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by German Lopez 10.16.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Voting, News, Courts at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Supreme Court Rejects Husted's Early Voting Appeal

Voting on weekend and Monday before Election Day must include all Ohioans

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will not take up Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's early voting appeal. With the decision, Ohio must allow all voters to vote on the weekend and Monday before Election Day — a right previously reserved for military personnel and their families.

The news comes just a week after Husted promised to appeal a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which said if early voting will take place on the three days before Election Day, boards of elections must make sure all Ohioans can use the opportunity.

However, some ambiguity is left in the process as different county boards of elections decide on voting hours. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said it's up to Husted and individual county boards when and even if Ohioans will vote on the three days. If there is a tie vote in the county boards, Husted will be the tie breaker.

When he announced his intention to appeal the appeals court ruling, Husted said in a statement that he will ensure Ohio has uniform early voting rules and hours no matter the outcome of the appeal: “While I will be asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Ohio law through the appeals process, the last thing I want to see is a non-uniform system where voters will be treated differently in all 88 counties. Since some boards of elections have already started to take action on hours of operation for the three days before Election Day, I am going to take time to consult with all 88 counties before crafting a directive to set uniform hours should the state not be successful upon appeal.”

UPDATE (1:30 P.M.): Husted sent out a directive to county boards of elections enforcing uniform voting hours for the three days before Election Day. On Saturday, booths will be open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Monday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 10.09.2012
 
 
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Jesse Jackson Rails Against Voter Suppression in Cincinnati

Appears on same day Husted petitions Supreme Court to strike down in-person voting

Speaking to about 60 people at the Rockdale Baptist Church in Avondale, the Rev. Jesse Jackson talked about the many “schemes” used to disenfranchise voters while encouraging Cincinnatians to register to vote and take advantage of Ohio’s early voting days.

“Dealing in this state, for example, you think so much about the painful days in the deep South — the overt schemes to deny the right to vote,” Jackson said on Tuesday, the last day to register to vote in Ohio.

“We saw Ohio as a kind of beacon of light, the beacon of hope once we ran across the river coming north. This year we’ve seen Ohio and Pennsylvania take the lead in trying to purge voters and suppress the vote to determine the outcome.”

Jackson’s comments came on the same day Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court the Six Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to allow early in-person voting on the three days before Election Day.

The three days had previously only applied to military personnel and their families.

Republicans like Husted have cited cost as the reason to not allow in-person voting on the three days before the election. But in an Aug. 19 email to The Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County Republican Party chairman Doug Preisse said “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, tried to require voters take a photo ID with them into the polls. A state judge blocked the law from going into effect for the 2012 election.

Jackson said restrictions as to who can vote when and where undermine the purpose of democracy. 

“Open access, free, transparent voting makes democracy real,” he said.

Flanked by a tapestry portraying President Barack Obama, Jackson touted the president’s accomplishments in his first term and urged those assembled to give him a second.

Jackson was in Toledo Oct. 5 pushing early voting. He said he was in Cincinnati because “Ohio matters” and he saw it as a way to penetrate Appalachia because “poverty is not just a black problem.”

 
 
by German Lopez 10.03.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Economy, Republicans, Democrats, Courts at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.

Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Republican U.S. senatorial candidate for Ohio, is denying he physically confronted a campaign tracker. According to Mandel, the tracker approached and confronted him, not the other way around. But the video of the confrontation shows Mandel approaching and getting really close to the tracker first. Ohio Democrats, who said Mandel’s campaign is a “campaign of unending dishonesty,” were quick to jump on another example of Mandel possibly being dishonest. CityBeat covered Mandel’s notorious dishonesty here. Mandel is running against Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown. 

The presidential debates are tonight at 9 p.m. A full schedule of future debates can be found here. Whoever does better, keep in mind debates rarely influence elections.

Michelle Obama was in town yesterday. She spoke to a crowd of 6,800, asking them to take part in Ohio’s early voting process and encourage friends and family to do the same.

Grocery store competition could soon be bringing lower prices to the Greater Cincinnati area, according to analysts.

JobsOhio chief Mark Kvamme is stepping down. The high-profile venture capitalist, who was originally from California, was originally recruited by Gov. John Kasich to lead the Ohio Department of Development. But soon Kvamme hopped onto JobsOhio, a nonprofit company established by Kasich and the state legislature to bring investment into Ohio. Under Kvamme’s leadership, JobsOhio, which is supposed to replace the Department of Development, has brought in 400 companies to invest in Ohio, leading to $6.1 billion in capital investment, according to a press release. But the nonprofit company has been heavily criticized by liberal groups like Progress Ohio, which say JobsOhio is unconstitutional. Lower courts have generally legitimized Progress Ohio’s claims, but the Ohio Supreme Court recently turned down a case dealing with JobsOhio. The court said a lower court would have to give a declaratory judgment first.

