Retail giant Wal-Mart is being sued by a group of former employee pharmacists who say they were required to work outside the stores but were not paid for that work. In an amended complaint filed a few weeks ago, the former employees argue that they were required to study and take immunization training at home but were not paid for that time.

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“Wal-Mart pressured pharmacists to attend and complete the training course in a variety of ways that relayed to plaintiffs and putative class members it was not voluntary,” their amended complaint said.  [click to continue…]

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Historic, unprecedented, monumental… no single word fully encapsulates the magnitude and impact the past three years have had on marriage rights for gay and lesbian Americans. By the end of next month, the Supreme Court will decide whether gay and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and whether states can permissibly deny them of that right by refusing to issue them marriage licenses and/or denying them recognition of out-of-state marriages. How did we get to this point? What is left for the Supreme Court to decide? What will be the impacts of the Supreme Court’s pending decision? To answer these questions, let’s reflect on the legal history related to marriage and gay rights that brings us to where we stand today, and may give us insight into where we’re headed next.

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Background

In 1967, the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, a case in which police conducted a nighttime raid of the home of Mildred and Richard Loving. The Lovings, an interracial couple married in Washington D.C. in 1958, were arrested for living together as husband and wife—violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law. The Supreme Court unanimously struck down the law, writing that marriage is a fundamental civil right and that depriving that right on the basis of a race was not permissible. Id. at 12.

In 1970, a gay couple from the University of Minnesota—Richard Baker and James McConnell—applied for a marriage license in Hennepin County. After being denied, they sued for violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Among their claims, the plaintiffs argued that the law impermissibly classified on the basis of gender. The trial court dismissed their case, which the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld in 1971. Baker v. Nelson, 191 N.W.2d 185 (Minn. 1971). The couple then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Until 1988, it was mandatory for the Court to accept such appeals from state supreme courts. Thus, although a denial of certiorari is not usually an endorsement of a lower court’s decision, in the case of Baker, the Supreme Court’s one sentence opinion that, “[t]he appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question[,]” Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972), was—at least at that time—considered to be a binding decision on the merits.

Just one year after Baker was decided, in 1973, the Supreme Court elevated the level of constitutional scrutiny for laws that classify based on gender, concluding that such laws must, like race and national origin, be subjected to heightened judicial scrutiny. Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 688 (1973).

In 1974, the State of Wisconsin denied Roger Redhail a marriage license because he was in arrears on court ordered child support after having a child while in high school. Redhail filed a class action suit against a Milwaukee County official, which found its way to a Supreme Court opinion in 1978. Justice Marshall cited and reiterated the Court’s position in Loving, writing that marriage is a fundamental right, the deprivation of which requires strict scrutiny. Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U.S. 374 (1978). Nine years later, the Supreme Court again recognized the fundamental right to marry in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) (striking down a law barring prison inmates from marrying).

In 1986, the Supreme Court upheld a Georgia law that criminalized gay sex. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in concurrence that ancient roots prohibited homosexual sex, calling it an infamous crime against nature that is worse than rape. He argued that framing such laws as fundamental rights violations would be to “cast aside millennia of moral teaching.” Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986).

In 1992, a 53% majority of Colorado voters approved a ballot measure that amended the Colorado Constitution. The amendment prohibited every county, city, and town within Colorado from protecting gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination. In 1996, the Supreme Court reviewed the amendment in Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996). In the Court’s opinion, Justice Kennedy did not explicitly state which level of constitutional scrutiny the Court was applying, but wrote that, “laws of the kind… raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected,” and concluded that the ballot measure was born of a “bare… desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” Id. at 634. The Court added, “[i]f the constitutional conception of equal protection of the laws means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare… desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.” Id. (emphasis in original) (internal citations omitted).

Then, in the mid-1990’s, following a Hawaii Supreme Court decision that raised the prospect of same-sex couples being allowed to marry,[1] both the federal government and states across the country began enacting statutory bans explicitly excluding same-sex couples from marrying and/or recognizing those marriages. Like the myriad state laws passed at that time, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, was also motivated by a desire to specifically avoid recognizing marriages of same-sex couples. This represented a stark departure from both the federal government’s and most states’ longstanding practice of recognizing valid marriages from any of the states. This rule—known as the “place of celebration rule”—is recognized in nearly every state and is a defining element of our federal system and American family law.[2] For example, some states will allow cousins to marry while many will not; yet, even in states that don’t grant such marriages, those states will usually recognize out-of-state marriages as long as they are valid in the conferring state.[3] That rule usually applies even when a couple leaves a state to marry in order to avoid a prohibition under their home-state marriage laws.[4]

In 1998, Alaska became the first state in the union to go beyond a statutory ban on marriage for same-sex couples, also passing a ballot measure that constitutionally restricted marriage to one man and one woman. Despite—and perhaps because of—the Supreme Court’s decision in Romer, gay and lesbian Americans were being targeted for disparate governmental treatment like never before. That same year, officials in Texas criminally prosecuted a gay male couple for having sex in the confines of a private bedroom. Texas’ sodomy laws, like those in 13 other states, explicitly prohibited homosexual acts, effectively making homosexuality illegal. See generally Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

In 2003, the Supreme Court struck down those laws—and overruled its Bowers decision in Lawrence, concluding that the two Texans, like all individuals, were free under the Constitution to engage in intimate sexual conduct “in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.” 539 U.S. at 567. The Court found that “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.” Id. Further, while the Court held that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice[.]” Id. at 577.

