Nature Worshiper Files Civil Rights Suit After Tangle With Tree Trimmers
It's safe to say that George H. Russell has a different relationship with trees than many people. It's not just that he's an advocate for trees; they are part of his religion, according to a federal complaint he filed in U.S. District Court in Houston July 14.
What's the buzz? As alleged in the complaint in Russell v. Altom, et al., Russell was arrested after interfering with a tree-trimming crew that was working on power lines after Hurricane Ike in 2008 in his neighborhood in Huntsville, Texas. He was later indicted for six felony charges for disruption of gas, electric, or water services by picketing, threats or intimidation. Those charges were later dismissed, according to the complaint.
He filed a civil rights suit against a long list of defendants, including Walker County District Attorney David Weeks; Jack Choate, an assistant Walker County district attorney; and 10 others.
"Mr. Russell's advocacy for trees is not merely aesthetic or political. It is basic to his spirituality and religious beliefs. He is the founder and a prelate in the Universal Ethician Church whose offices are located in Walker County. His church participates in the Religious Campaign for Forest Conservation (RCFC.) RCFC considers forest conservation to be a religious issue," according to his complaint. "Defendants' behavior was intended and did have a chilling effect on plaintiff's exercise of his freedom of speech rights and his right to religious association."
Reed more : http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202463868975#
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.
Alabama bingo losers sue to get their money back based on 158-year-old state law
Ozetta Hardy and Shirley Wallace want to get back the money they lost playing electronic machines at a bingo hall in Lowndes County.
The women filed a lawsuit last month against Whitehall Gaming Center LLC contending they and others who lost money at the center should be repaid.
The bingo hall voluntarily closed earlier this year amid the battles over whether electronic bingo is legal in Alabama.
Getting lost wagers back might seem futile. But it's actually addressed in state law, albeit in a 158-year-old state law.
A lawyer for Whitehall points out that bingo halls in Alabama had been operating under laws passed in much more modern times.
But the Lowndes County lawsuit is among at least three filed this year that cite the old, rarely used law and argue that bettors should be repaid. At least three other suits citing that law, among other claims, have been filed in the past three years. Two of the suits were withdrawn by the plaintiffs. One lawyer says he's about to file another suit based partly on the old law.
The law -- 8-1-150 -- says contracts founded upon gambling are void. "Any person who has paid any money or delivered any thing of value lost upon any game or wager may recover such money, thing, or its value by an action commenced within six months from the time of such payment or delivery," according to the law.
Few people were even aware the law was on the books, said Blaine Stevens, one of the lawyers who filed the Lowndes County lawsuit. "It's rather an obscure statute."
Stevens said the gist of their lawsuit is that the Whitehall Gaming Center never was a legal operation.
But Robert D. Segall, an attorney for Cornerstone Community Outreach Inc., which ran the center, said the operation was authorized by later laws, and his clients will defend against the lawsuit.
"We believe the constitutional amendment allowing bingo to be played in Lowndes County overrides the statute (8-1-150)," he said.
The pre-Civil War law was enacted long before the constitutional amendment was approved, Segall noted.
Several counties around the state approved constitutional amendments allowing bingo to be played. But lawyers for Gov. Bob Riley have argued in court that the constitutional amendments did not envision electronic bingo machines, which he contends are illegal slot machines.
Bingo hall and game company attorneys say the electronic bingo games are not slot machines. But if they were, the players could be equally at fault and risk having their winnings forfeited anyway.
More bingo coverage: See related stories in the Alabama Bingo Files.
Ted Mann, a lawyer involved in a couple of the lawsuits, argues operators of the games should be held accountable. "If people are going in thinking it's legal and it is not, then they are entitled to get their money back," he said.
The Lowndes County lawsuit and others filed against VictoryLand in Macon County, Greenetrack in Greene County, and one against a few Walker County bingo halls, all have sought class-action status. That means they want to sue on behalf of all patrons who lost money at the bingo machines.
A bingo player filed suit against two Walker County bingo halls in 2007 arguing the facilities were illegal and she was due her money back. She withdrew her suit for personal reasons.
Defendants in that case filed papers in court denying the games were illegal gambling and arguing that they were not liable for patrons' losses.
Since that suit was filed, a judge has ruled the halls were illegal and ordered them shut down.
The lawyer who filed the 2007 suit on behalf of a Walker County bingo player, Garve Ivey Jr., said he planned to file a new lawsuit in the next few weeks on behalf of other bingo hall patrons in Walker County.
"It's much more clearer now that Judge (Robert) Vance has declared it illegal," he said.
Ivey said the new lawsuit also will target gaming companies and try to get more money for charities that sponsored the games. "I'm interested in the millions of dollars that were shipped out to Oklahoma, Nevada and other places with no benefit to the people of Walker County," he said.
Many bingo-hall patrons voiced disappointment and anger at having their bingo halls shut down during the past year.
But Stevens said some former patrons are changing their minds. "When people find out that this was not a legal operation it changes their thinking about it," he said.
Want a Lawsuit With That? McDonald's Defends Happy Meal Marketing
McDonald's Corp. (MCD) Chief Executive Jim Skinner has rebuffed a call by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to end the distribution of Happy Meal toys. CPSI has alleged that the giveaway promotions contribute to childhood obesity by encouraging the consumption of fattening food.
CSPI garnered headlines last month when it served notice to the world's largest restaurant chain that it would file suit over the toys included in Happy Meals if the practice was not stopped within 30 days. That deadline is due to expire on July 22. A lawsuit has not yet been filed.
Not surprisingly, Skinner took great offense at the notion that McDonald's illegally markets products to children. He was particularly incensed that CSPI's likened McDonald's to strangers who hand candy to children, and the characterization of America's children as an "unpaid drone army." Skinner demanded that CSPI apologize. Echoing conservative commentators, including Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, Skinner accused CSPI of suggesting that families are unable to make their own choices about the food they consume.
