National Roundup


Minnick suing la w firm over ha n d ling of easement

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Former Congressman Walt Minnick has filed a malpractice lawsuit against the law firm that handled a conservation easement that led the Internal Revenue Service to disallow a $1 million tax deduction.

Minnick says it appears he will lose his appeal in Tax Court and will have to pay over $300,000 in taxes, along with interest, penalties and state taxes. The lawsuit also seeks compensatory damages and legal fees.

The Idaho Statesman reports Minnick and his wife, A.K., filed a lawsuit against the Hawley Troxell law firm last week. It alleges a real estate lawyer failed to comply with IRS regulations in handling a 2006 conservation easement.

Managing partner Steve Berenter said the firm believes Minnick was provided excellent legal service and that the firm was not negligent.

New Mexico

Judge says Albuquerque police used excessive force

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A federal judge is maintaining his ruling that Albuquerque police used excessive force in the 2009 arrest of a drunken man who was subdued using stun guns, bean bag rounds and a police dog.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Bruce D. Black has rejected the city's argument to alter his judgment against four police officers.

Black overturned a jury's verdict in favor of the city in April.

The judge had ruled there was no justification for police to see 60-year-old Tony Nelson, who was unarmed, as a threat.

Black said in a separate order he will not delay a trial on damages for plaintiff Nelson until next year.

A trial for damages is scheduled to begin July 2 in Santa Fe.


Woman jailed in marshmallow fork attack

OHIOVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- A western Pennsylvania woman has been jailed on charges she attacked her son's father with a fork used to roast marshmallows, and bit the man when he tried to remove her from the residence.

Online court records don't list an attorney for 23-year-old Sarah Chambers, of Ohioville Township.

The Beaver County Times reports Thursday that Chambers was arrested shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday when police were called to the residence, where neighbors saw the alleged victim being bitten while he was dragging Chambers outside the house.

Police say Chambers told them, "Take me to jail now" when they arrived to find the man with a cut on his head, a six-inch gash inside his left thigh, and multiple puncture wounds on both legs.

She faces a preliminary hearing June 19.

West Virginia

Nursing home cases returned to circuit court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The West Virginia Supreme Court has reaffirmed its ruling that nursing homes can be sued over care if the plaintiffs show that arbitration clauses in contracts are unconscionable.

But the high court on Wednesday reversed part of the July 2011 decision that found the Federal Arbitration Act didn't apply to such clauses.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that the state court incorrectly interpreted the federal law.

The rulings stem from wrongful death lawsuits against two nursing homes in Kanawha and Harrison counties. Circuit courts had dismissed the cases because the nursing home residents had signed contracts with binding arbitration clauses.

Wednesday's unanimous decision contains guidelines to determine whether such clauses are unconscionable, including hidden or unduly complex contract terms.

The cases were sent back to the circuit courts.


Green Bay dioce se wants new tri al in civil lawsuit

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) -- Attorneys for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Green Bay want a new trial in a civil lawsuit won by two victims of clergy sex abuse.

A jury last month awarded $700,000 to brothers Todd and Troy Merryfield in the Outagamie County fraud case.

The brothers claimed the diocese fraudulently misrepresented the safety of former priest John Feeney when it installed him as pastor at a church in the 1970s. They were 12 and 14 when he molested them in 1978.

Dioceses attorneys filed a motion for a new trial last week. They claim a juror's response on a questionnaire demonstrates the juror was biased.

John Peterson, attorney for Troy Merryfield, tells The Post-Crescent the diocese's attempt to undo the verdict shows it's "running out of options."


Deadline set to weigh-in on Kimball's successor

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court has set a deadline for her colleagues to weigh-in on who should succeed her in the post.

Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball plans to retire in January 2013. That justice is the head administrator for Louisiana's judiciary.

On Wednesday, Kimball ordered any justice interested "in a legal determination" of who should become chief justice to submit arguments no later than July 31, with responses -- if any -- to be filed by Aug. 15.

The chief justice position is awarded to the longest-serving justice on the state's high court.

Justice Bernette Johnson of New Orleans was elected in 1994 to fill a seat vacated by retiring justice Revius Ortique, who was required to retire mid-year when he turned 70. However, Johnson's spot on the court during the 1990s was technically a judgeship on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

The unusual arrangement was part of the settlement of a lawsuit that sought to create a black-majority district for the Supreme Court from the New Orleans area by creating what was essentially an eighth spot on the highest court, which had not previously had any black justices. That arrangement was scrapped after the Legislature in 1997 redistricted the Supreme Court, creating an Orleans-based seat for the 2000 election. Johnson was elected to that seat that year.

Justice Jeffrey Victory of Shreveport is next after Johnson in seniority. He was sworn in as an associate justice in January 1995.

Published: Fri, Jun 15, 2012