Also in 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court became the first court in the country to strike down a state’s marriage ban and require the state to marry same-sex couples. Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941 (Mass. 2003). The backlash was swift and widespread. Dozens of states began following Alaska’s lead and incorporating marriage bans into their constitutions in an effort to block state courts from overruling their statutory bans. By 2008, 29 states passed measures similar to Alaska at the polls, many barring not only marriages, but also prohibiting state recognition of any type of same-sex relationship. Nebraska was one such state. It was also the first to state to have its ban struck down in federal court.

Before he was overturned by the Eighth Circuit, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down Nebraska’s ban in a Romer-style equal protection case called Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning, 455 F.3d 859 (8th Cir. 2006). The plaintiffs argued that Nebraska’s constitutional amendment impermissibly “raise[d] an insurmountable political barrier to same-sex couples,” but they did not seek the right to marry. Id. at 865. The Eighth Circuit wrote that, in order to determine the appropriate level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation, “the most relevant precedents [were] murky,” Id. at 865–66 (emphasis added). Accordingly, the court tested Nebraska’s ban against the lowest level of constitutional scrutiny—the rational-basis test. Under that deferential standard, the Eighth Circuit upheld the amendment, writing that “laws limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples . . . do not violate the Constitution of the United States.” Id.

The Eighth Circuit wasn’t the only appellate court to struggle with the Supreme Court’s “murky” precedent on constitutional scrutiny for sexual orientation classifications. For example, in 2008, the Ninth Circuit reached a similar conclusion to the Bruning court in Witt v. Dep’t of Air Force, 527 F.3d 806, 821 (9th Cir. 2008), concluding that barring further pronouncement by the Supreme Court, it would apply rational basis review to equal protection claims involving classifications based on sexual orientation. Nevertheless, gay rights advocates doubled their efforts, focusing on engaging the public and winning hearts and minds by having conversations about love and fairness.

Recent Developments

Three years ago, in May 2012, President Obama declared his support for marriage equality. At the time, only six states allowed same-sex couples to marry, and the federal government refused to recognize those nuptials. In Minnesota, voters were debating what became the most expensive ballot initiative in our history, a measure that—had it been successful—would’ve made Minnesota the 31st state to constitutionally ban marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Minnesota became the first state in the nation to successfully block such an amendment at the ballot box.

Two years ago today, marriage equality advocates were anxiously awaiting decisions from the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), a case challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, 133 S. Ct. 2652 (2013), a California case challenging the constitutionality of one of those state-level ballot measures (“Proposition 8”). Pundits heralded the lawsuits as two of the most important civil rights cases of our time, each having the potential to become landmark precedent.

As it turned out, Perry was mostly forgotten after the Supreme Court’s standing-based decision didn’t address whether states may deny marriage based on sexual orientation or gender.[5] The Court’s failure to reach the merits of the case was a disappointment for millions of gay Americans, including same-sex couples in the 37 states that, following the decision, still suffered marriage discrimination by their government and the resulting stigma that they were less equal than their neighbors.

Yet, despite Perry’s narrow results, the Supreme Court’s 2013 term was a win—a win for the same-sex couples in those 13 states that did have marriage equality, a win for gay and lesbians in general, a win for civil rights, and a win for the principles of equality, morality, and human dignity. This is because the Court’s decision in Windsor struck at the heart of DOMA, declaring—in no uncertain terms—that gay and lesbian relationships deserve dignity, due process, and equal protection. Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, repeatedly emphasized that although states may generally define and regulate marriage, that such regulation, “of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons.” 133 S. Ct. 2675, 2691. Thus, although Windsor didn’t explicitly decide whether states may block same-sex couples from marrying, it prompted marriage equality advocates to use its conspicuous tea leaves to light a fire.

Within one year of the decision, advocates challenged every state marriage ban and anti-recognition law in the country with at least one lawsuit. Since then, nearly every court to rule has held that Windsor’s logic requires invalidation of such laws. In numbers, that is 60+ rulings in over 40 different courts in every corner of the country, including the United States Courts of Appeals for the Tenth, Ninth, Seventh, and Fourth Circuits. In contrast, only one federal appellate court—the Sixth Circuit—and a handful of trial courts have upheld such bans.

When the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits struck down marriage bans and anti-recognition laws, most legal experts expected that the United States Supreme Court would review some or all of those decisions—particularly in light of the fact that all parties asked the Court to do so. But in September 2014, while visiting the University of Minnesota Law School, Justice Ginsburg hinted that the Court likely wouldn’t take the cases unless there was a circuit split. She reasoned that there was “no urgency” since the there wasn’t any disagreement. Sure enough, less than one month later, the Supreme Court denied cert. in the 10th, 7th, and 4th Circuit cases.

Pending Supreme Court Decision

Then, in November 2014, in DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388 (6th Cir. 2014), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned lower federal court decisions in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, becoming the first and only federal appellate court, after Windsor, to uphold marriage bans and anti-recognition laws. This created the circuit split Justice Ginsburg was talking about, which explains why the Court granted cert. in the Sixth Circuit cases in January of this year.

