Roundup: Former Louisiana governor cites gag order in call for re-trial

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

Louisiana: Gag order cited in bid for new trial

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, his son Stephen Edwards,
ex-governor’s aide Andrew Martin, Eunice cattleman Cecil Brown and Baton Rouge
businessman Bobby Johnson say they should get a new trial in a casino licensing
extortion case because U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola violated their
constitutional right to a public trial. Polozola
issued a gag order and held
numerous private sessions before and during the trial without reason, attorneys
for the defendants said in their motion June 30. The motion also
challenges the judge’s order keeping the identities of the jurors secret and
the dismissal of a juror after deliberations began. Associated Press

Texas: Santa Fe schools end policy allowing student prayer before

Santa Fe school trustees voted July 6 to eliminate a policy that
allowed student-led prayer before football games, declared unconstitutional by
the U.S. Supreme Court last month. The policy had allowed students to deliver
“a brief invocation and/or message” over a loud speaker before
football games. The case, which originated in Santa Fe in 1995, resulted
in a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling
last month barring students from leading stadium crowds in prayer. The court
ruled that a school that gives students a public forum for prayer is
effectively sponsoring the message. Associated Press

California: News groups seek data explaining government’s pursuit of
death penalty

The Chronicle Publishing Co., McClatchy Newspapers, Inc., the Hearst
Corp. and the Associated Press filed a joint motion July 7 seeking access to
information the government says helps justify its pursuit of the death penalty
against Cary Stayner, a motel handyman accused of killing Yosemite naturalist
Joie Armstrong. The news groups want the court to vacate an order that seals
evidence prosecutors propose to use to prove Armstrong was killed in “an
especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner.” The groups claim U.S.
District Judge Anthony Ishii violated the First Amendment by failing to provide
proper notice or hold a hearing before sealing information that has
historically been open to the public and “plays a significant role”
in determining a death sentence. Associated Press

Illinois: Former treasurer sues village, consultant over firing

Hopkins Park’s former treasurer, Pam Basu, filed a lawsuit June 30
against Tony Perry, a Kankakee County developer with ties to Gov. George Ryan,
Mayor David Leggett and other village officials, alleging that they fired her
for speaking against construction of a prison near her farm. She
wants reinstatement to her job as well as back pay, legal fees and punitive
damages. She was fired April 24 for what Leggett called job-performance issues.
Basu has maintained she lost her job because she made negative comments to
reporters about Leggett, Perry and the prison project. Associated

Ohio: Commission says man has right to post candidates’ comments

Ronald Kidwell, who posted candidates’ statements on his Web site, did
not violate Ohio election laws and was simply exercising his free-speech
rights, the Ohio Elections Commission ruled July 6. Kidwell acted
independently and not as part of a political action committee when he posted
online information about candidates for local office, the commission said.
Therefore he did not violate a law that requires PACs to register as such with
the state. Kidwell said he has invited every local candidate to submit
viewpoints and that he posts everything he receives from them on the site.
Associated Press

District of Columbia: New federal rules allow colleges to release campus court records

The federal government issued new rules July 6 that say colleges and universities will be allowed to disclose more information about campus crimes. Under the new rules, which take effect August 7, schools can release the names of students accused and convicted of criminal violence by campus courts. Also, under the new rules, parents of college students who are under age 21 can be notified if their child breaks campus alcohol or drug rules. Disclosure is limited to the name of the accused perpetrator, the nature of the offense and the sanction imposed for cases resolved after Oct. 7, 1998. Names of victims and witnesses remain classified. Security on Campus, Inc. News.

Colorado: State, tavern reach agreement over profanity

Colorado has reached an agreement with a tavern owner who was
threatened with the loss of his liquor license for permitting profanity in his
establishment. The state will quit threatening tavern owners with that
penalty, and the owner of Leonard’s Bar II in Colorado Springs will withdraw
his civil rights complaint under the
plan. Department of Revenue spokeswoman Dorothy Dalquist said July 6 the
state decided to stop enforcing the profanity regulation because it is
antiquated. A state agent had seized
29 signs, 21 of which included the “f” word, from Leonard Carlo’s
bar on Aug. 31, citing the now-abandoned 1979 regulation prohibiting profanity
in bars. Associated Press

Florida: School shooting surveillance video can’t be reproduced by

The public will get just one chance to view a school surveillance
video authorities say shows 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill shooting his teacher
on the last day of school, but the images won’t be broadcast on TV or seen in
newspapers. In a July 6 ruling over the release of the videotape,
Circuit Judge Richard I. Wennet called the video a public record but barred
media from taking still photographs or making copies of the tape when it is
given a yet-to-be-scheduled public viewing at the county courthouse in Florida.
Brazill is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in the May 26
gunshot slaying of teacher Barry Grunow. Associated Press

