Courts Round Up

Arkansas: Appeals court overturns corpse abuse conviction
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a Conway County man who had been charged with abuse of a corpse.

A jury convicted Matthew Hammonds and he was sentenced to six years in prison. But in a 4-2 ruling last week, the appeals court said that while Hammonds waited more than eight hours to report his wife’s death in May 2008, no evidence indicated he did anything to physically mistreat her body.

Hammonds had testified that Lygia Hammonds, his wife, died of a cocaine overdose and that he found her lying on the floor dead.

He says he waited until after her children had left for school the next day to notify authorities. He maintained he had not touched his wife’s body after finding her dead.

Rhode Island: Former veterans home nurse loses lawsuit to state

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A former nurse at the Rhode Island Veterans Home who claimed she was fired for complaining about patient care has lost her lawsuit against the state.

A jury in Superior Court recently ruled against Jean Chapman, who alleged she was fired 10 years ago from her job at the Bristol facility that cares for aging and sick veterans because she repeatedly complained about neglect and abuse of residents.

She sought $144,000 in back pay and damages for emotional distress as well as legal fees.

The state said Chapman was let go for not enforcing policies and failing to report for work as scheduled.

Her lawyers say they plan to either file an appeal or a motion for a new trial.

Tennessee: 5 lawsuits against APSU claim sex discrimination
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Five federal lawsuits have been filed against Austin Peay State University accusing the school and its chief of police of retaliating against officers who reported sexual discrimination within the campus police department.

The suits, filed by four current and one former campus police officer, say the five have been subjected to a hostile work environment after cooperating with an internal university investigation.

Court documents in Nashville say Austin Peay Police Chief Lantz Biles “has attempted to divide the department and discredit anyone who made charges or corroborated the charges as a witness” to university investigators.

Biles and school officials declined comment.

Massachusetts: Child’s jailing doesn’t terminate father’s obligation

BOSTON, MA — A child’s incarceration on felony charges did not automatically terminate his father’s obligation to contribute to his postsecondary education expenses, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in reversing judgment.

The defendant agreed to contribute to his son’s postsecondary education expenses under the terms of his divorce.

The son graduated from high school and attended a community college for a short time before he was convicted of two felony sex offenses and sentenced to prison for three years.

The defendant argued that his son’s incarceration automatically terminated his obligation to pay education expenses.

The court disagreed, concluding that incarceration does not necessarily amount to “self emancipation” for child support purposes.

“Case law demonstrates that specific events, such as marriage, entering the military, or leaving the parental home, do not constitute bright-line standards in determining self-emancipation,” the court said.

The court held that “in determining whether a minor is self-emancipated, a court must determine whether the minor has actually moved beyond the care, custody, and control of a parent such that the minor no longer needs to be supported. The answer to this question depends on the relevant facts and circumstances of each particular case.”

It remanded the matter for a determination of the defendant’s continuing obligations under this standard.

Illinois Supreme Court. In re Marriage of Baumgartner, No. 109047. May 20, 2010. Lawyers USA No. 993-1949.

Massachusetts: Town reaches settlement over race bias lawsuit 
BOSTON (AP) — A white woman who alleged in a lawsuit against the town of Randolph and the chairman of its planning board that she was prevented from subdividing her property because she lived with a black man and had two children with another black man has won a $350,000 settlement.

Barbara Mersal claimed in her suit that Planning Board Chairman Richard Goodhue had violated her civil rights by blocking plans for her property. The suit alleged that she was “unlawfully bullied, intimidated and threatened” because of his “racial and gender bigotry.”

The town admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, which was paid for by its insurance company.

Mersal’s lawyer said that the settlement “speaks loudly.”

Pennsylvania: Suit settled between Penn St. streaker, police

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A Penn State student has settled a federal lawsuit alleging he was injured after being tackled by university police during an annual naked run on campus to usher in spring finals.

Christopher Ferry, of West Chester, had sought more than $150,000 in damages.

His attorney Benjamin Lichtman wouldn’t comment except to confirm that the suit has been settled. The terms of the settlement weren’t released.

Ferry said an officer knocked him down during the 2008 “Mifflin Streak” run and three more officers tackled him, causing a concussion and broken collarbone.

Ohio: State to begin reclassification of sex offenders
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Attorney General must reclassify 26,000 sex offenders following a court decision finding parts of an Ohio law unconstitutional.

Attorney General Richard Cordray said his office will reclassify the offenders through the state sex offender database and notify the defendants of their new status.

Cordray called Thursday’s ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court a narrow decision that doesn’t affect the intent of the law to toughen registration rules for sex offenders.

The court said Ohio lawmakers violated the constitution by forcing state officials to change convicts’ classifications.

The ruling means that sex offenders convicted before the law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, would revert back to former classifications.

The ruling leaves in place the new, tougher requirements for those convicted since.

Nevada: Las Vegas lawyer spared prison in federal case
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 72-year-old Las Vegas lawyer has been sentenced to 90 days house arrest, three years’ probation, and a $25,000 fine for obstruction of justice in a federal personal injury fraud case.

Noel Gage could have faced up to 21 months in prison in the felony case stemming from allegations that Las Vegas-area doctors and lawyers inflated medical costs, protected physicians from malpractice lawsuits and shared kickbacks from legal settlements.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said at sentencing Thursday that Gage will probably be disbarred and doesn’t belong in prison.

Gage took a plea deal in February and avoided trial on mail and wire fraud charges.

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