Cities Sue Pentagon Over Failure to Report Troubled GIs

The lawsuit by New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco calls on the Department of Defense to address a “clearly broken system” that allowed a former serviceman to buy a gun and kill 26 people in a Texas church in November. The gunman should have been disqualified from purchasing firearms, but the Air Force failed to report his domestic violence conviction to the FBI.

Three major U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Pentagon to address a “clearly broken system” that they contend allowed a former Air Force serviceman to buy a gun and kill 26 people in a Texas church in November, reports The Hill. New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco seek to have the Defense Department “fulfill their long-standing legal obligation to report all service members disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms to the FBI’s national background check system,” according to a statement from the law firm filing the case. Law enforcement officials in all three cities “regularly rely upon the integrity of the FBI’s background check system,” the attorneys write.

The case was brought after Devin Kelley opened fire Nov. 5 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people. It was later discovered that the Air Force had failed to report Kelley’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI. He had been court-martialed and sentenced to a year in prison in 2014 after beating his wife and cracking his stepson’s skull. But the service didn’t send the conviction to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services, which would then upload such information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, barring Kelley from buying a gun. Filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., the lawsuit asks for an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure the Pentagon complies with its legal duty to submit records. Earlier this month, a government report said the Air Force failed to submit records in 14 percent of its cases, the Navy and Marine Corps in 36 percent, and the Army in 41 percent.


Lawsuit Targets Owner of Crime-Ridden L.A. Complex

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer says the Chesapeake Apartments, plagued by violent crime for decades, are a serious threat to public safety. He is suing to prompt safety improvements, and he says owner of the complex should be ordered to live there until the problems are resolved.

The Chesapeake Apartments, a 425-unit complex spread over more than 17 acres in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Baldwin Village, has been plagued by violent crime for decades, says the Los Angeles Times. The Black P-Stone gang is so deeply entrenched there, officials said, that its members have tattoos that reference the property. Now, prosecutors are targeting the property’s owners and managers to curb the crime. In a lawsuit announced Monday, City Attorney Mike Feuer alleged that their mismanagement has resulted in a “serious threat” to public safety and created an environment in which anyone who comes near the property is at risk of being a crime victim. Feuer thinks that the head of the complex, Swaranjit Nijjar, should be ordered to live on the property until the problems are resolved. The lawsuit says Nijjar is the CEO of the company that’s the sole general partner of Pama V Properties LP, which owns the property.

“Negligent, callous management has allowed the Chesapeake Apartments to become a hotbed of terror in this neighborhood,” Feuer said in a statement. “We’ll continue to hold property owners responsible for these harrowing conditions as we take back our communities.” Feuer’s lawsuit seeks an injunction banning gang activity on the property, as well as a string of property improvements, including secure fencing, a video monitoring system accessible by the LAPD, improved lighting, better screening of tenants and the presence of full-time armed, licensed security guards. A spokesman for the owner said the complex seeks to provide “clean, safe, affordable housing.” He added, “Somebody’s got to provide it. The city can’t. The city’s the worst slumlord.”


Attorney: Sandy Hook Killer Beguiled by AR-15 Gun Ads

The Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the lawsuit against Remington by families of those killed by Adam Lanza in the 2012 school massacre. The plaintiffs’ attorney said, “It wasn’t just that [Remington] marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza but that Adam Lanza heard the message.”

Connecticut Supreme Court justices spent more than 90 minutes Tuesday peppering attorneys for Remington and victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre with questions about the merits of a lawsuit filed by the families seeking to hold the gun manufacturer liable for Adam Lanza’s shooting spree, reports the Hartford Courant. In front of a packed courtroom, the five justices focused their questions on “negligent entrustment,” 100-year-old Connecticut laws and how a case about a slingshot injury in Michigan equates to one of the worst mass shootings in the country’s history. It was difficult to ascertain any pattern in the justices’ questions. At one point, Justice Richard Palmer asked Remington attorney James Vogts what legitimate uses there were for an AR-15 assault rifle, noting that plaintiffs called the weapon used in the Newtown school shooting a “killing machine.” Vogts said it is used for target practice, deer hunting and home security.

Legal experts say the case will come down to how the justices will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA— whether Remington can be held liable for “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Negligent entrustment is defined as “supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.” Plaintiffs’ attorney Josh Koskoff said Remington had been “courting” Lanza for years through its ads. He said, “It wasn’t just that [Remington] marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza but that Adam Lanza heard the message. He idolized the military and wanted to be an Army Ranger and Remington marketed the AR-15 as the weapon used by the Army Rangers.”


FL Tech Firm, Lawyers Lock Horns Over Traffic Ticket Biz

TIKD alleges in a lawsuit that it is being blocked from consulting on traffic-ticket cases by the Florida Bar Association and The Ticket Clinic, a law practice with 28 offices in Florida. Its legal foes counter that TIKD is practicing law without a license.