William O’Neill, former judge and Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, is asking Republican justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell to “recuse or refuse.” O’Neill says the Republican justices are sitting on cases that involve FirstEnergy, an Akron-based energy company that has contributed to the re-election campaigns of Cupp and O’Donnell. O’Neill says the conflict of interest diminishes faith in the highest court of Ohio’s justice system.

A new study on Taser use in Hamilton County found local law enforcement have some problematic policies on the books and in practice. The study was put together by a local law firm that’s demanding policy reform.

Americans United for Life (AUL) is celebrating a federal court ruling against Planned Parenthood that maintains Ohio regulations on an abortion drug. The regulations require physicians to administer the drug in a clinic or physician’s office, and the drug may only be taken within 49 days of gestation. AUL says health groups like Planned Parenthood want to avoid sound health regulations, but Planned Parenthood argues the regulations make it too difficult for women to use the drug.

Natalie Portman is in a new commercial in support of President Barack Obama. In the ad, she touts Obama’s support of women’s rights.

It seems most Americans are avoiding or can’t afford as many trips to the doctor as before.

One of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world is wood.

It turns out the vampire squid is not a lethal ocean predator. Still, who wouldn't run away from that?

 
 
by German Lopez 10.02.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Courts, News at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Candidate to Justices: “Recuse or Refuse”

Former judge demands Ohio Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from FirstEnergy case

In a letter sent today to Ohio Supreme Court justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell, former Judge William O’Neill asked the Republican justices to recuse themselves from a case presenting conflicts of interest or refuse the campaign money that caused the conflicts of interest to begin with.

“The First Energy Family has contributed more than $44,000.00 into re-election campaigns for Justices Cupp and O’Donnell this year alone,” O’Neill, a Democrat who is running for the Ohio Supreme Court, wrote. “It is simply wrong for them to continue sitting on First Energy cases.”

The Ohio Supreme Court, which has seven justices decide the state’s top judicial cases, is currently handling a case involving FirstEnergy, an energy company based in Akron. More than 300,000 customers are suing the company over alleged fraud. The 11th District Court of Appeals previously ruled against FirstEnergy, and the case was appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The lawsuit is the fifth Ohio Supreme Court case involving FirstEnergy this year.

O’Neill pointed out the lawsuit “could easily be a billion dollar case” before writing, “And the public has a right to know that the ruling was not purchased by one side or another.”

Ohio Sen. Mike Skindell, a Democrat who is also running for the Ohio Supreme Court, endorsed O’Neill’s letter. In the past, he also criticized Cupp and O’Donnell for potential conflicts of interest.

The offices of Cupp and O'Donnell did not immediately respond to CityBeat's requests for comment on the letter. This story will be updated if responses become available.

UPDATE OCT. 4, 4:12 P.M.: Mark Weaver, spokesperson for Cupp, responded: Mr. O'Neill previously raised this argument with disciplinary authorities by filing a complaint. It was reviewed by disciplinary authorities, and they unanimously dismissed it as having no merit.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.20.2012
Posted In: Courts, News, Business at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Procter & Gamble Sued for Religious Discrimination

P&G and contractor allegedly fired Muslim worker who was humiliated by coworker

Two Cincinnati-based companies are facing a lawsuit over the termination of a former Muslim worker. The lawsuit, filed in an North Carolina court Monday, claims a woman named Safa Elhassan was fired from Procter & Gamble facilities after facing discrimination in the workplace.

Elhassan worked for P&G through XLC Services, a Cincinnati-based company that provides manufacturing services and warehouse management to other companies, at P&G facilities in Guilford County, N.C. 

The lawsuit charges P&G and XLC with religious harassment, religious discrimination, failing to accommodate after religious discrimination in the workplace, national origin discrimination, sexual discrimination, two counts of retaliation, negligence, unfair and deceptive trade practices, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit tells the story that led to the charges as follows: Elhassan, who wears a hijab and wedding ring for religious reasons, was employed at P&G’s facilities through XLC between 2004 and Sept. 16, 2011. During her employment, Elhassan followed P&G rules and regulations and kept “a performance record which was satisfactory or better.”

However, Elhassan was unaware of a company policy that banned jewelry in the workplace, even jewelry of religious significance. This policy was mostly not a problem for Elhassan because, as the lawsuit claims, “Other employees of different religions and national origins routinely wear jewelry under clothing and/or protective wear and are not punished or searched.”

That is until a woman named Ernestine Wilson allegedly approached Elhassan, forcibly searched Elhassan for her wedding ring and removed Elhassan’s hijab in front of coworkers, including men, according to the suit. Under Islam’s rules, a woman uses a hijab, which is a religious head and neck wrap, to maintain sexual modesty, and being exposed without a hijab to men who are not family is a major offense and source of humiliation.

Elhassan reported the forced search to higher-ups at XLC. After a few meetings, Wilson provided an apology, according to the lawsuit, but Elhassan claimed the apology was insincere because Wilson kept telling coworkers that she hoped Elhassan was fired. After Elhassan refused to accept the apology, she was suspended then fired, allegedly under the orders of P&G.