"You say you want a dialog with McDonald's but your inflammatory rhetoric suggest otherwise," Skinner wrote to CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson on July 6. "At McDonald's, we listen to what our customers tell us. For the past 30 years they have told us -- again overwhelmingly --that they approve of our Happy Meal program...CSPI is wrong in its assertions and frivolous in its legal threats."
The CSPI lawsuit comes after officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., voted to ban Happy Meal toys unless McDonald's met certain nutritional guidelines, along with similar giveaways offered by rival fast-food chains. Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled over the past 30 years, and some experts argue that McDonald's and other purveyors of cheap, calorie-rich food bear some of the blame.
According to CSPI, more than 90 percent of the possible Happy Meal combinations are unhealthy. Many people also order the more fattening meals when healthier alternatives are advertised. The chain even boasts that it has sold more than 100 million Happy Meals with Apple Dippers since 2008, and in 2009 alone it served 31 million gallons of milk.
Stephen Gardner, CSPI's litigation director, tells DailyFinance he still hopes to avoid litigation against the fast food giant, but her is prepared to pursue it if necessary.
"I did not view Jim Skinner's letter as a response to our letter," he says. "I saw it as a press release. ... We weren't just whistling Dixie when we wrote them."
CSPI, which still is unsure where it will file the case, argues that Happy Meal toys constitute deceptive marketing because their purpose is to encourage young children -- many of whom do not understand the concept of advertising -- to encourage their parents to bring them to McDonald's. In some states, it is not necessary for the child to make a purchase to prove the law had been broken.
"This is classic consumer deception," Gardner says. "Good lord, they make toys for kids under 3."
McDonald's, which declined to comment beyond Skinner's letter, counts on Happy Meals to help drive traffic to its stores. Little wonder the company objects to CSPI's argument.
Your request is being processed... Naked Cowboy, Naked Cowgirl Trademark Lawsuit Heading To Court
It's not exactly the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
New York City's famous Naked Cowboy is headed to court to protect his trademark from the Naked Cowgirl.
Robert Burck says Sandy Kane is damaging the brand he built through more than a decade of strumming his guitar wearing only briefs and a cowboy hat. He's earned as much as $1,000 a day working Times Square from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Kane wears a bikini, cowboy hat and guitar in her role as the Naked Cowgirl.
The federal suit filed Wednesday asks the court to keep Kane from doing anything that would violate Burck's trademark.
Kane is a former stripper who's now a fixture of the city comedy scene.
Her attorney says he hasn't seen the lawsuit, but Kane has the right to do what she's doing.
Talent Show Reject Wants to Sue Simon Cowell for $3.8M
A failed British TV talent show contestant wants more than $3.8 million from the Simon Cowell-fronted show because she felt humiliated by the judges, Sky News reported Thursday.
Emma Amelia Pearl Czikai, 54, lasted only three seconds on “Britain’s Got Talent” (BGT) before Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan buzzed her off in the opening bars of power ballad You Raise Me Up.
Cowell labeled her singing voice "horrible" after she took three attempts at the song and millions watched as she left the stage to cries of "off, off, off" from the studio audience.
Czikai, from just outside Birmingham, central England, said the talent contest was tantamount to "backdoor modern slavery", guilty of "modern-day barbarism" and acts of "atrocity" against wannabe stars.
She said illness affects her hearing and was bidding to bring her claim of disability discrimination against BGT and Cowell to an employment tribunal.
Suit Blaming Ingredient for Causing 'Popcorn Lung' Is Rejected
A federal judge in Washington state has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed that he contracted a severe respiratory illness after eating up to seven bags of microwave popcorn each day for 11 years.
A lawyer for one of the defendants, Chr. Hansen Inc., the U.S. division of Chr. Hansen A/S, said the ruling was the first among a handful of consumer suits that attempt to tie microwave popcorn to a disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, or "popcorn lung," which causes extreme shortness of breath. Several verdicts have been issued in recent years in similar cases involving workers at factories that make microwave popcorn. Many of those have awarded damages to the plaintiffs, with verdicts as high as $20 million.
Larry Newkirk and his wife, Ruth, pressed claims for negligence, strict liability and failure to warn of the chemical dangers of microwave popcorn. Newkirk claimed that he began eating microwave popcorn during the late 1980s, after he quit smoking. He began experiencing shortness of breath between 2000 and 2003.
Newkirk alleged that diacetyl, an ingredient used in the popcorn's butter flavoring, causes the disease. The Newkirks sued the popcorn manufacturer, Omaha-based ConAgra Foods Inc., and its suppliers, including Chr. Hansen. ConAgra stopped using diacetyl in about 2007, according to court documents.
The defendants moved for summary judgment and to throw out the Newkirks' expert witnesses. Ruling on July 2, U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson found that the experts, particularly Dr. David Egilman, were inadmissible -- leaving the Newkirks without sufficient causation to pursue their case.
"The law is clear that if you do not have reliable expert testimony showing causal relationships between the alleged hazardous substance and the plaintiff's disease, then the case must be dismissed," said Chris Angius, a partner in the Portland, Ore., office of Holland & Knight who represented Chr. Hansen.
The judge took particular issue with Egilman, who was the key expert on proving that the hazardous substance caused their injuries. The judge, Angius said, concluded that "he did not have the facts, he did not have the scientific data, and the scientific methodology he applied was flawed."
ConAgra's lawyer, Corey Gordon, a shareholder at Minneapolis-based Blackwell Burke, did not return a call for comment.
The Newkirks have the option to appeal the ruling. The lead plaintiffs attorney, Kenneth McClain, name partner of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain in Independence, Mo., did not return a call for comment.