Court Roundup

Vermont
Insurance  must cover driver in  2010 fatal crash

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A jury says an insurance company must honor the policy of a Vermont man who was convicted of murder in a drunken driving crash that killed a woman in 2010.
The insurance company Geico had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington to determine whether it needed to cover Timothy Dowd of Hinesburg for the crash. Geico questioned whether Dowd had approval to use the borrowed car involved in the accident that killed Kaye Borneman.
Geico sued Dowd and the administrator of Borneman’s estate in an effort to avoid paying damages. The estate counter-sued.
Separately, the estate is suing Dowd in state court for wrongful death. The Burlington Free Press reports that lawsuit had been stalled until the outcome of the federal case.

New Jersey
Man beaten by state troopers will get $425K

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey will pay $425,000 to a mentally disabled man who was beaten by state troopers who were searching for two burglary suspects in 2009.
James Bayliss’ attorney tells The Star-Ledger of Newark that in return, the Hackettstown resident has agreed to drop his federal lawsuit against the troopers and the state, which admitted no wrongdoing.
An internal affairs review last year found the troopers used “unreasonable force.” The Attorney General’s Office said the beating violated use-of-force rules and the state took too long to investigate.
Officials determined more than a year earlier the troopers had done nothing wrong.
The reversal came after the newspaper posted a patrol car video that showed a trooper throwing Bayliss to the ground, kneeling on him and punching him in the face.

New York
State top court rejects term limit for longtime DA

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that a longtime Long Island prosecutor can continue his re-election bid, because the county where he was elected lacks the authority to set his term limit.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is not bound by the 12-year limit approved by local voters in 1993, the Court of Appeals said in a 6-1 ruling. The 62 counties lack the power to regulate the number of terms for their district attorneys, who are officers established by the state constitution to enforce New York’s penal law and should be subject to uniform qualifications, the majority said.
Spota faces attorney Raymond Perini in a Sept. 10 Republican primary. He also has Democratic, independent and conservative cross-endorsements.
“Permitting county legislators to impose term limits on the office of district attorney would have the potential to impair the independence of that office, because it would empower a local legislative body to effectively end the tenure of an incumbent district attorney whose investigatory or prosecutorial actions were unpopular or contrary to the interests of county legislators,” the majority wrote. “The state has a fundamental and overriding interest in ensuring the integrity and independence of the office of district attorney.”
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was joined by Judges Eugene Pigott Jr., Susan Read, Victoria Graffeo, Jenny Rivera and Sheila Abdus-Salaam in the ruling.
In his dissent, Judge Robert Smith wrote that he sees nothing in the constitution or state law preventing Suffolk County from limiting the number of consecutive years a district attorney may serve. “It is irrelevant that, as the majority notes, a district attorney is ‘a constitutional officer’ as well as a county officer and that the office of district attorney is a subject of statewide concern,” he wrote.
Perini said after the court arguments Wednesday that thinks he’ll win the Republican primary and got 4,725 petition signatures without party backing. “People want a choice,” he said.
Messages left for Spota were not immediately returned.

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