We Need More Education

The right to a civics lesson

Last year, Rhode Island students and parents filed a class action lawsuit against the Governor and other government employees.  The claimants are fighting for an enhanced education in civics that prepares them to employ their constitutional rights to vote and serve on a jury.  According to their argument, the United States should provide more of an equal opportunity for all students to engage in lessons that help them participate within the democratic nation.  Read more

Actress Sues Law Firm For Misusing Local Television Ad

Law firm finds themselves on the receiving end of a law suit

Actress Elena Aroaz is suing the producers of a commercial she was in for breach of contract. Aroaz portrayed a victim in a wrongful injury case for the Levinson Trachtenberg Group’s tongue-in-cheek commercial. The ad took off and the rights were sold to multiple law firms across the U.S without approval from the actress. The suit was filed by Aroaz in Manhattan Supreme Court and alleges that Levinson Trachtenberg Group paid her $600 in 2009 to appear in a 30 second advertisement that was only supposed to air on local television for a year.

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Police Misconduct Costs Beloit $265,000

Caution

Beloit, Wisconsin will have to pay $265,000 to a teenager who was illegally strip-searched in public by a police officer.  Conner Poff was sitting in his car with some friends when the police received an anonymous tip alleging “drug activity”.  Officer Kerry Daugherty approached the car, asked Poff to step out, and patted him down.  Up to this point, Daugherty followed standard and necessary procedure.  However, the policeman detected a bulge in the teenagers pants in the region of his crotch and, apparently not being too current with his studies of anatomy, asked the boy what that mysterious bulge could be.  Poff replied that it was in fact his genitals, at which point the incredulous officer told the teenager to “show him”.  When Poff complied, he was slammed against the car’s back windshield so hard that the windshield shattered and he suffered a mild concussion.  In the course of the scuffle, Daugherty “discovered” a small bag of marijuana in the boy’s underwear.  The police officer’s defense for his violent and unjustifiable strip search?  He wanted the 16-year-old to show him the marijuana, which was clearly too small to detect in plain sight, and “not his genitals”.  Well Mr. Daugherty, if you didn’t want to ogle the kid’s junk, you probably shouldn’t have asked to ogle the kid’s junk.

Poff filed suit shortly thereafter, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.  Instead of going in front of a jury, which I can only assume would decide in Poff’s favor, the city agreed to a $265,000 settlement.  Daugherty was not disciplined.  So, the one disadvantage of the settlement system once again comes to light: the victims of injustice get some money, but the perpetrators are not punished and can say they’ve done nothing wrong.  However, Milwaukee County is undertaking an investigation in the strip search practices of its police departments thanks to some of Daugherty’s comments, which suggested that his actions were part of the department’s standard modus operandi.

The ultimate moral to take away from this story, then, is to remember to tighten your belt when dealing with police in Wisconsin.

 

$6.2 Million Settlement for Arrested Protestors

The right to protest

Last week, the City of Chicago agreed to settle with the group of Iraq War protesters who were unjustly arrested in 2003 to the tune of $6.2 million.  The Chicago Tribune reports that an appellate court decided last year that the 800 citizens were detained or arrested without warrant.  Since then, the city and the protesters have been in arbitration to settle the case outside of the court system.  Though the settlement still has to be approved by the city council, it is likely less expensive than continuing to litigate.

The decision marks a stern victory for the First Amendment as well as the Fourth, which protects against unlawful search and seizure.  In the wake of the appellate decision, the City of Chicago has changed its tactics against protesters, as seen in the recent Occupy protests.  Now, the police apparently give the protesters ample time to leave before they are arrested.  The question for the police and the protesters alike is now, “Is that enough to guarantee the first amendment right to assemble?”