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







Racy Photos Case Tests Freedom of Student Speech Print

An Indiana school district is arguing that two girls who were disciplined over online photos in which they posed with phallic lollipops cannot go to trial on free-speech claims because their behavior was "wholly inconsistent with the fundamental values of a public education."

The case tests whether school administrators can stretch beyond campus limits and regulate out-of-school conduct. The two girls, who were sophomores at Churubusco High School, were suspended from the varsity volleyball team after a parent brought their suggestive photos to the principal's attention.

Under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969), a “showing that the students’ activities would materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school” is necessary to justify suppression of student expression.

The Smith-Green Community School Corp. says the girls, identified only as T.V. and M.K., violated the school's code of conduct and the principal appropriately punished them under Tinker and Bethel Sch. Dist. v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986), a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that allows schools to censor lewd, vulgar or offensive speech.

“Plaintiffs have acknowledged that the subject photographs depict [simulated] oral and anal sex,” the school board says in a motion for summary dismissal. “Such conduct is wholly inconsistent with the fundamental values of a public education.”

But the Supreme Court has yet to clearly define standards for punishing off-campus, Internet activity. And T.V. and M.K. argue in their own motion for summary judgment that the photos did not affect the “educational functioning” of the school and were not “intended to satisfy or arouse sexual desires.”

“They are sophomoric, not pornographic, and are therefore entitled to protection under the First  Amendment,” the girls' ACLU lawyer, Kenneth J. Falk, wrote.

U.S. District Judge Philip P. Simon of Fort Wayne, Ind., is scheduled to hear the motions May 27. A ruling in favor of the girls would align him with a California judge who refused to “uphold school discipline of student speech simply because young persons are unpredictable or immature.” J.C. v. Beverly Hills Unified Sch. Dist.

T.V. and M.K. practiced their modeling skills during summer vacation sleepovers at M.K.'s home, using rainbow-colored, penis-shaped lollipops as props. They posted the photos on MySpace and Facebook pages that were accessible only to their “friends” and on Photobucket, an image-hosting website.

“Would you agree that's a simulation of oral sex?” an attorney asked T.V. during a deposition, referring to one of the photos.

“Yes,” she replied.

Churubusco High principal Austin Couch initially banned the girls from extracurricular activities. The ban was later reduced to a quarter of the fall 2009 volleyball season but the girls still sued Smith-Green for a court order declaring their punishment unconstitutional and for unspecified damages.

Smith-Green attorney Linda A. Polley argues that the photos are pornographic under both federal and state law and have no redeeming “artistic” value. “[W]hen one considers that young girls (and not adults) are performing the simulated sex acts, there is no doubt that the photographs appeal to prurient interests,” she says.

But when Couch was asked in a deposition to explain what was disruptive about the photos, he could only respond that a “similar incident” had occurred the previous spring and “This had the — the potential of doing the exact same thing, being in the hallways, being in the gymnasiums, causing a disruption.”

That does not appear to meet the Tinker test. As the ACLU's Frank says,

There was absolutely no hint of disruption of educational functioning and such a hint would be insufficient in any event given that a court “cannot accept, without more, that the childish and boorish antics of a minor could impair the administrators' abilities to discipline students and maintain control.”



By Matthew Heller
5/19/11


 

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