A Florida tech startup that allows drivers to fight their traffic tickets from their smartphones says the Florida Bar and The Ticket Clinic are conspiring to drive it out of business, reports the Miami Herald. The startup, TIKD, has taken its fight to federal court, filing suit against both the Florida Bar Association and The Ticket Clinic, a private ticket-defense law firm. Earlier this year, TIKD launched its tech-enabled service and says it has served more than 5,000 people. TIKD is not a law firm, but instead uses independent lawyers to resolve the tickets at a cost that is 15 to 20 percent less than the ticket fee. Since then, founder and CEO Christopher Riley said, The Ticket Clinic has been thwarting its efforts to build a business at every turn.

The Ticket Clinic has filed complaints with the Florida Bar, claiming that TIKD is practicing law without a license, and has filed grievances against lawyers who have represented a TIKD customer. The stakes are high: The Ticket Clinic has 28 offices in Florida and 15 in California, and its 40 full-time attorneys have resolved more than 5 million cases. TIKD alleges in its lawsuit that the Florida Bar has abetted the conflict by dragging out an investigation for 10 months. It says the bar association has “engaged in a concerted effort to exclude TIKD…by enabling and reinforcing the Ticket Clinic’s anti-competitive propaganda campaign.”


Sandy Hook Parents Argue Gun Case at CT High Court

Connecticut Supreme Court justices heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit by the victims of the 2015 school massacre against Remington, the manufacturer of the assault weapon used in the shooting.

The eyes of the legal world and both sides of the growing debate about the role of guns in society were focused on the Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday morning as justices heard arguments in a lawsuit by the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre against the manufacturer of the weapon used in the shooting, reports the Hartford Courant. Families of nine victims who were killed and a teacher who survived the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre filed the lawsuit in January 2015 seeking to hold Remington Outdoor Co. liable, arguing it marketed the AR-15 to the public even though it knew the weapon was designed for military use. Adam Lanza shot his way into the Newtown school and fired 154 bullets in about five minutes from a Bushmaster AR-15, killing 26 people, including the 20 first-graders.The lawsuit also named Camfour Holding LLP, the gun’s distributor, and Riverview Gun Sales Inc., the East Windsor gun shop where Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, bought the AR-15.

The issue has gained even more national attention since Sandy Hook. The case goes before the court just more than a week after the latest mass shooting where an assault rifle was used to kill 26 people inside a Texas church. Since the lawsuit was filed by the Sandy Hook victims there have been other mass shootings, including Sutherland Springs, Texas. In Las Vegas and Orlando, shooters used high-powered weapons to kill more people than Lanza did in Sandy Hook. A Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016, agreeing with attorneys for Remington that the lawsuit “falls squarely within the broad immunity” provided to gun manufacturers and dealers by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA. Legal experts said the case comes down to how the state Supreme Court will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under PLCAA — whether Remington can be held liable for so-called “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.


Microsoft Lawsuit Prompts Feds to Limit Data Gag Orders

The Justice Department has agreed to limit its use of a secrecy order frequently used by prosecutors to prevent tech companies from informing their customers when investigators seek access to their emails and other personal data stored in the cloud.

Microsoft says it is dropping a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department that targeted a tactic commonly used by prosecutors to prevent tech companies from informing their customers when investigators seek access to their emails and other personal data stored in the cloud, reports GeekWire. The move follows the Justice Department’s announcement of a new binding policy that requires prosecutors to “conduct an individualized and meaningful assessment regarding the need for protection from disclosure” prior to seeking a gag order and to “only seek an order when circumstances require.”

The new policy limits what Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, called an “overused practice.” He wrote, “It is an unequivocal win for our customers, and we’re pleased the DOJ has taken these steps to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.” Microsoft originally filed the suit over U.S. gag orders in April 2016 in U.S. District Court in Seattle, asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional the provision of federal law allowing the practice.


KS Inmate Sues Over ‘Oppressive’ Prison Christianity

A lawsuit by Shari Webber-Dunn, a convicted murderer and practicing Thelemite, alleges that women prisoners in Kansas are subjected to endless Christian imagery and propaganda, including an 8-foot wooden cross, Christian-themed radio and TV broadcasts, and housing units plastered with proselytizing messages.

