National Roundup

Arizona

EEOC settles sexual harassment suit against Phoenix charter school

BOSTON, MA -- A Phoenix, Ariz. charter school will pay $41,125 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC's suit alleged that Rafael Andaverde, the husband of the owner and director of ACCLAIM Charter School, sexually harassed at least two female school employees and continued the harassment even after complaints about it were made to the administration, the EEOC said in a press release.

In addition to the monetary payment, the settlement includes a consent decree that requires the school to revise policies and provide training to all employees about sex discrimination, including sexual harassment. The decree further provides that the harasser will not be hired by the school or be on premises when females or children are present. Further, all employees will be given serious warnings about the possibility of discipline if there is a recurrence of the misconduct.

ACCLAIM will also be enjoined for four years from retaliating or otherwise violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The school will also be required to ensure that its policies reflect the law against sex discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

California

Judge takes $1500 bite out of trial lawyer's wallet

BOSTON, MA -- Mom used to say there's a good reason we have two ears and only one mouth.

Sometimes lawyers need to be reminded of that, particularly when it comes to keeping a judge from going on the warpath.

California attorney Daniel J. Callahan finds his wallet $1500 lighter because he made the mistake of venturing into forbidden territory when examining a witness.

Callahan represented Staar Surgical Company in a dispute with a competitor, Scott C. Moody, Inc.

In January 2010, the case was tried before a jury in the courtroom of Judge Glenda Sanders of the Orange County Superior Court.

One issue in the case was whether a former Staar manufacturer representative by the name of Greiling had conspired with Moody to steal confidential customer information from Staar.

That brought up the issue of the terms of Greiling's employment contract and why it didn't have a particular restrictive covenant.

On cross-examination, Callahan asked Greiling why he didn't have the restrictive covenant in his contract. The lawyer evidently wanted Greiling to say that he wouldn't agree to the clause because a court in another state had enforced a similar provision against him in a previous case.

The only problem with this was that Judge Sanders -- fearing it would prejudice the jury -- had previously ruled to exclude evidence that the restrictive covenant had been enforced in another state.

Naturally, the judge was miffed that Callahan was proceeding on this tack when he questioned Greiling. After sending the jury out, Sanders gave Callahan a dressing down, frankly wondering whether he had the capacity for understanding plain English.

Callahan pleaded innocence, saying he surely must have misunderstood the judge's ruling.

But Judge Sanders wouldn't buy it and imposed a $1500 sanction for Callahan's transgression.

Callahan was hoping that the California Court of Appeal would see things differently, but Monday the court came down firmly on the side of Judge Sanders and upheld the $1500 penalty.

"Presumably, if Callahan actually did not have a clear understanding of [Judge Sanders'] order, he would have asked for clarification on the spot, brought the matter up at a sidebar conference after the jury left or sought extraordinary relief. ...

"Even assuming he did not understand the court's order, which argument is not supported in this record, Callahan opted to venture into the forbidden area and take his chances that an apology would cure a knowing violation of a court order," the court said.

Mississippi

Union Carbide seeks recusal of trial judge in $322M asbestos verdict

BOSTON, MA -- Union Carbide has moved for the trial judge who oversaw a $322 million jury trial to be recused from the case.

On May 4, a jury awarded Thomas C. Brown Jr. damages for inhaling particles from bags of asbestos manufactured by Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips Chemical Corp. while working on an oil rig off the Gulf as a "roughneck" during the 1970s and 1980s.

Along with other post-trial motions, Union Carbide last week moved to recuse Judge Eddie H. Bowen based on an alleged conflict of interest because the judge's father previously settled a claim against Union Carbide for asbestos exposure.

Union Carbide declined to comment.

Allen Hossley, who represented Brown at trial, said that "according to Union Carbide's own motion, they knew of the judge's father's exposure to asbestos early in the trial, during jury selection."

Hossley added that he believes Judge Bowen's rulings during trial were consistent with the law and facts of the case.

The verdict, consisting of $22 million in compensatory and $300 million in punitive damages, is expected to be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The jurisdiction has a high number of claims over injuries from asbestos because of the use of the product in the oil drilling industry that predominates the region. Hossely has four more trials of the same nature pending.

Rhode Island

ACLU asks for removal of high school prayer banner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking a judge to forbid the City of Cranston from displaying a Christian prayer banner in a school auditorium.

The ACLU announced last week that it wants the banner removed, pending the outcome of a lawsuit alleging the banner promotes a particular religion.

The suit seeks the banner's permanent removal from Cranston High School West. The plaintiff is sophomore Jessica Ahlquist, a 15-year-old atheist who says the banner is offensive to non-Christians.

The banner encourages students to strive academically and begins with "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

Last year, the ACLU asked the school to remove the banner after a parent complained. School officials voted in March to keep the banner, which has been displayed since the 1960s.

Published: Tue, May 31, 2011

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