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Comedian Says Heckler's Lawsuit Isn't Funny
Court Watch | 2008/07/28 14:39

Toronto comedian Guy Earle has sued the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal to have a heckler's human-rights complaint against him dismissed.

In May 2007, according to Earle's petition in B.C. Supreme Court, he was hosting an open mic comedy night advertised as "Vancouver's Edgiest Comedy - Not for the Faint of Heart." His onstage persona, the petition states, was "an asshole comic." Lorna Pardy and two friends began heckling him by kissing and yelling, the petition states, and "in the course of trying to silence (Pardy), whom he regarded as an inconsiderate heckler, Mr. Earle used rude language which referenced (Pardy's) sexual preference. (Pardy) continued to heckle."

Earle claims he later tried to make peace with Pardy, but she allegedly threatened him and threw drinks in his face. Pardy later filed a human-rights complaint against Earle, despite an apology, and the tribunal denied Earle's application to dismiss. He claims the tribunal lacks jurisdiction and that the B.C. Human Rights Code is unconstitutional because it's overbroad, vague and it unreasonably infringes upon his right to freedom of expression.

"Guy Earle is not a homophobe," the petition states. "On the contrary, Mr. Earle has many friends and colleagues who are homosexual. He reasserts his unreserved apology to (Pardy) for any suffering she may have experienced as a result of his spontaneous expressions of frustration at her disruption of the performance."

Earle is represented by James Millar.


Court will review $2.8 million award to Iranian
Court Watch | 2008/06/22 15:50

The Supreme Court will review a ruling that allows the brother of an Iranian terrorism victim to collect $2.8 million.

The justices said Monday they will consider overturning a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in the case of Dariush Elahi, who is seeking the money as compensation for the killing of his brother, Cyrus, in Paris in 1990.

French authorities blamed the Iranian government for the killing.

In 2000, Dariush Elahi sued Iran in federal court in Washington. The Iranian government failed to respond to the lawsuit and, after a trial, a judge awarded Elahi $11.7 million in compensatory and $300 million in punitive damages.

When Dariush Elahi accepted $2.3 million from the U.S. government under a law that allows terrorism victims to collect damages from the U.S. Treasury, lawyers for the Bush administration and the Iranian government said he relinquished his claim to the rest of the original judgment.

But the appeals court said that he is entitled to collect another $2.8 million from a California company that owes Iran for a canceled weapons shipment.



Court Nixes Dog-Killing Deputy's Job Transfer
Court Watch | 2008/05/23 14:46

A sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a dog while on duty should not have been reassigned to the same sheriff's department, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled.

Deputy David Freeman was bitten by a dog, and the owner refused to help him. Freeman responded by shooting the dog, causing injuries so severe that the dog had to be euthanized.

But the bitten deputy suffered only minor injuries that did not require a trip to the hospital.

Sheriff David Zoellner fired Freeman for violating department policy. Freeman appealed to the Leavenworth County civil service board, which transferred him to a "comparable position in the Jail Division."

Judge Marquardt affirmed the district court's ruling that the board had improperly placed Freeman in a different section of the same sheriff's department.

The district court found that the law's provision for Freeman to go to a different department means a "law enforcement office completely separate and apart from the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office."

The appeals court reversed the board's order to transfer Freeman to a different county, saying the board lacked the authority to do so.


Taser Stuns Coroners with Win in Autopsy Reports Case
Court Watch | 2008/05/08 14:37

An Ohio judge has given medical examiners around the country a shock by ordering a coroner to remove any reference to Tasers in her autopsy reports on three men who died after police officers shot them with the stun guns.

Amnesty International estimates that since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the U.S. following Taser shocks, but the gun's manufacturer has been suing medical examiners who have cited its products in autopsy reports.

That aggressive strategy paid off big time after a four-day bench trial of Taser International's case against Dr. Lisa Kohler, the chief medical examiner of Summit County, Ohio. She had identified the physiological stress of being incapacitated by a 50,000-volt Taser as a contributory cause of the deaths of Dennis Hyde, 30, Richard Holcomb, 18, and Mark McCullaugh, 28.

“There is simply no medical, scientific, or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser X26 had anything to do with the death[s],” Court of Common Pleas Judge Ted Schneiderman said in a May 2 decision.

Under Ohio law, a judge can direct a coroner “to change his decision as to [the] cause and manner and mode of death.” Schneiderman ordered the county to delete any reference to a “contributing factor of electrical pulse incapacitation” in the Hyde and Holcomb autopsy reports and similar language in the McCullaugh report.



9th Circuit Resurrects School Bible Club Lawsuit
Court Watch | 2008/04/29 14:41

The 9th Circuit partially revived a lawsuit pitting a Seattle-area school district's non-discrimination policy against students' right to form a Bible club that requires members to declare their Christian faith.

A three-judge panel upheld in August 2007 Kentridge High School's decision to ban Truth, a proposed extracurricular club that required members to profess "a belief in the Bible and in Jesus Christ." These criteria inherently exclude non-Christians in violation of the non-discrimination policy, the judges concluded.

The court withdrew its opinion, replacing it with one that still allowed Kent School District to refuse to recognize discriminatory clubs, but took issue with waivers given to groups such as the Men's Honor Club and the Girl's Honor Club, which exclude members based on gender.

"There is no evidence in the record as to why these groups were allowed apparent waivers from the district's non-discrimination policy," Judge Wallace wrote. The court allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their claim that the school chose to extend waivers to some student groups, but not theirs, based on religion or the religious content of their speech.


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