National Roundup

Judge moves late fee case to DC, accusing banks of venue shopping for favorable ruling

NEW YORK (AP) — A Texas federal judge on Thursday accused the major banking industry groups and U.S. Chamber of Commerce of venue shopping in their lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a major win for the federal regulator.

The bureau had argued the only reason banks filed their lawsuit in Texas was to increase their chance of a favorable ruling. Judge Mark Pittman ruled that the lawsuit should be transferred to Washington, where the banking lobby has armies of lawyers able to handle this case.
“Venue is not a continental breakfast; you cannot pick and choose on a Plaintiff’s whim where and how a lawsuit is filed,” Pittman wrote.

The lawsuit deals with the CFPB’s new regulations over credit card late fees, where the average late fee of a customer would be capped at $8, down from the average late fee of $32. The major banking groups had filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas. Industry and interest groups have often filed lawsuits against the Biden administration there, due to its historically conservative judges.

The banks have been pushing hard to stop the late fee rule, due to the potential billions the banks would lose in revenue. The bureau estimated when it issued the proposal that banks brought in roughly $14 billion in credit card late fees a year.

In his ruling, Pittman found little reason why the major industry groups — the American Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others — had filed their lawsuit there. The only banking industry connection to the district was the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, which only recently acquired a major bank as a member.

The CFPB had argued that Texas was an irrelevant place to file a banking industry regulation lawsuit, saying that Washington, with its location closer to regulators and expertise in industry regulation law, was more appropriate.

Pittman agreed with the Biden administration.

“In fact, as far as this Court can discern, not one of the banks or credit card companies directly affected by the future (CFPB regulations) is located in the Fort Worth Division,” he said.

The American Bankers Association and the Consumer Bankers Association did not immediately return a request for comment.

Federal judge rules city can’t limit church’s homeless meal services

BROOKINGS, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a southern Oregon city can’t limit a local church’s homeless meal services.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke found that an ordinance passed by the small city of Brookings, on the southern Oregon coast, violated the religious freedom rights of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, KGW reported. He issued his opinion on Wednesday.

The 2021 ordinance limited the church’s homeless meal services to two days a week, and required a permit to serve free food in residential areas. It was passed in response to resident complaints.

The church sued the city in 2022, saying the ordinance violated its right to freely practice religion.

KGW reported the church’s Rev. Bernie Lindley describing feeding people as an expression of religious belief.

“That’s the way we express our faith: by caring for people who are on the margins, especially people who are hungry,” Lindley said.

Attorneys for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The church has served free meals since 2009, according to KGW. During the pandemic, they increased meal services to six per week, which prompted the resident complaints.

In his ruling, Clarke said the city didn’t provide a sufficient reason for restricting the number of days the church can serve free meals.

But the church’s legal battles are not over yet. KGW reported that the city is asking the church to stop shower and advocacy services, a move the church has appealed.

2nd man pleads not guilty to shooting deaths of woman and her 11-year-old daughter

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A man accused of fatally shooting a mother and daughter in Massachusetts as they were sitting in a parked SUV has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, nearly three weeks after he was arrested in California.

Dejan Belnavis, 27, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment Friday in Worcester. He was arrested March 11 in San Diego in connection with the March 5 deaths of Chasity Nun~ez, 27, and her daughter, Zella Nun~ez, 11.
Belnavis faces a hearing May 2.

He is the second man to be charged in the deaths. Karel Mangual, 28, was arrested in Worcester on March 6 and has pleaded not guilty. He too is being held without bail and his next hearing is scheduled for April 12.

Police said in court documents that surveillance video shows “the victims parked in their vehicle and that two people walk up to the vehicle and start shooting.” Video also shows a car consistent with a witness description circling the area before the shooting and leaving afterward, the documents said.
The vehicle was later found in Hartford, Connecticut.

Authorities have not released a potential motive for the killings or said whether there was any relationship between the men and the victims.

Chasity Nunez was a member of the Connecticut National Guard and worked as patient safety and clinical quality coordinator at MIT Healthcare Innovation, according to her obituary. She also had a younger daughter.

Zella Nunez was a sixth-grade student at Columbus Park School in Worcester who “wanted to dabble in everything from painting, singing, dancing to skating,” the obituary said.