Today, after less time has elapsed than it takes to complete law school, 31 more states have marriage equality than did in May 2012. As of the publishing of this article, the total stands at 37—a complete reversal in numbers from only two years ago. Although Minnesota is among the few states added to that tally by legislation, the majority were put there pursuant to judicial decree, and mostly within the past year. By the end of next month—most likely on June 29, the last day of the term—the Supreme Court will decide whether those courts have gotten it right.

Unlike Perry, there are no standing issues that may prevent the Court from reaching a decision on the merits. Among the matters the Court will decide, look for the majority opinion to discuss: 1) whether its summary dismissal in Baker is still valid precedent; 2) whether same-sex couples share in the fundamental right to marry that the Court discussed in Loving, Zablocki, Turner, and other cases; 3) whether the Court considers the contested marriage laws to classify on the basis of gender—meaning that they must be subject to heightened constitutional scrutiny; 4) whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation must be subject to heightened scrutiny; 5) whether principles of federalism (such as the Tenth Amendment and the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction) can legitimate the contested marriage laws; 6) whether a stated intent to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman can be considered animus evidence sufficient to strike down the ban; and 7) whether any rationale offered by the States, such as promoting procreation or deferring to the political process, can legitimate the challenged marriage laws.

In deciding question 1—whether its summary dismissal in Baker is still valid precedent—look to see if the Court also addresses question 3—whether the contested marriage laws classify on the basis of gender and are thus subject to heightened constitutional scrutiny. During oral arguments in Perry, Justice Kennedy stated that it was an interesting question, one that he had been wrestling with. Justice Ginsburg also indicated that Baker was from a different era, one that preceded heightened scrutiny for gender classifications.

On question 2—whether same-sex couples share in the fundamental right to marry—look for the Court to discuss its historical treatment of marriage and to also discuss question 5—whether principles of federalism can legitimate the contested marriage laws. The Supreme Court has articulated the right to marry no less than 14 times, describing it as a right associated with other fundamental rights, including privacy and association. While the Windsor opinion discusses the States’ historical regulation of marriage at length, principles of federalism have not previously stopped the Court from striking down state marriage laws that violate the Constitution. Thus, if the Court answers question 2 affirmatively, simultaneously doing so with question 5 would be difficult.

Regarding question 7—whether any rationale offered by the States, such as promoting procreation or deferring to the political process, can legitimate the challenged marriage laws—look for the Supreme Court to specifically address the Sixth Circuit’s assertion that deference to the political process constitutes a rational basis to uphold the contested marriage bans. The Supreme Court already dismissed the other rationales in Windsor.

While the Court’s precedent on marriage and gay rights may offer some strong clues into its likely opinion on the issue of marriage for gay and lesbian couples, perhaps the most anticipated answers for those now anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s pending decision is with regard to questions 4 and 6. With regard to 4—whether laws classifying on the basis of sexual orientation must be subject to heightened scrutiny, although the Eighth and Ninth Circuits have both previously ruled that the Supreme Court’s precedent only requires rational basis level review for laws that target gay and lesbians, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Windsor suggests otherwise. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit recently reversed its 2008 Witt opinion, concluding that Windsor was “dispositive of the question of the appropriate level of scrutiny” for sexual orientation classifications and requires heightened scrutiny. SmithKline v. Abbott Labs, 740 F.3d 471, 480–481 (9th Cir. 2014).

With regard to question 6—whether a stated interest in maintaining the “traditional” heterosexual definition of marriage is evidence of animus sufficient to strike down the laws—there is some thought that the Court could answer this affirmatively and avoid answering questions 4 and 7 altogether. The Court’s developing animus doctrine is something that University of Minnesota Law Professor Dale Carpenter has written about at length.[6] Essentially, the Court’s precedent seems to indicate that although a finding of animus toward a particular class of people is not necessary to strike down a law, a finding of animus is in fact sufficient to render the law unconstitutional. This doctrine is not part of the Court’s traditional equal protection analysis.

The significance of the answers from the Supreme Court on questions 4 and 6 extends beyond the issue of marriage equality. Across the country—most recently and most significantly in Indiana—states are passing laws meant to chip away at the rights of gay and lesbian citizens. In some cases, the laws don’t explicitly classify on the basis of sexual orientation but are nonetheless rooted in allowing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Such laws, much like DOMA and the 13 remaining state marriage bans, inflict serious harms on gay and lesbian persons and their children, depriving them of hundreds of rights and protections, and stigmatizing them as inferior and unworthy of respect. Allowing the laws to stand would burden the lives of gay and lesbians persons “by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways . . . from the mundane to the profound.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694.

Like the Supreme Court’s previous cases involving gay and lesbian persons, its pending decision will have long-term implications. To the extent that the Court answers the above-posited questions, with the above-discussed history in mind, come June 29, 2015, we may likely have some insight into the next legal steps for the gay civil rights movement.

————-

[1] Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44 (Haw. 1993).

[2] Garcia v. Garcia, 127 N.W. 586, 589 (S.D. 1910). Indeed, the “policy of the civilized world[] is to sustain marriages, not to upset them.” Madewell v. United States, 84 F. Supp. 329, 332 (E.D. Tenn. 1949); see also In re Lenherr’s Estate, 314 A.2d 255, 258 (Pa. 1974) (“In an age of widespread travel and ease of mobility, it would create inordinate confusion and defy the reasonable expectations of citizens whose marriage is valid in one state to hold that marriage invalid elsewhere.”).

[3] e.g., Garcia, 127 N.W at. 587-589 (recognizing a marriage between first cousins that would have been prohibited and void if the parties had attempted to marry in South Dakota).