Pennsylvania: Some parents troubled by library’s R-rated video policy

Many parents are upset that the Free Library of Philadelphia allows
children as young as 12 to check out movies containing violence and nudity
without parental consent. Library officials say their policy is no different
from that in force in other cities. And many of the library’s 100,000
instructional films, children’s movies and feature films, including some that
are rated R, can help children with their school work, said library President
Elliot L. Shelkrot. The issue arose late last year when the library
decided to lower the age for full borrowing privileges from 14 to 12. Shelkrot
said the change in policy, which had been in effect for more than 40 years, was
made only after a yearlong study by library staff and a committee vote. City
Councilman Frank Rizzo said he wants to hold hearings on the age
requirement. Associated Press

Idaho: Bill could end public television controversy

After legislative
outrage in response to the broadcast of two documentaries on homosexuality,
the Idaho Board of Education endorsed the airing of periodic disclaimers on the
state’s Educational Public Broadcasting System last week. But the
controversy could be moot next year. State Sen. Mel Richardson, R-Idaho Falls,
intends to propose a bill during the next legislative session to privatize
Idaho Public Television. Republicans endorsed Richardson’s idea in a resolution
during their June convention in Pocatello. State Sen. Hal Bunderson,
R-Meridian, who spearheaded an attempt during the 2000 Legislature to establish
guidelines for public television, supports Richardson’s effort. Bunderson
said the board guidelines do not address the Legislature’s main concern:
defining the role and mission of public television in Idaho. Associated

Louisiana: ACLU files suit over closing of skating rink

A Louisiana sheriff and the American Civil Liberties Union are
clashing over a skating rink closed down by the sheriff who called it a place
of “immorality.” The ACLU filed a lawsuit July 7 in district
court against the sheriff’s office of Iberia Parish, about 120 miles west of
New Orleans, asking to reopen Skate Zone. On Feb. 10, Skate Zone owner
Frank Torries and manager Tricia Boudoin were arrested by sheriff’s deputies
and booked for contributing to the delinquency of minors in conjunction with a
fight that had broken out at the rink six days earlier, the ACLU said.
Deputies seized 60 compact discs from Skate Zone, saying the rap and hip-hop
music caused the fight. Associated Press

California: Professors, graduate student in brouhaha over thesis

Chris Brown’s faculty advisers at University of California at Santa
Barbara had no problem with the science in his master’s thesis on abalone
shells. But after reading his two-page “disacknowledgements”
section peppered with profanity and insults directed at faculty members, they
refused to put it in the school’s library. Brown, who believes it’s his First
Amendment right to preface his paper the way he wants, has sued the university
seeking to force the school to put the thesis — offending section included –
in the campus library. University administrators — who didn’t
grant Brown his degree for almost a year — said he has the right to his
opinions but that they have a right not to endorse them. Associated

Colorado: Denver officials reverse decision, agree to identify
police-chief finalists

Denver officials who promised confidentiality to applicants for police
chief acknowledged they broke Colorado’s open-records law and agreed to
disclose finalists’ names this week. When Mayor Wellington Webb
announced July 7 that interim Chief Gerry Whitman would become the new chief,
he said three other finalists had been promised confidentiality to protect
their current jobs. Under Colorado law, candidates for executive positions can
remain confidential only if they are not finalists. Finalists are defined as
anyone in the running 21 days before a final decision, anyone who gets an
interview or anyone among the six remaining candidates. Associated

Indiana: Indianapolis mayor will seek city curfew ordinance

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson has proposed a city curfew ordinance
to counter a federal judge’s ruling last week that struck down Indiana’s
decades-old curfew law as unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder
ruled the state curfew law was too broad and did not include enough exceptions.
Under the ruling, police are barred from making curfew arrests based on the
previous law. Peterson said the proposed city ordinance will comply
with Tinder’s order. For example, the ordinance will allow for teens to
participate in after-hours events protected by the First Amendment, such as a
political protest or a government meeting. Associated Press

New Jersey: Ruling expected on bid by citizens to speak at council

A New Jersey judge said July 7 he expects to rule within a week on
Newark’s bid to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit by citizens seeking the right to
speak at City Council meetings. The citizens want a ballot
initiative requiring five of the nine council members to be present during
public-comment periods put before voters. Residents are now generally allowed
to speak only before a meeting starts. A change enacted in February, after a
petition campaign for the ballot initiative, also allows people to address the
council about ordinances up for a second reading, the final stage before a
council vote. Associated Press

Napster opposes injunction

Napster Inc. filed documents on July 3 opposing a
preliminary injunction sought by the
Recording Industry Association of America, which would shut down the
company’s file-sharing service. Napster claims that its service allows users to
copy music for personal rather than commercial use (a claim which immunizes the
company from copyright infringement under the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992)
and that shutting down the company would violate the free-speech rights of both
Napster and its users. The company contends that its service has been
beneficial to record labels, citing an increase in CD sales since Napster began
operations last year. The RIAA said that Napster is engaged in “wholesale
piracy.” Associated Press, The Hollywood

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