John Doe A v. Penn State
First Penn State scandal lawsuit says Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a boy more than 100 times and the abuse was enabled by the school's "negligent oversight."
Bradley v. Lohan
Former Betty Ford Center employee sues Lindsay Lohan for assault, alleging the actress threw a phone at her and yanked her wrist while refusing to be breathalzyed.
N.D. v. New York Post
Hotel maid allegedly raped by French politician sues the New York Post for falsely reporting that she is a prostitute who "routinely traded sex for money" with male guests.
Reinhart v. Mortenson
Two Montana residents allege the author of "Three Cups of Tea" "fabricated material about his activities and work in Pakistan and Afghanistan" to sell the book.
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• Maryland appeals court says dog owners can be held strictly liable for pit bull attacks. "Because of its aggressive and vicious nature and its capability to inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries, pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous." Tracey v. Solesky

• Woman who has been diagnosed as a sex addict sues a school district for failing to prevent her from having sex with male students on the school bus when she was in 11th grade.
Barksdale v. Egg Harbor Township Bd. of Ed.

• Civil rights activist challenges Georgia's "stand your ground law." "By not defining what actions create a reasonable perception justifying the use of deadly force, the Act[] potentially deprives all Georgia[n]s of the right to life without due process of law." Hutchins v. Deal

• Former patient of a Rhode Island doctor sues him for featuring her in a book about drug addiction. "Plaintiff had expected, as any reasonable patient would, that her private conversations during her treatment sessions with the Defendant would remain private and confidential."
Lisnoff v. Stein

• Class action alleges the YMCA deceives consumers by representing that it practices "Christian" values while allowing its gyms to be used for gay sex trysts. "YMCAs around the country ... are currently being used as brothels for cruising, with the YMCA's knowledge and implicit consent."
Keister v. YMCA

• Social workers are not liable for a sexual assault on a 5-year-old boy by a 16-year-old male placed in an adoptive home. "To rule against the individual defendants in this case would definitely break new ground."
Doe v. Braddy

• Student sues college for refusing to grant her the "reasonable accommodation" of a single room after she complained about her roommate's exhibitionist behavior.
Blankmeyer v. Stonehill College

• School district can be sued over a guidance counselor's sexual relationship with a student who was over the age of consent. "The inherent imbalance of power between a guidance counselor in a public school and a student may render opportunistic sexual predation sufficiently shocking, even with a 'consenting' student over sixteen, to form the basis of a substantive due process claim."
Doe v. Fournier

• Utah judge finds a "credible threat" that Utah County officials will prosecute a polygamist and his wives for bigamy. The officials' acts "suggest that an actual prosecution of Plaintiffs is forthcoming."
Brown v. Herbert

• Louisville, Ky., strip club sues a competitor for displaying an electronic sign outside a convention center that said "Don't go to Godfathers, their girls are ugly and have crabs."
The Godfather v. Trixie's Lounge

• A lawyer cannot sue two women he dated for posting derogatory comments about him on liarscheatersrus.com. "[W]hen viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion." Coulotte v. Ryncarz

• Oglala Sioux tribe sues beer makers and Whiteclay, Neb., bars for enabling alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The illegal trade in alcohol has "caused devastating injuries to the Lakota people and massive financial damages to the [tribe]."
Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Schwarting




Alltop_125x125.jpg







Court's Ruling in Failure-to-Cheer Case Deserves Boos Print

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't deserve any cheers for a ruling in which it found a high-school cheerleader's protest against an athlete she accused of raping her was not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Silsbee High School

The cheerleader, identified only as H.S., sued the principal of Silsbee (Texas) High School and other officials after they removed her from the school's cheerleading squad because she refused to cheer for Rakheem Bolton when he took free throws during a basketball game in February 2009. Bolton had allegedly assaulted her at an off-campus party the previous October.

Under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969), students cannot be punished merely for expressing their personal views on the school premises unless school authorities have reason to believe that such expression will “substantially interfere with the work of the school or impinge upon the rights of other students.”

“It seems blatantly oppressive for Defendants to condition H.S.’ participation in [the cheerleading] program on whether she cheers for her rapist when he was being individually rewarded for having been allegedly fouled in a game,” her attorney, Larry Watts of Missouri City, Texas, said in a brief. “Bolton is no Kobe Bryant and the Silsbee High School team is not the Lakers!”

But in a Sept. 16 opinion, the 5th Circuit showed the same indifference to H.S.'s ordeal as the school officials.

The Sisbee Independent School District punished H.S. appropriately, the court said, since “In her capacity as cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which SISD could disseminate speech — namely, support for its athletic teams.” Her protest also “constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.”

The idea that H.S.'s refusal to cheer for Bolton was in any way “disruptive” of Sisbee High's educational mission is, of course, laughable. As Watts has noted, there is no requirement that all members of the school's cheerleading squad “constantly cheer, in an acceptable volume, like automatons.”

Bolton and another athlete allegedly assaulted H.S. while partying at a classmate's home on Oct. 19, 2008. He was reinstated to the Sisbee High basketball team after a grand jury refused to indict him in January 2009.

On Feb. 27, 2009, Sisbee High played a playoff game in Huntsville where H.S. cheered for the team but refused to cheer “Rakheem!” for Bolton when he took free throws. Officials removed her from the cheerleading squad on March 4, 2009 in what appeared to be a clear act of retaliation for her exercise of free speech.

Principal Gaye Lokey, district superintendent Richard Bain and cheerleading squad sponsor Sissy McInnis “retaliate[d] against H.S. for her expressive or symbolic speech in protesting Bolton at the free throw line,” she said in her complaint.

Tinker broadly protects “a student's personal expression that happens to occur on the school premises.” But the 5th Circuit treated H.S.'s protest as belonging to the less protected category of “expressive activities that students, parents, and members of the public might reasonably perceive to bear the imprimatur of the school.”

“Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, SISD had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit,” the court said in affirming a trial court judge who summarily dismissed the case in October 2009.

The appeals court judges did not explain how allowing H.S.'s protest would have amounted to “promoting” student speech. And just because, as a cheerleader, H.S. expressed support for Sisbee High's athletic teams does not mean her every act as a cheerleader was “school-sponsored.”

“Defendants silenced H.S. because they did not want to tolerate her protest of Bolton and his presence on the team; not because they were concerned that H.S.’ expression might reasonably be perceived to bear the imprimatur of the school,” Watts argued.

After being indicted for sexual assault in November 2009, Bolton pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assault on Sept. 14 — two days before the 5th Circuit released its opinion. He was sentenced to a year in jail but will remain free if he completes two years of probation.

UPDATES

  • H.S. filed a petition for rehearing en banc. "There was no pedagogical purpose ever articulate[d] by defendants as to why a rape victim should in addition to cheering for the team be required to cheer for the accused rapist also," it says.

  • In a Nov. 22, 2010 order, the 5th Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc.

     

  • H.S. filed a petition for U.S. Supreme Court review Feb. 22, 2011.



  • By Matthew Heller
    9/29/10


     

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