[4] Id.

[5] Although the Perry decision didn’t reach the merits, it did add to the Supreme Court’s evolving standing doctrine and effectively brought marriage equality to California.

[6] http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2424743

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In an article published in The Week on Friday, Scott Lemieux reminds readers of one of the most troubling aspects of the murder of Walter Scott in North Carleston, South Carolina: if it wasn’t for the fact that it was captured on video by a bystander the police didn’t know existed, chances are Michael Slager would not only not have been charged with murder, but he’d still be a uniformed police officer.

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From the article:

[click to continue…]

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On March 11, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California handed down opinions in Cotter v. Lyft, Inc., and O’Connor v. Uber Technologies, Inc. The opinions, which represent at least a temporary win for the drivers who brought suit, highlight the ever-increasing difficulties relating to the classification of employees pursuant to wage and hour law. The two class actions by current and former drivers for Lyft and Uber allege that the companies inappropriately classify them as independent contractors rather than employees.  The courts denied motions by Uber and Lyft to have the cases thrown out of court, ruling that whether the drivers must be considered employees by law is a question of fact to be resolved at trial.

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The opinions determined that Uber and Lyft are transportation companies and not simply intermediaries between drivers and their customers. The courts relied on the fact that the companies depend entirely on fees from those transportation services for their revenue, exercise control over interactions between drivers and customers, and sell themselves as transportation companies that serve as alternatives to taxi cabs.  [click to continue…]

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A problem with officers who engage in violations of the 4th Amendment (excessive force, unlawful arrest, and unreasonable search and seizure)  is that they fall into the habit of acting out of a perceived sense of superiority and/or anger, and generally are not held responsible for that behavior. Thus, they get used to being obeyed regardless of the situation and often forget that the people they interact with are human beings deserving respect and fair treatment under the law.

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In the video posted by The Washington Post, you can see the moment that Madison, Alabama Police Officer Eric Parker realizes that he made that very mistake. Unfortunately for his victim, that moment came too late.   Parker paralyzed an Indian grandfather visiting his American grandson on February 6, 2015 when he body slammed the man to the ground without any rational justification. From the Washington Post:

The FBI is investigating an incident in which an Indian grandfather’s encounter with police in Alabama left the man partially paralyzed. An officer involved in the incident is under arrest, and the police chief  proposed that he be fired, police said Thursday.

A spokesman for the FBI said that the agency became involved shortly after the Feb. 6 incident, and it is being treated as a civil rights investigation. The findings will be turned over to the Justice Department for review.

Sureshbhai Patel had recently come to the United States from his farm in India to help care for his grandson, who was born prematurely and was suffering from health complications.

At about 9 a.m. on Friday in Madison, Ala., just days into his visit, Patel was strolling through his family’s neighborhood when he was approached by police. A neighbor had called authorities and told them a man who looked  “suspicious” was peering into garages, according to the Huntsville Times. That man, police determined, was Patel.

Within minutes, the 57-year-old grandfather was face down on the ground with a severe neck injury that left him partially paralyzed.

A lawyer for Patel has filed a lawsuit against the Madison Police Department, alleging that his constitutional civil rights were violated and seeking damages. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal district court.

“First, I’m hoping that the truth will come out, second that this case might bring to life the real issues we have in this country about the police abuse of power where someone can’t try to blame it on the victim,” Hank Sherrod, the family’s attorney, told The Washington Post. “Here we’ve got someone who is truly blameless and innocent. He was brutalized, and hopefully will, but may never, walk again.”

Representatives from the Indian government visited Patel in the hospital on Thursday, Sherrod said.

Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey told reporters Thursday that he has recommended termination for one of the officers involved in the incident. Officer Eric Parker, Muncey, said, has also turned himself in on charges of assault in the third degree.

The Madison police concluded from its investigation into the incident that the officer’s actions “did not meet the high standards and expectations” of his department, Muncey said. Muncey apologized to Patel, Patel’s family, and the community. The police chief added that the FBI was conducting a “parallel inquiry to ascertain if there were any federal violations.” He declined to answer any questions, citing the pending lawsuit.

The department also released portions of audio and video pertaining to the incident. In a non-emergency call to police, a neighbor described Patel as a “skinny black guy” and said that he’d “never seen him before” in the neighborhood. Patel, he said, was “just wandering around” and “walking close to the garage.” The caller added that he was following Patel at a distance. When asked to estimate his age, the caller guessed Patel was in his 30′s.

The neighbor also told the police dispatcher he was “nervous” leaving his wife because of Patel’s presence in the neighborhood.

Syed Akbaruddin,  a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said Friday that the government was “extremely disturbed” about the incident and had expressed its concern to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and also planned talks with officials in Washington and Alabama.

“We take the incident involving an Indian national very seriously,”  he said. “We want to make it abundantly clear we are extremely worried about what happened to Mr. Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian national.”

In an earlier statement, police said that Patel attempted to pull away from officers as he was being patted down, leading at least one officer to force him to the ground, “which resulted in injury.” Patel’s son, Chirag, told the Huntsville newspaper that police escalated the incident, not his father.

“He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time,” said Chirag Patel, who arrived in the United States a decade ago to study engineering before getting married and becoming an American citizen. “They put him to the ground.”

“This is a good neighborhood. I didn’t expect anything to happen.”

