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.

Twin Cities Wage and Hour Attorneys

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.

Police Brutality Attorneys

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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    Madia Law 

    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 in Sioux Falls. The Attorney General’s Office argued that a 2006 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case required dismissal. Plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Newville argued that case isn’t on point and that the controlling decision is United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    In a 28-page opinion, issued Friday afternoon, Judge Schreier agreed with the plaintiffs, writing, “Given the subsequent developments recognized almost uniformly by federal courts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, Baker is no longer binding authority. Although Bruning explained that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, it did not address whether marriage is a fundamental right. Thus, those cases do not foreclose relief on plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection claims.”

    The Court will now consider the legitimacy of the marriage bans. Judge Schreier ordered state officials to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment within ten days. The State must explain why its refusal to wed same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples do not violate U.S. Constitution guarantees of due process and equal protection.

    “Every reason the State offers to support these discriminatory laws has already been wholly rejected by the vast majority of courts to consider this issue,” said Newville. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand four recent appellate rulings striking down similar marriage bans also bolsters our case. The days of South Dakota proudly discriminating against these families are numbered,” he added.

    The plaintiffs filed their motion for summary judgment in early July. Debra Voigt, one of the lawyers for the couples, said, “We are all very happy this case is moving forward and are encouraged by the Court’s ruling today. We are optimistic that this is one step closer to marriage equality here in South Dakota.”

    The six plaintiff families are from across the state and include veterans, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, a truck driver, a couple who’s been together 30 years, and couples with children and grandchildren. “The law requires South Dakota to treat these families equally and with same dignity and respect it gives families with different-sex couples,” said Newville.

    Plaintiff Clay Schweitzer of Rapid City said, “My husband Jeremy [Coller] and I were both born and raised in South Dakota. We love it here. South Dakota is where we met, were we have built our lives together, and where Jeremy accepted my proposal in the Black Hills. We look forward to the day when South Dakota treats our family equally to all others.”

    While the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ right-to-travel claim, Newville explained: “We believe that South Dakota’s discriminatory marriage scheme violates the law in a number of ways, including an unconstitutional infringement on the right to relocate within the United States. While the Court disagreed with our reasoning on that claim, the Judge did agree with the over 50 other courts that ultimately ruled in favor of marriage equality in the last 15 months that these couples’ have presented valid equal protection and due process claims.”

    The couples are represented by four attorneys:

    • Lead counsel Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis firm Madia Law LLC. Newville is the civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit on May 22, 2014. He also represents seven families in a similar challenge to North Dakota’s marriage equality bans, which he filed on June 6, 2014.
    • South Dakota attorney Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices in Sioux Falls. Voigt is an active member of her community and has practiced family law in South Dakota for nearly 20 years.
    • National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys Shannon Minter and Christopher Stoll. NCLR, a LGBT advocacy organization based in San Francisco, has been instrumental in the national fight for marriage equality, including the 10th Circuit Idaho case that was the first in the country after Windsor to have marriage equality upheld by a federal appellate court. Minter and Stoll are also working with Newville on the North Dakota case.

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    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’ unionVelma Korbel and Susan Segal collectively took a nail gun to the coffin of the now-defunct Civilian Review Authority.

     

    Over two years later, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges penned an open letter acknowledging that Minneapolis has some bad police officers and that there is a strained relationship between Minneapolis police and parts of the community. Mayor Hodges also reiterated her commitment to civilian review and police officer accountability in general. In doing so, she mentioned the need for the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department to change, which I wholeheartedly agree with. (For example, this summer,  I spoke with watchdog.org about the militarization of police and the effect it can have on the culture of a police department.)

    In the end, Mayor Hodges proposed several things to establish such a culture changes, including the use of body cameras by Minneapolis Police officers. Use of body cameras by those  we give a badge and a gun and entrust to protect us should be celebrated as advancements in both technology and accountability. Body cameras protect the majority of police officers, who have hard jobs but carry out their duties with integrity and professionalism. They also protect civilians who, quite frankly, are too often victims of illegal conduct by bad cops.

    Unfortunately, some police officers don’t like the use of technology that helps ensure such accountability. Last week, in what amounts to transparent retaliation against Mayor Hodges for her extremely reasonable position, officers of the Minneapolis Police Department sent a photo to KSTP News of Mayor Hodges posing with a North Minneapolis get-out-the-vote volunteer. The officers declared that Mayor Hodges, who was pointing at the volunteer, was flashing a “known gang sign.” The nation collectively exhaled. 

    #Pointergate–as the scandal has come to be known–barely begins to highlight the significant barrier police unions have become to police officer accountability. The true power of these unions is demonstrated by their consistent and often successful defense of some truly bad cops. Officers like the Metro Gang Strike ForceSherry Appledorn & Joe WillBeating of Derryl JenkinsShooting Death of Dominic Felder deserve to be pushed out of the police department before their behavior and attitudes result in such significant civil rights violations, not protected by their peers out of blind allegiance. Ultimately, more so than #pointergate, the unions’ successful lobbying to gut the Civilian Review Authority demonstrates why it is a real barrier to the public’s effort to hold bad police officers accountable.

    Litigation cannot be the only check on bad cops’ conduct. Madia Law fully supports Mayor Hodges’ position on officer accountability and police-community relations. It is time to reverse the trend. Transparency is better for both police officers and citizens.

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    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.

    Minnesota Disability Discrimination Lawyers

    The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibit adverse employment action on account of disability or genetic information that does not affect an employee’s ability to do their job or require accommodation by the employer that would cause undue hardship. [click to continue…]

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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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    Wrongfully Terminated MN Employees Get Jury Trial

    July 14, 2014

    In just a few short weeks, an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) that will provide a right to a jury trial for claims arising under that law will go into effect.   The MHRA  prohibits discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination in a variety of contexts, including public and private employment, […]

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    June 2014: Madia Law Jury Trial Verdict: Officer Violated 4th Amendment

    July 1, 2014

    On June 24, 2014, after a two-day trial, a federal jury found that officer Robert Thunder violated Madia Law Client Michael Flowers’ constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Madia Law Attorney Ashwin Madia represented Mr. Flowers at trial, which was presided over by Chief Judge Michael Davis of the United States […]

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    June 2014: Madia Law Files Historic Marriage Equality Lawsuit in North Dakota

    June 8, 2014

    On June 6, 2014, Attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven same-sex couples in North Dakota. The lawsuit, Ramsay, et al. v. Dalrymple, et al., 14-CV-57, was filed in United States District Court in Fargo, North Dakota. Like Madia Law’s filing in South Dakota two weeks ago, the lawsuit against North […]

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