National Roundup

New York
Anti-discrimination law covers sexual orientation

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York federal appeals court says U.S. anti-discrimination law protects employees from being fired due to sexual orientation.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The decision stemmed from a rare meeting of the full appeals court, which decided to go against its precedents.

Three judges dissented. The ruling pertained to a skydiver instructor who said he was fired after telling a client he was gay.

The case led to two government agencies offering opposing views. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation. The Department of Justice had argued that it did not.

Donald Zarda was fired in 2010 from a skydiving job in Central Islip, New York. He has since died.

Missouri
Naked man on ATV leads police on chase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a naked man has been arrested in Missouri after fleeing on an all-terrain vehicle and driving the wrong way on an interstate.

Police say the man is suspected of being under the influence of drugs during the Sunday afternoon chase in northern Kansas City.

The chase began with the man eluding officers in a field. After finding a break in a fence, the man made his way onto Interstate 435, where he occasionally drove into oncoming traffic.  He was captured after exiting the interstate.

One witness told KMBC-TV that she thought she was “dreaming” when she saw the spectacle unfold while returning from a basketball tournament with two boys in her car.

New Jersey
Plane passenger facing charges after he opens emergency exit

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Authorities say a passenger who had just boarded a plane at a New Jersey airport opened the emergency exit and went down the slide.

Port Authority police say charges against 25-year-old Troy Fattun are pending. He was detained by airline staff and police moments after he reached the tarmac at Newark Liberty International airport.

The incident occurred around 10 p.m. Sunday on a United Airlines flight that was headed from Newark to Tampa, Florida. The flight was delayed for several hours and passengers eventually were put on another plane.

Ohio
County to pay $4.5M to settle suit over murder conviction

CLEVELAND (AP) — Three Ohio men who spent two decades behind bars because police and prosecutors allegedly hid statements and evidence that could have cleared them in a 1995 slaying are expected to receive $1.5 million each to settle the county’s liability in federal lawsuits naming two former assistant prosecutors as defendants.

A Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman confirmed Sunday that the Cuyahoga County Council has scheduled a vote for Tuesday to approve a settlement in suits filed last year by 39-year-old Laurese Glover, 40-year-old Eugene Johnson and 40-year-old Derrick Wheatt.

The payments won’t settle pending claims against the impoverished city of East Cleveland, where police arrested the men in the 1995 slaying of 19-year-old Clifton Hudson.

Dave Lambert, chief of the Prosecutor’s Office civil division, said in a statement the settlement is intended to “put this long-running matter behind us” and avoid the potential for an even larger judgment “based upon the amount of time these plaintiffs spent in prison.”

The three men have steadfastly maintained their innocence. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge freed them from prison and ordered a new trial in 2015 after the Ohio Innocence Project found statements that were never presented to their attorneys at trial or during an appeal. The charges were dropped in 2016 when the Prosecutor’s Office chose not to pursue another trial.

The men’s attorneys have claimed that East Cleveland police manipulated a then-14-year-old girl into identifying the men even though her view of the shooting was blocked by the vehicle the men were sitting in at the time. The lawsuit claimed East Cleveland police ignored statements from others pointing to someone other than the men as Hudson’s killer.

When attorneys working on an appeal sought the case file from East Cleveland police in 1998, the assistant prosecutors sent a letter to the department telling them the file wasn’t a public record and instead asked police to send the file to them, the lawsuits said.

The Ohio Innocence Project made another public records request in 2013. East Cleveland police at that time turned over statements and evidence that led to the men being exonerated.


New Jersey
Judge rejects scrapping law barring cemetery headstone sales

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a bid to scrap a New Jersey law that would bar private religious cemeteries from selling headstones.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp said Friday that the suit by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark and two parishioners had failed to show a constitutional violation, NorthJersey.com reports .

The dispute goes back to 2013, when the archdiocese expanded its inscription rights program, the proceeds from which it used to care for cemeteries. Under the program, the church offered the option for a headstone but retained ownership of it in perpetuity. The idea was that a bereaved family could write an inscription on a headstone but the church would care for the headstone going forward.

The Monument Builders Association of New Jersey, an advocacy group for people who make headstones and other funerary monuments, soon sued, arguing the church’s tax-exempt status and relationship with parishioners gave it an unfair advantage. The group lost in court, but the state’s Democrat-led Legislature then enacted legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2015, that effectively outlawed the practice.

Shipp wrote that the archdiocese hadn’t demonstrated a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, part of the 14th Amendment, and the state had a legitimate interest in protecting consumers “who must venture into the potentially exploitative market for funeral services.”

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness called the decision disappointing but said further comment would be premature “until we’ve reviewed it fully and evaluated our options.”

The Virginia-based Institute for Justice, which represented the archdiocese, said Friday that headstone sales don’t raise “valid consumer protection concerns” and the law is really intended to protect “the private financial interests of the headstone and funeral director industries.”

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