Two videos of the incident later released by Madison police include both audio of the officers involved, and visuals of the exchange. In one video, a pair of officers approach Patel and ask him where he’s headed, what his address is, and request to see his ID. One officer says, “he’s saying ‘no English.’ ” The second officer continues to ask Patel questions, including “are you looking at houses and stuff?”

Sureshbhai Patel said he tried to tell the officers that he doesn’t speak English by saying “No English. Indian. Walking,” according to the lawsuit. He says he repeated his son’s house number and pointed toward the residence.

In the police video, an officer then tells Patel, “Do not jerk away from me again. If you do, I’m gonna put you on the ground.” The officer asks,  “Do you understand?” and tells Patel to “relax.”

That’s when an officer twisted his arm behind his back, Patel said, and forced him to the ground, face-first. His face was bloodied, but worse, he also injured his neck and was left paralyzed in his arms and legs, the lawsuit alleges.

One of the two police videos shows the officer holding Patel forcefully, pushing him to the ground. Patel, on the ground, is then told to “chill out” by one of the officers. The officer tells a third, approaching officer that Patel doesn’t “speak a lick of English,” and that they were trying to pat him down. “I don’t know what his problem is, but he won’t listen,” one of the officers adds.

Patel remains on the ground as the officers call for medical assistance.

“Stand up, let’s go,” one officer says. “You’re all right.” For several minutes, the officers repeatedly attempt to get Patel off the ground and into a patrol car.

One officer asks, “He OK?”

Sherrod, the family’s attorney, said things went wrong as soon as a neighbor who didn’t recognize Patel called police and reported suspicious activity.

“This is broad daylight, walking down the street,” Sherrod told the Huntsville Times. “There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin.”

Sherrod said officers left Patel on the ground, injured and bloodied and in desperate need of a paramedic.

“This is just one of those things that doesn’t need to happen,” the attorney said. “That officer doesn’t need to be on the streets.”

Speaking to The Post after the Thursday press conference, Sherrod said that he “appreciates [the police] doing the right thing on Thursday,” but criticized the department for not acting sooner. “On Monday they were trying to blame Mr. Patel,” he added.

Patel underwent cervical fusion surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord and has regained some feeling in his arms and one leg. He remains partially paralyzed. His left leg is entirely or mostly paralyzed and he lacks grip strength in his arms, the lawsuit said.

A fund was established to help cover the cost of Patel’s medical care and a recovery that could take months. He does not have health insurance.

Patel’s son told the Times that before the incident, he was proud to own a home in Madison. He chose the community, he said, because of the educational opportunities the area would someday provide his son. Now, he said, he’s not so sure about his decision.

“It is a dream for me because I came from a very poor family and I worked so hard here,” he told the paper. “I’m totally devastated that I might have made a big mistake.”

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United States District Court

District of South Dakota 

 

 

Rosenbrahn, et al.,

 

Plaintiffs,      

 

  •  

    Daugaard, et al.,

     

    Defendants.

    Case Type: Civil Rights / § 1983
    Case No. 14-CV-4081-KES

     

     

     

     

    PLAINTIFFS’ EMERGENCY MOTION TO VACATE STAY OF JUDGMENT

     

    EMERGENCY MOTION

    On January 12, 2014, the Court entered judgment, declaring:

    SDCL 25-1-1, SDCL 25-1-38, Article 21 § 9 of the South Dakota Constitution, and any other provision of state law that precludes people from marrying or refuses to recognize an existing marriage, solely because the individuals are of the same gender are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, No. 4:14-CV-04081-KES, 2015 WL 144567, at *11 (D.S.D. Jan. 12, 2015). The Court further ordered that, “defendants are enjoined from enforcing those laws or otherwise declining to issue a marriage license solely because the applicants are of the same gender.” Id.

    The Court, over Plaintiffs’ objections, also ordered that, “the effects of [the] judgment will be stayed until the judgment is final.” Id. While Plaintiffs believe they have already satisfied their obligations pursuant to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and could make the above-captioned motion at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, they seek this Court’s reconsideration in light of recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In its Order granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court did not consider that on December 20, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the State of Florida’s request for a stay of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of Florida’s exclusion of same-sex couples in marriage while the litigation and appeals process continue. See Armstrong v. Brenner, 135 S. Ct. 890 (2014).

    Nor did this Court, while discussing whether to stay judgment, take into account that on October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in cases from the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, each of which had ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ constitutional freedom to marry, dissolving all previously-entered stays in those cases and allowing same-sex couples to begin marrying in those states. See Herbert v. Kitchen, 135 S. Ct. 265 (2014); Smith v. Bishop, 135 S. Ct. 271 (2014); Rainey v. Bostic, 135 S. Ct. 286 (2014). Since its denial of certiorari in those cases, and prior to this Court entering (and staying) judgment, the Supreme Court denied stays in every case in which a lower court struck down a state marriage ban; in each of those cases, the Supreme Court allowed lower court orders requiring states to issues marriage license to same-sex couples to take effect while appeals in those cases proceed. See: Wilson v. Condon, No. 14A533, 2014 WL 6474220 (U.S. Nov. 20, 2014) (South Carolina); Moser v. Marie, No. 14A503, 2014 WL 5847590 (U.S. Nov. 12, 2014) (Kansas); Otter v. Latta, No. 14A373, 2014 WL 5094190 (U.S. Oct. 10, 2014) (Idaho); Parnell v. Hamby, No. 14A413, 2014 WL 531181 (U.S. Oct. 17, 2014) (Alaska).

