Archive for the 'Court' Category

Kansas Woman Alleges She Was Fired For Not Attending Church

Courtney Canfield was hired part-time to the elections division of Kansas’s Secretary of State Office in January 2013. During that time, she received numerous invitations and guides to religious services held in the Secretary of State’s Office. Canfield is a Methodist, but she doesn’t go to church regularly. Canfield was promoted to full-time in June of 2013. Five months later in November, a co-worker complained Canfield was using the phone for personal reasons.  Cornfield

Assistant Secretary Rucker visited Canfield’s grandmother soon after the complaint was made. Canfield alleges that Rucker demanded Canfield’s grandmother terminate her own granddaughter because Canfield “just doesn’t go to church.” When Canfield’s grandmother refused, Rucker terminated Canfield himself. Canfield filed a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination and demanded $75,000 as compensation. The Secretary’s Office has denied the allegations and claims that Canfield was terminated for “poor performance.”

Protecting Christians From Each Other

Interestingly, both parties have a history of legal disputes. Canfield was the plaintiff in a 2012 lawsuit against another former employer, a car dealership. Canfield alleged that an employee with a prior rape conviction had groped her. Canfield alleged in 2012 that when she complained to her supervisor, she was terminated while the accused was promoted. On the other hand, Rucker was an attorney in Kansas’s attorney general office. In 2010, Rucker was censured by Kansas’s disciplinary board for failing to disclose evidence regarding an alleged abortion doctor Rucker had been prosecuting.

Kansas’s position appears to be extremely weak. If Canfield and other state employees kept the guides for the prayer services in the Secretary’s Office, that is direct evidence of a breach of the Constitution. Rucker alleges that Canfield was fired for poor performance, but that explanation is likely pretext. Employees who are performing poorly generally do not get promoted. Based solely on these facts, Canfield’s version of the story is more believable.

One interesting aspect of discrimination law is that the law focuses on the effect of alleged discrimination on the victim, not the identity of the perpetrator. In other words, it is fully possible for a person to discriminate against members of the same group that person belongs to. Black people can discriminate against black people, men can discriminate against men, and Christians can discriminate against Christians. This doesn’t mean that only Christians can discriminate against Christians. Certainty non-Christians can discriminate against Christians. However, the worst fights often occurs in-house.

That’s what Canfield is claiming. Christians can discriminate against other Christians for not going to church enough. This is why separation of church and state is essential. The founding fathers were well aware of the interfaith conflicts that Christianity had in Europe shortly before they cut ties with Britain. Separation of church and state does not mean discrimination against Christians. Separation means that all groups, including Christians, will not be forced to pray simply because the government demands it.

The Right to Lease or Rent Foreclosed Property

The Right to Lease or Rent Foreclosed Property

Who has the right to lease a foreclosed property? One guess might be the owner, depending on the stage of the foreclosure process. Another answer may be the bank or financial institution that owns the property after the foreclosure is complete. According to Earl Johnson, a Goose Creek, South Carolina resident, he had the right to lease foreclosed property. However, police claim the Johnson never owned the house, and that Johnson had conned tenants into renting foreclosed property.

What Was Johnson’s Defense?

Earl Johnson claims he has a legal right to lease foreclosed property that he didn’t own under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People signed by President Barack Obama.

Before focusing on who is right or wrong, let’s define foreclosure. Foreclosure is a process where a county or financial institute takes a property from a property owner and sales it. Foreclosures typically occur after a property owner defaults on a mortgage loan or property taxes. Mortgage holders, usually a bank, sell the property to pay off the remaining debt on the loan or taxes.

The right to lease or sell a foreclosed property depends on the stage of the foreclosure. A property owner can avoid foreclosure via a short sale, short refinance, loan modification, repayment plan, or by challenging the foreclosure. A mortgage holder can sell the property through an auction. In many situations, the former homeowner moves out and the property is left vacant until the bank or county sells it. Earl Johnson

Earl Johnson wasn’t in either category. He never owned the property or was a lender holding a mortgage on it. Yet, he leased the property in question to two sisters, Tina Capreole and Nancy Bowman. They paid Johnson $1200 and moved in on August 1, 2015. A couple days later, a realtor dropped by the property to show it to prospective buyers. That is when the new tenants discovered the man they’d leased the home from didn’t own the property. In fact, the property was in bankruptcy.

Typically, a tenant has some rights in a foreclosure when a landlord defaults on his mortgage or taxes. For example, the Mortgage Reform Act passed by Congress in 2009 gives tenants living in foreclosed property 90 days to find a new place to live. This Act and many other tenant rights weren’t available to the tenants living in the “leased” foreclosed property in South Carolina. The bankruptcy trustee, a court appointee who oversees bankruptcies, told the tenants they had to move because the tenants were living there illegally.

It’s a Crime to Lease Property a Person Doesn’t Legally Own

It’s a crime to lease property without the permission of the property owner. Illegally leasing property that one doesn’t own is a repeatedly occurring scam which occurs across the country. For instance, in 2013 a Florida woman was accused of leasing her neighbor’s foreclosed home to tenants for more than one year. Tenants allegedly paid her about $13,000.

In Goose Creek, Johnson was arrested and charged with:

  • Burglary in the third degree
  • Obtaining signatures under false pretenses
  • Operating a business without a license

Burglary is the criminal act of breaking and entering into a structure for the purpose of committing a crime thereafter. The entry doesn’t require the use of force. Johnson is accused of breaking and entering into the property prior to leasing it. According to the tenants, he even gave them keys to the home and made some home improvements to the property.

Obtaining property by false pretenses is a crime when someone makes misrepresentations or lies to get property. In this case, Johnson is accused of misrepresenting himself as the property owner to illegally obtain the tenants’ rent.

