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Alamo seeks removal of religious language in suit
Court Watch | 2008/12/23 17:16
A lawyer for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo asked a federal court Tuesday to remove religious references from a lawsuit against his client, saying they have the potential to draw the court into theological debate to decide the case.

John Hall of Little Rock said in a court filing that claims made by two former members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were based on religious beliefs and not matters for argument in a court of law.

Hall gave as examples claims that Alamo engaged in practices to intimidate church members by withholding food, marrying young girls and performing severe beatings. Hall said Alamo's defense to each of these allegations was based largely on the Bible, and the filing cites numerous biblical passages.

"All of these fall within the ambit of defendant's religious beliefs," the filing says.

The suit, filed Nov. 25 in federal district court at Texarkana, claims that Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek were beaten and subjected to abuse as teenagers in the church. The suit says the former church members, now adults, suffered physical pain, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement. It seeks more than $75,000 in damages.



Justices chide California-based appeals court
Court Watch | 2008/12/04 02:53
The Supreme Court took aim at one of its favorite targets Tuesday, criticizing a California-based federal appeals court for its ruling in favor of a criminal defendant.

The justices threw out a decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Michael Robert Pulido, who was convicted for his role in robbing a gas station and killing the defendant.

A U.S. District Court judge set aside Pulido's conviction because the trial judge in the case gave the jury improper instructions.

The high court said in an unsigned opinion that the appeals court ruling affirming the federal judge's action used faulty reasoning. The justices did not reinstate Pulido's conviction.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter agreed that the appeals court made a mistake, but would have affirmed its ruling anyway because the underlying decision in favor of Pulido was correct.

Last month, the court overruled the 9th Circuit in an environmental case involving the Navy's use of sonar and its potential harm to whales.

The case is Hedgpeth v. Pulido, 07-544.



Paralyzed Calif. man loses high court appeal
Court Watch | 2008/11/18 02:50
A paralyzed man who has sued hundreds of businesses over accommodations for the disabled lost his Supreme Court appeal Monday to get out from under a court order requiring special permission to file new lawsuits.

Jarek Molski has been labeled a "vexatious litigant" by federal courts in California because he has filed roughly 400 lawsuits alleging that restaurants and other businesses are in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Molski is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair.

The justices rejected his case without comment.

Molski frequently complains about the lack of handicapped van parking, counters that are too high, narrow doorways and grab-bars installed too high or low in bathrooms. In addition, he often says he was injured in the course of his visit. Targeted business owners often have settled out of court rather than pay attorneys and take the time to fight the lawsuits.

A federal judge in Los Angeles described the lawsuits as extortion. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that Molski was an abusive litigant, although it noted that many of the establishments he sued probably were violating federal law.

"On the other hand, the district court had ample basis to conclude that Molski trumped up his claims of injury," the appeals court said.

The case is Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., 08-38.



Supreme Court wrestles with TV profanity case
Court Watch | 2008/11/04 22:07
The Supreme Court spent an hour on Tuesday talking about dirty words on television without once using any or making plain how it would decide whether the government could ban them.

The dispute between the broadcast networks and the Federal Communications Commission is the court's first major broadcast indecency case in 30 years.

At issue is the FCC's policy, adopted in 2004, that even a one-time use of profanity on live television is indecent because some words are so offensive that they always evoke sexual or excretory images. So-called fleeting expletives were not treated as indecent before then.

The words in question begin with the letters "F" and "S." The Associated Press typically does not use them.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the only justice with young children at home, suggested that the commission's policy is reasonable. The use of either word, Roberts said, "is associated with sexual or excretory activity. That's what gives it its force."

Justice John Paul Stevens, who appeared skeptical of the policy, doubted that the f-word always conveys a sexual image.



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