    Four days after this Court entered and stayed judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor, the Supreme Court granted petitions for writ of certiorari in four cases that raise the very same issues presented in this case—whether a State must allow same-sex couples to marry and whether a State must recognize such marriages performed in other jurisdictions. See DeBoer v. Synder, No. 14-571, 2015 WL 213650, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Bourke v. Beshear, No. 14-574, 2015 WL 213651, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, 2015 WL 213646, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Tanco v. Haslam, No. 14-562, 2015 WL 213648, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015).

    Most significantly, yesterday—February 9, 2015—the Supreme Court denied a request by the State of Alabama to stay the judgment of the Untied States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, which had, on January 23, 2015, held that Alabama’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Strange v. Searcy, No. 14A840, 2015 WL 505563, at *1 (U.S. Feb. 9, 2015).

    Since October 2014, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and consistently denied motions to stay lower court decisions that struck down state bans on marriage equality as unconstitutional. Strange, 2015 WL 505563, at *1. The Supreme Court’s order in Strange indicates that the grant of review in DeBoer, et al, has not changed the Court’s conclusions that such stays are not necessary. To the extent that this Court’s entry of stay was premised on the fact that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and/or the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the constitutionality of state marriage equality bans, the Supreme Court’s post-certiorari refusal to grant a stay in the Alabama case demonstrates that the continued stay of the judgment in this matter is no longer appropriate.

    When a party seeks a stay pending appeal, the court “must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the requested relief.” Amoco Prod. Co. v. Vill of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987). Here, while Defendants have not shown that South Dakota would suffer any harm in the absence of a stay, the challenged laws are continuing to cause serious and irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples and their children every day that the bans remain in effect. In addition, the stay on judgment is causing continued insecurity, vulnerability, and stigma. The purpose of marriage is, in large part, to provide security and protection in the face of anticipated and unanticipated hardships and crises—e.g., in the face of death, aging, illness, accidents, incapacity, and the vicissitudes of life. Indeed, Plaintiffs in this case have dealt with such issues during the pendency of this litigation. This harm is not speculative, but immediate and real.

    This Court has recognized that the denial of marriage to Plaintiffs and other loving and committed same-sex couples is the deprivation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Rosenbrahn, 2015 WL 144567, at *10. Under well-settled law, any deprivation of constitutional rights, “for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976).

    Defendants have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits and have offered no evidence that they will suffer any harm—much less irreparable harm—if this Court’s judgment is in effect while the appeal is pending. Defendants have identified no meaningful burden to the State of South Dakota or its agencies or political subdivisions that would arise if the State is required to issue marriage license to same-sex couples and recognize such marriages performed in other jurisdictions while the appeal is pending in this matter.

    Defendants cannot argue that enjoining the enforcement of a state law is in itself a form of irreparable injury to the State. That is equally true of any case in which a court permanently enjoins a state law because the law is unconstitutional. Such arguments, taken to their conclusion, would mean that a permanent injunction can never be granted in a constitutional challenge without being stayed pending appeal. That manifestly is not the law. See Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009) (“A stay is not a matter of right.”)

    It cannot be argued that in the absence of a stay, South Dakota’s issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples would result in uncertainty concerning the validity of those marriages. There will be no uncertainty, as the law is clear that marriages validly entered into pursuant to a district court’s order while appeal is pending remain valid regardless of the appeals’ outcome. See Caspar v. Snyder, No. 14-CV-11499, __ F. Supp. 3d __, 2015 WL 224741, *27; Evans v. Utah, No. 2:14-CV-55-DAK, 2014 WL 2048343, at *17 (D. Utah May 19, 2014).

    While this Court (in its Order dated January 12, 2015) discussed the factors traditionally weighed to determine whether a stay on judgment should entered, it did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court’s most recent action in Strange. With that backdrop, it is fundamentally unfair and logically inconsistent that same-sex couples in Florida and Alabama (among other states) can marry and have their marriages recognized while the Supreme Court considers the very issues decided by this Court, but families in South Dakota must continue to suffer irreparable harm and constitutional violation. Thus, this Court’s conclusion that the public interest weighs in favor of a stay on judgment must be reconsidered and the stay on judgment immediately vacated. “It is always in the public interest to prevent the violation of a party’s constitutional rights.” G&V Lounge, Inc. v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n, 23 F.3d 1071, 1079 (6th Cir. 1994).

    The Plaintiffs and same-sex couples across South Dakota have waited years—in many cases, decades—to be treated equally in accordance with the Constitution. They should not have to one more day. Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request action on this Motion by this Court within one week.

    Dated: February 10, 2015.

    Madia Law LLC


    [signed by hand]
    Joshua A. Newville
    Admitted pro hac vice
    345 Union Plaza
    333 Washington Avenue North
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
    Phone: (612) 349-2743
    Fax: (612) 235-3357
    joshuanewville@madialaw.com

    Burd and Voigt Law Office

    /s/Debra Voigt                  .
    Debra Voigt
    SD Bar No. 2473
    601 S. Cliff Ave, Suite A
    Sioux Falls, SD 57103
    Phone: (605) 332-4351
    Fax: (605) 334-6844
    debra@burdandvoigt.com

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    (Sioux Falls, SD)– On January 12, 2015, on behalf of six same-sex couples, Madia Law won a historic civil rights victory in a constitutional challenge to South Dakota’s ban on marriage equality. From the New York Times and the Associated Press:

    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A federal judge on Monday declared South Dakota’s [bans on marriage equality] unconstitutional, but marriage licenses won’t be immediately issued because the ruling was put on hold pending a potential appeal.

