National Roundup

Ex-inmate wins appeal to be allowed to take state bar exam

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who was convicted of theft and drug crimes in 2011 should be allowed to take the state bar exam after she graduated from Seattle University Law School this year.

The Kitsap Sun reports that 40-year-old Tarra Simmons was sentenced to 30 months in prison six years ago, but on Thursday, she was given the OK to work toward becoming a licensed lawyer.

A state Bar Association board earlier this year denied Simmons’ request to take the test, saying she did not meet the “character and fitness” requirements to practice law because of her criminal history. She appealed to the state’s higher court — and won.

Simmons’ attorney says she accomplished a transformation that essentially made her an example of rehabilitation.

Mother, daughter charged with distributing drugs at court

BROCKTON, Mass. (AP) — A mother and daughter have been charged with distributing heroin inside a Massachusetts courthouse, and three court officers have been placed on leave.

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office said Thursday that 54-year-old Christine Lozanne and 25-year-old Tineisha Lozanne were arrested by state police on Wednesday. The women pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of distribution of heroin and delivery of an article to a prisoner in jail.

The Lozannes do not work at Brockton Superior Court where the distribution allegedly occurred.

Officials said the three court officers, whose names were not released, were put on administrative leave pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.

A spokeswoman for the state’s trial court system told The Boston Globe that security procedures in the Brockton court are being reviewed.

Newspaper wins dispute over state records

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court is siding with a newspaper in its longstanding effort to get documents from a state agency.

In a decision Thursday, justices said Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel (SHLAY-gul) ruled correctly that documents from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources are public records. Officials had claimed the documents were investigative records and did not have to be disclosed under the state’s Public Records Act.

The Sun Herald sought the records in 2012. State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office subpoenaed the records and obtained a ruling that said the subpoena prevented Marine Resources from handing over the records.

The Sun Herald reported that justices on Thursday also ordered the auditor’s office to pay the newspaper’s legal fees of about $37,000.

Officials have 14 days to request a rehearing.

The Supreme Court agreed with Schloegel’s ruling that the auditor’s office violated the Public Records Act.

However, justices said the Department of Marine Resources “acted in good faith to resolve the public-records request.” The agency’s current executive director, Jamie Miller, praised the Supreme Court ruling.

“It confirms our handling of the requested public records was done appropriately and within the law,” Miller said in a statement.

Henry Laird, attorney for the Sun Herald, said the ruling should help media companies across the state.

“That holding is very helpful to journalists,” he said. “Also, the holding is helpful in that you can’t convert records to criminal records after a subpoena.

“This decision, again, narrowly construed an exemption to the Mississippi Public Records Act and says that these are public records. If a state agency or city government has records that are turned over to investigate a crime, they’re not criminal investigative records.”

Investigative records are exempt from disclosure.

In 2016, the Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed Schloegel’s 2013 decision that the documents were public records and her decision to hold Pickering, his investigators and the Department of Marine Resources in contempt for failing to turn over the records as she ordered.

The Sun Herald appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court. Justices ruled that only Deputy State Auditor David Huggins was in contempt and ordered him to pay a $100 fine.

Former Department of Marine Resources Executive Director Bill Walker; chief of staff Joe Ziegler; department official Tina Shumate; D’Iberville city manager Michael Janus; and Walker’s son, Scott Walker, eventually were convicted of crimes at the department and city of D’Iberville.

The Walkers, Shumate and Janus received prison terms. All have since been released.

New Hampshire
$1.3M settlement in paralyzed school football player case

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire city and its insurance carriers have agreed to pay a former high school football player who was paralyzed in a 2010 practice $2,000 a month as part of a $1.3 million settlement of his negligence lawsuit.

The Telegraph of Nashua reports the payments go into a trust fund for Cooper Doucette. They started earlier this year and are guaranteed for at least 25 years. The city denies any liability in the settlement.

Doucette’s lawyer received about $738,000.

In 2010, the then 15-year-old Doucette was attending a preseason practice of the Nashua High School North football team. The junior varsity player was attempting to tackle another player when he suffered a neck injury that left him a quadriplegic.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015.

Lawyer bowling alley over charge of hidden fee

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland civil attorney is suing the Grand Central Restaurant & Bowling Lounge, claiming it charges customers a hidden 2 percent fee.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that Mehrens filed a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday after he ate at the bowling alley and discovered that the business tacked on an extra 2 percent to his bill.

Slips of paper are placed on some of the tables in the bowling alley’s dining area, announcing that the charge offsets the rising minimum wage in Oregon. But Mehrens’ attorney, Michael Fuller, says customers who order from the upstairs or downstairs bar or bowling lanes do not see the notices.

A representative for Concept Entertainment, the company that manages the 12-lane bowling alley, declined immediate comment.