Inmates at the only women’s prison in Kansas are being force-fed Christianity, according to a lawsuit by e murderer who has spent the past 23 years in the state’s prison system. Shari Webber-Dunn, convicted in 1994 of the murder of her estranged husband, says in a federal lawsuit filed last week that inmates at the Topeka Correctional Facility are subjected to an endless profusion of Christian imagery and propaganda. She cited the prison’s 8-foot wooden cross, Christian-themed radio and television broadcasts, and housing units saturated with proselytizing messages, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Webber-Dunn, a practicing Thelemite, alleges religious bias in the “oppressive message that Christianity looms over the inmates at all times.” The American Humanist Association’s legal center in Washington, D.C., filed suit last week asserting inmates’ constitutional rights were violated by the state government’s coercive religious atmosphere and pressure to participate in Christian activities. The association champions the causes of atheists and others, which include attempts to restrain government from impinging on the First Amendment standard of separation of church and state. “Prisons are not exempt from the Constitution and prisoners do not lose the shield from state-sponsored religion provided by the Establishment Clause,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association. The lawsuit emerged while Gov. Sam Brownback awaits Senate confirmation as an international ambassador of religious freedom in the Trump administration. Brownback has touted reduction in recidivism rates among state prisoners who participated in a faith-based mentoring program.


Suit by Mother of Murder Victim Challenges NJ Bail Reforms

June Rodgers alleges that the state should be held responsible after her son was shot and killed in April by a convicted felon who had been released without bail a few days earlier following an arrest for illegally possessing a handgun.

The mother of a man allegedly killed this year by a repeat criminal offender filed suit Monday in federal court in New Jersey, seeking to end the state’s criminal justice reforms, reports New Jersey Spotlight. The suit by June Rodgers seeks damages for the death of her son, Christian, 26, who was shot on April 9 in Vineland. The suit names Gov. Chris Christie and state Attorney General Christopher Porrino, among others. Authorities have charged Jules Black, 30, in the slaying. He had been arrested by state police just four days earlier and charged with illegally possessing a handgun. The lawsuit states that Black had multiple felony convictions, including resisting arrest, burglary and drug offenses.

The Rodgers suit is the latest legal effort to upend the state’s reforms, which began Jan. 1 and have pitted civil liberties advocates against the bail bonds industry and some in law enforcement. Bankrolling the suit is Nexus Services, a company involved in federal immigrant bail securitization and ankle monitoring. Under the old New Jersey arrest protocols, those accused of a serious crime were held in jail unless they paid bail. The reforms call for accused criminals to be released without bail, with varying degrees of monitoring. The prosecutor did not seek detention of Black following a risk assessment on his gun arrest, and he was released.


MO Joins States Suing Big Pharma Over Opioid Crisis

Missouri joins a growing list of states that have sued pharmaceutical firms. State Attorney General Josh Hawley says their “campaign of fraud and deception” led to the opioid crisis. The suit names the pharmaceutical firms Endo, Purdue and Janssen.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Wednesday filed suit against three large pharmaceutical companies, saying their “campaign of fraud and deception” led to an opioid crisis in the state, reports the Associated Press. Hawley filed suit in St. Louis Circuit Court, naming Endo Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Hawley said the suit will seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in both damages and civil penalties. He said any money awarded in the suit should go toward drug rehabilitation services and efforts to help families affected by drug addiction. Other states have also sued pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, starting with Mississippi in 2015.

Hawley said the three companies misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids, often using fraudulent science to back their claims. As a result, thousands of Missourians dealing with chronic pain were given unnecessary opioid prescriptions. Officials with Janssen and Purdue Pharma said in statements that their companies share concerns about the opioid crisis, but both denied wrongdoing. Missouri remains the only state that has failed to create a prescription drug monitoring system, a database that allows doctors and pharmacists to keep track of patients’ prescriptions. Lawmakers again this year considered a monitoring system but failed to approve it.


Family of NE Inmate Killed in Riot Sues for Lack of Protection

Shon Collins, 46, was one of two convicted sex offenders killed by fellow inmates during a riot at the state prison in Tecumseh on Mother’s Day 2015.

The family of an inmate who died during the Mother’s Day 2015 riot at Nebraska’s Tecumseh State Prison has filed a lawsuit accusing the state of failing to protect him and adequately staff the facility, reports the Omaha World-Herald. Shon Collins, 46, was one of two inmates found dead after inmates took control of two housing units at the prison for several hours, setting fires and ransacking cells. The lawsuit, filed in Lancaster County District Court, says the state failed to keep Collins apart from other inmates.

Collins, a sex offender, was in protective custody, separated from other inmates, at the time of the riot because he previously had been threatened and assaulted by other inmates, the lawsuit says. Yet on the day of the riot inmates from three housing units, including those in general population and those in protective custody, were all released from their cells to a prison yard to obtain medications. When the riot broke out, corrections officers quickly were overwhelmed and fled to a prison guard tower, leaving Collins unprotected, the suit says. Collins was serving 66 to 80 years for first-degree sexual assault of a child. The other inmate found dead, Donald Peacock, was also a sex offender. The Collins lawsuit is the first filed in connection with five deaths at the Tecumseh prison over the past two years.