    U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided in favor of the six couples who filed the lawsuit in May in Sioux Falls. The lawsuit challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

    “Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

    Attorney General Marty Jackley on Monday said the state will appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning federal appeals court that in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages.

    “It remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts,” Jackley said.

    He said he’s obligated by law to defend both the state constitution and state statutes.

    Two other states — Arkansas and Missouri — already have appealed similar federal district court rulings to the 8th Circuit. This court is generally considered more conservative than others, said Adam Romero, senior counsel in the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, Romero warned, judges “from all ideological perspectives” have tended to agree that state marriage bans are unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

    “While it is impossible to predict what the court will ultimately do, given the large number of judges who have struck down same-sex marriage bans, we can assume that the 8th Circuit will give the marriage bans in this circuit a very, very close scrutiny,” Romero said.

    The U.S. Supreme Court again is considering whether to hear a gay marriage case, and more appeals court rulings — especially if they conflict — could increase the likelihood the justices will do so.

    In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati became the first appellate court to recently uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. Four other appeals courts — based in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia — have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Arguments over bans in three Southern states were held last week before a New Orleans-based appellate court.

    Romero said that the more cases that are pending at the 8th Circuit will only increase the pressure on that court to issue its ruling. But the court could put the cases on hold if the Supreme Court decides to take on the issue.

    Presently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, nearly twice as many as just three months ago.

    The South Dakota couples’ attorney, Josh Newville, said Monday’s developments represent the last opportunity for the state’s “elected officials to be on the right side of history” by not appealing Schreier’s decision.

    “I would say that Attorney General Jackley needs to consider very seriously the amount of money that he’s pouring into this lawsuit on behalf of the state to keep a discriminatory law in place,” Newville said.

    Five of the couples have already married in either Iowa, Connecticut or Minnesota. Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, married her longtime partner in April in Minneapolis.

    “On one hand, this is like the best present ever,” Rosenbrahn said of the decision Monday. “On the other hand, you go back and you say ‘Well, yeah, it should be a yes,’ because we are no different than anybody else. There is no reason to say we can’t get married. There is no valid reason to do that anymore.”

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    In a memo dated December 15, 2014 from United States Attorney General Eric Holder to United States Attorneys and other officials, the Attorney General has declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964‘s prohibition of sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.

    Minneapolis Transgender Employment Attorneys

     

    The Attorney General wrote,

    “The most straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of  . . . sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”

    The memo comes after Congress failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide a Title VII-equivalent prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. While the memo shows the federal government playing catchup with many courts’ interpretation (The Justice Department previously declared that Title VII per se didn’t prohibit discrimination based on gender identity), it is a sign of hope for those who have been discriminated against in the workplace based on their gender identification.

    However, because courts have widely found that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, it will take passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination at work that is not based on sex stereotyping.

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    Two days ago, in a win for Minnesota employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that whistleblower protection under Minn. Stat. § 181.932 extends back six years. The case, which was before the appellate panel pursuant to remand by the Minnesota Supreme Court, is still progressing its way through the courts, with the plaintiff finally set to get a jury trial on claims brought over four years ago.

    Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

    Minnesota’s whistleblower statute protects employees who are wrongfully terminated (or suffer other adverse employment action) at work because of reporting or otherwise opposing their employer’s unlawful conduct. The statute’s goal is to provide remedy for workers by allowing them to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer that illegally discharged them. The statute reads:

    Subdivision 1. Prohibited action.

    An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because:

    (1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official;

    (2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry;

    (3) the employee refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason;

    (4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm;

    (5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official; or

    (6) an employee in the classified service of state government communicates information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to state services, including the financing of state services, to:

    (i) a legislator or the legislative auditor; or

    (ii) a constitutional officer.

    The disclosures protected pursuant to this section do not authorize the disclosure of data otherwise protected by law.

    Subd. 2.Disclosure of identity.

    The identity of any employee making a report to a governmental body or law enforcement official under subdivision 1, clause (1) or (4), is private data on individuals as defined in section 13.02. The identity of an employee providing information under subdivision 1, clause (2), is private data on individuals if:

    (1) the employee would not have provided the information without an assurance that the employee’s identity would remain private, because of a concern that the employer would commit an action prohibited under subdivision 1 or that the employee would be subject to some other form of retaliation; or

    (2) the state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision reasonably believes that the employee would not have provided the data because of that concern.

    If the disclosure is necessary for prosecution, the identity of the employee may be disclosed but the employee shall be informed prior to the disclosure.

    Subd. 3.False disclosures.

    This section does not permit an employee to make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.

    Subd. 4.Collective bargaining rights.

    This section does not diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.