A business license is required to operate a business in a particular area. Failure to have a proper or valid license is a crime.

Is the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People signed by President Obama a Valid Defense?

The Declaration is a statement addressing the human rights indigenous people have. It was formally adopted by the United Nations in 2007 and formally endorsed by President Obama in 2010. The purpose of the Declaration was to emphasis the fact that indigenous people have the right to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms recognized in the United Nation’s Charter.

Notably, the United States originally voted against the Declaration when the U.N. initially voted on it. Since the Senate has yet to ratify it, the Declaration isn’t legally binding and not a part of U.S. criminal laws. The Declaration doesn’t create new rights for indigenous people. It is unlikely that Johnson will succeed with this defense.

Failure to Hire Due to Religious Attire

When 17-year-old Samantha Elauf applied for a job at Abercrombie and Fitch in 2008, she was not hired even though she received a high score during the interview process. The assistant manager who conducted the interview thought she was qualified, but the manager was concerned that Elauf’s hijab would be in violation of the company’s “Look Policy.” The policy did not permit caps to be worn. After communicating with her district manager about the issue, the assistant manager agreed to lower Elauf’s score because Elauf wore a hijab.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Elauf as a result of being denied a position at the retail store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A district court ruled in her favor, granting the Muslim teen damages in the amount of twenty thousand dollars. However, the decision was reversed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that an employer is free from liability for neglecting to “accommodate a religious practice” if a potential employee had not requested the accommodation. Samantha Elauf, Majda Elauf, P. David Lopez

However, the Supreme Court sided with Ms. Elauf in an 8-1 decision, with Justice Thomas the lone dissent. Justice Antonin Scalia spoke on behalf of the high Court when he said “an employer may not make an applicant’s religious practice, confirmed or otherwise, a factor in employment decisions.”

Moreover, during oral arguments, Justice Samuel Alito stated that the managers at Abercrombie could have questioned her as to whether she would wear the head scarf while at work for religious reasons. But they did not ask her this question. Instead, they made the assumption that she wore the scarf as part of her religious practice, and refused to hire her for that reason.

Dress Codes Cannot Violate Civil Rights

While it is acceptable for an employer to have a dress code, it is unconstitutional for an employer to discriminate against someone because of religious practice. For instance, if an employer terminates, or refuses to hire, someone because of their religious practice, and does not even attempt to accommodate them, then that counts as discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Given Abercrombie’s reputation for exclusivity in its hiring and marketing practices, it is unsurprising that the store refused to hire someone because of her religious practice of wearing a hijab. Nevertheless, the managers should have realized that such a denial was a form of discrimination, and in violation of the law.

However, the company seems to be leaning towards becoming more inclusive, especially in light of a prior class-action discrimination lawsuit, which alleged that Abercrombie discriminated against minorities, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans, in its hiring practices and its marketing. In fact, just this past April, the company stated that it would be more “inclusive and diverse” in its hiring methods, and adopt a “more individualistic” dress code.

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

Amtrak Crash Leads to Multiple Lawsuits

The Amtrak crash just outside of Philadelphia on May 12 killed eight passengers and injured 200 others. The incident is considered one of the worst train crashes in American history. Traveling more than twice the speed limit at 106 mph, the train derailed at 9:21 p.m.

So far, two crew members and four passengers have filed lawsuits against Amtrak. The four passengers filed a federal lawsuit, requesting Amtrak pay for medical bills and lost wages. One of the passengers has undergone several surgeries to halt her arm from being amputated. Another crew member described a brain injury that occurred due to the crash.

One of the crew members, Emilio Fonseca, was operating the train at the time of the crash. He filed a civil complaint against the company, arguing he suffered “serious and permanent personal injuries” and should receive compensation under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act.          Amtrak Accident

In order to avoid bankruptcy, in 1997 Congress set a $200 million limit to compensation Amtrak can be held liable for. The mental and physical injuries of passengers and crew members were significant, but the limit will lessen compensation that can be rewarded to each victim of the accident.

The Federal Employers Liability Act

The FELA is a federal law that is specific to railroad workers. The act was created in 1908 to protect railroad workers by compensating them for injuries sustained while on the job. Workers are rewarded compensation only if they can prove the railroad company was at least partly responsible for injuries suffered.

FELA is similar to workers compensation, but FELA is a fault based system. Workers must prove the injury was caused by negligence of a railroad employee, its agent or contractor, or from a faulty piece of equipment. Also in contrast to worker compensation plaintiffs, railroad workers may sue in a state or federal court for damages if proof of liability of the railroad company exists.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Amtrack accident. Time will tell whether the train’s engineer, Brandon Bostian, a mechanical issue, or an outside source will be held responsible for the crash.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against Celebrities

Criminal cases against celebrities always get a lot of media attention—especially since celebrities seem to invariably escape criminal liability. However, many of these same celebrities who avoid criminal charges end up losing to cases brought in civil court.

Robert BlakeThere’s a reason for this: civil court has a lower standard of evidence. Where criminal cases must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” civic cases often only require a “preponderance of the evidence.” Even the civil standard of “clear and convincing evidence” is less of a burden than the criminal standard.

For example, the actor Robert Blake was acquitted in criminal court on a charge for the murder of his wife. However, in a civil case for wrongful death brought by his wife’s children, he was found liable and was required by pay $15 million.

This is similar to the case of O.J. Simpson, who was famously acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman but was found responsible in the 1996 wrongful death lawsuit brought by their families. The families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. (To date Simpson has paid less than one percent of the damages.)

The recent murder case of football player Aaron Hernandez is unique in that Mr. Hernandez was found guilty in criminal court. Following his recent conviction, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez is currently facing additional charges for a double homicide in 2012. The families of the victims in this case filed wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez in 2014. Each lawsuit demanding $6 million.