgender adolescents, it is critical that the social transition involve full transition at school, including with respect to restrooms," the complaint says.

Grimm also has been receiving hormone treatments to deepen his voice and give him a more masculine appearance, according to the court filing.

The lawsuit sees unspecified damages and an order allowing Grimm to use the boys' restrooms.

Maine

Tense exchange between lawyer for orphanage founder, accuser

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The lawyer for an orphanage founder accused of sexually abusing boys in Haiti has gotten into a heated confrontation with the man's chief accuser, shouting "Shut up!" as the sides met in Maine for a deposition in a defamation lawsuit.

The tense exchange erupted Thursday in a lobby where Paul Kendrick suggested that the truth was being covered up and that orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld left Haiti illegally. Geilenfeld's lawyer advised his client not to answer any questions and angrily told Kendrick's lawyer to "get him under control!"

Geilenfeld has denied abusing children. He founded the St. Joseph's Home for Boys in Port-Au-Prince in 1985. Criminal charges had been dropped in Haiti, but a new trial was ordered last month.

He and Hearts of Haiti are suing Kendrick for defamation.

Kentucky

Death row inmates lose challenge of clemency system

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Two death row inmates who challenged Kentucky's clemency system lost their appeal Thursday to the state's highest court, which upheld the process by which life-and-death decisions are concentrated in the hands of the governor.

Robert Foley and Ralph Baze are both condemned to die, convicted of multiple killings. They had claimed that the governor's absolute discretion in granting clemency without a requirement for hearings could result in arbitrary decisions that violate their constitutional rights of due process.

The Kentucky Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, rejected that argument.

In Kentucky, no recommendations or hearings are needed for the governor to decide whether someone should not be put to death. Many states require the decision maker to hold hearings and consider certain evidence before deciding on clemency.

"Other states have different approaches, but that fact does not mean that Kentucky's governor-centered approach to clemency violates the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause," wrote Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson on behalf of the unanimous court.

She wrote that there is a presumption the governor "will abide by the mandates" of the state and federal constitutions in any clemency decision.

Foley was convicted of six killings in 1989 and 1991. Baze was convicted in the unrelated 1992 slayings of a sheriff and deputy.

Foley and Blaze had initially challenged the clemency system in a circuit court in Franklin County, where their lawsuit was dismissed, triggering the appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The inmates' attorneys noted differences between Kentucky's clemency system and those of many other states in their arguments.

But Abramson concluded it's "by no means clear" that more formal clemency proceedings in other states have enhanced a condemned prisoner's chances of being granted clemency.

She noted that while Kentucky's governor has "unfettered discretion" as to whether to grant clemency, there must include a statement listing the reasons for the decision. Also, the clemency application and statement must be open to public review, she said.

Abramson also wrote the inmates did not claim to have been victims of an arbitrary clemency system. "Indeed, they are not in a position to make such claims because Foley and Baze have not yet even filed clemency petitions," Abramson wrote.

Kentucky governors have used the clemency power before.

Then-Gov. Paul Patton in December 2003 commuted to life in prison the death sentence of Kevin Stanford, who was 17 at the time of the slaying that led to his conviction. Patton cited Stanford's age at the time of the crime. Then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher did the same for James Earl Slaughter in December 2007, finding his defense counsel so deficient that the attorney didn't know his client's real name.

Published: Fri, Jun 12, 2015

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