    Subd. 5.Confidential information

    This section does not permit disclosures that would violate federal or state law or diminish or impair the rights of any person to the continued protection of confidentiality of communications provided by common law

    Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2014)

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    Practicing in civil rights litigation, we see a lot of police officers abuse their power. Unfortunately, there are many reasons police misconduct usually stays out of the public spotlight. There are myriad systemic barriers to holding bad cops accountable for discrimination, excessive force, illegal search and seizures,  unlawful arrests, and more. They include:  gutting of civilian review authorities, failed oversight, use of squad and body cameras, non prosecution of officers by prosecutors, the militarization of police, powerful police unions, pocketed arbitrators, institutionalized racism, victims with criminal records, and many others.

    Minnesota Civil Rights Attorneys

    The problems are on such a broad scale and are so layered and complicated that piercing through all of them would require a complete overhaul to the way we police our law enforcement and govern ourselves. It seems, however, that such an overhaul will only come if we reach a point where, as a public, we stop forgetting about the problem between events that garner national media attention. We must start regularly and continuously demanding answers and changes from our governments, prosecutors, judges, and politicians.

    Although the courtroom is one venue to get justice for those such as Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) and Eric Garner (New York City) (and we’re proud to be a part of that) we must also focus on prevention.  If we truly want to stop these things from happening, we must care enough to do more than have periodic outrage.

    The most immediate way to get involved is to get active in city-level politics. Attend board meetings; talk to your city council representative; get involved in the elections of prosecutors and police administrators; inform the media; request data pursuant to Freedom of Information Act; …do what it takes to become knowledgeable and involved.

    The events of the past few months–and ones similar to them–are about more than those cops and their victims. They are about who we are as a nation. They’re about who we are as people and how we treat each other. We must acknowledge that we have a national problem. And once we do, we must not knowingly allow those who wear the badges of our governments to inflict injustice. We must get involved.

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    Federal Court Denies South Dakota’s Motion to Dismiss Marriage Equality Lawsuit

    November 14, 2014

      CONTACT: Attorney Joshua Newville office: 612.349.2743 cell: 651.210.7135 joshuanewville@madialaw.com –FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— (Sioux Falls, SD, Nov. 14, 2014)—South Dakota’s marriage equality lawsuit is moving forward after United States Judge Karen Schreier rejected the State’s motion for the case to be dismissed on Friday. The Court heard arguments in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard on October 17 […]

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    #Pointergate Highlights Mpls Police Union As Barrier To Accountability

    November 13, 2014

    In August 2012, I wrote about the problem with the City of Minneapolis dispensing with civilian review of police officers’ conduct. That year, the Minneapolis Police officers’ union, Velma Korbel and Susan Segal collectively took a nail gun to the coffin of the now-defunct Civilian Review Authority. The Daily Show Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook   […]

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    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Sues Honeywell for Disability Discrimination

    November 4, 2014

    Honeywell is defending itself from a federal disability discrimination and genetic information lawsuit filed by the EEOC. According to the allegations made by the EEOC and the two Minnesota employees, the company demanded that the employees and their family members submit to medical testing or else face monetary penalties. The Americans with Disabilities Act and […]

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    Rule 68 Offers and Civil Rights Claims

    October 24, 2014

    Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains an interesting and nuanced option for civil defendants to settle a case. Rule 68 states in part, “At least 14 days before the date set for trial, a party defending against a claim may serve on an opposing party an offer to allow judgment on […]

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    Unpaid Interns Mounting Class Action Wage and Hour Lawsuits

    October 16, 2014

    The most recent in a string of such lawsuits, a former Marc Jacobs intern has initiated a class action lawsuit against the fashion designer for failing to pay interns proper minimum wage and overtime wage rates.  Plaintiff Linney Warren sued Marc Jacobs alleging that she often worked 70-hour weeks in May, fetching coffee, moving raw materials […]

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    Supreme Court Order Brings Marriage Equality States to 30

    October 6, 2014

    Today, the United States Supreme Court denied to review opinions issued by three appellate courts that declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The practical effect of the order denying review is that, after the dust settles, 11 additional states will have marriage equality — bringing the total to 30 within the next few months. For couples […]

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    Fed Court: Government Can Use Sample Evidence in Whistleblower Case

    September 30, 2014

    The False Claims Act exists to incentivize whistleblowing in areas such as Medicare fraud. Qui tam whistleblowers (known as “relators”) who bring the government’s attention to fraudulent practices of their employers or other institutions, are rewarded with a percentage of the recovery ranging from 15-30%. Proving the extent of a fraudulent practice can prove difficult, especially when employers […]

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    St. Paul Police Inexplicably Arrest and Taze Black Man

    August 28, 2014

    In an alarming video posted to YouTube this week, two St. Paul police officers violently arrested and tazed a black man who was simply waiting in the skyway to pickup his children from New Horizon’s Academy. The CityPages reports that the man is Chris Lollie; his mugshot is posted below. Officers. M. Johnson and Bruce Schmidt […]

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    Multiple Allegations of Civil Rights Violations in Ferguson, Missouri

    August 14, 2014

    Since the police shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black male in Ferguson, Missouri last week, the town of 21,000 people has become a focal point in the country’s discussion of excessive force and police misconduct. Within days of the shooting, lawyers announced that they were looking at civil rights claims related to the shooting […]

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    Madia Law Seeks to Bypass Trial in North Dakota Marriage Equality Lawsuit

    July 23, 2014

    Madia Law filed a motion for summary judgment Tuesday in the historic lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage. From the Guardian Newspaper: A lawyer filed a motion late Tuesday calling on a judge to rule on the legality of gay marriage in North Dakota, the last US state to face a challenge to […]

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