The lawsuit suggests that Wilson's actions were potentially connected to another workplace incident. The lawsuit says Elhassan was sexually harassed in the past by George (no last name provided), a man with whom Wilson was allegedly “engaged in a friendly, physical, and/or romantic relationship." Elhassan reported the incident, which got George fired. The lawsuit claims Wilson’s actions were in retaliation to George’s termination.

Since Wilson did work for P&G through XLC, Elhassan blames both P&G and XLC for the damages. The lawsuit claims she was unfairly fired in retaliation for not accepting Wilson’s apology. It also alleges that XLC forced Elhassan to sign a document she did not understand upon her termination without her lawyer present, even though Elhassan asked to have her lawyer read the document. The document, which P&G officials were supposedly aware of, allegedly sought to release P&G and XLC of any wrongdoing related to the termination.

Mary Ralles, spokesperson for P&G, responded to the lawsuit in an email: “As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation, but I did want to make one correction. The individual was not (or ever) a P&G employee.”

The distinction Ralles made is that Elhassan was not officially employed by P&G, but she did work for P&G through her employment at XLC.

XLC could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.18.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

President Barack Obama announced trade action against China while in Cincinnati yesterday. Obama said his team had filed a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization on the claim China is cheating in auto trade by offering “extensive subsidies” to its automakers and auto-part producers. China fired back with its own lawsuit for U.S. tariffs that raise the price on a variety of Chinese products — from steels to tires. Anti-China rhetoric has fast become the latest flavor of the month for the Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns, and China is not happy with it.

But the presidential race raced back to gaffes over trade policy when Mother Jones posted amazingly candid footage of Romney speaking to millionaires at a fundraiser. In the videos, Romney straightforwardly outlines campaign strategy. In one video, Romney said he doesn’t care about getting the vote of the 47 percent of Americans that don’t pay taxes because he doesn’t believe he can convince them to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” The Obama team retaliated in a statement: “It's shocking that a candidate for president of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation.”

Ohioans love their local schools, a new survey shows. The survey also found Ohioans trust their local school boards of education with education-related decisions, but they really don’t trust the state superintendent, governor or legislature.

Hamilton County courts want to go paperless. The move would save money and space and make the system more efficient.

County budget meetings are still chugging along. Different department directors are still pleading for no cuts, but the commissioners insist cuts have to be made somewhere.

Cincinnati police announced a new Taser policy. The new policy disallows the use of frontal shots except in situations involving self-defense and the defense of others, reinforces the fact officers need to make sure such force is necessary and points out people have been injured due to Taser use. The new policy was brought about due to findings Taser use can kill in rare situations.

Cincinnati launched a national design competition for the decks over Fort Washington Way that will connect the Banks and Central Business District.

A new Hamilton County initiative to improve neighborhoods will tear down 700 dilapidated homes.

The streetcar’s yearlong delay got an explanation yesterday. A few issues are to blame, including the city’s ongoing conflict with Duke Energy over who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar.

The amount of people on Ohio’s death row is shrinking. After Donald Palmer’s execution, Ohio will drop to its lowest death row population since July 1995.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted launched a mailing campaign to clean up voter rolls. Using data from U.S. Postal Service National Change of Address Registry, Husted mailed 70,000 former Ohioans encouraging them to cancel their voter registration. The action is a lot tamer than Republican-led efforts to purge voter rolls in other states, which states like Florida, Iowa and Colorado have backed out of — at least for now.

Duke Energy unveiled its new logo.

A new meta-analysis found fish oil may not live up to its health hype.

NASA is now saying faster-than-light travel may be possible and feasible. The technology would allow spaceships to travel to Mars in minutes. Still, the theory does have some problems.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.13.2012
Posted In: Government, News, 2012 Election, Courts, Economy at 09:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

More bad news for Secretary of State Jon Husted. The Ohio Supreme Court told Husted his approved ballot language for Issue 2 contains “factual inaccuracies” and must be rewritten by the Ballot Board. Voters First previously contested the language as misleading to voters. If approved by voters, Issue 2 will put an independent citizens commission in charge of redistricting. Under the current system, state officials redraw borders, sometimes using the process for political advantage. In Cincinnati’s district, the Republican-controlled process redrew the district to include Warren County, giving the district more rural voters that tend to side with Republicans instead of urban voters that tend to side with Democrats. Voters First mocked the process with a graph showing how redistricting decisions can sometimes be made in 13 minutes with no questions asked. CityBeat covered the redistricting process here when Issue 2 was still in the petition process.

Ohio’s median income dropped last year, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. But rates of poverty and uninsured rates remained the same. Nationwide, uninsured rates dropped from 16.3 percent in 2010 to 15.7 percent in 2011, meaning 1.4 million people gained health coverage. Some of that is attributable to health-care reform passed by President Barack Obama.

Former University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is getting a pretty nice going-away present. The Board of Trustees approved a package for Williams that adds up to more than $1.2 million. It includes a bonus, retirement benefits, consulting fees, a year’s salary and a contract buyout. Williams abruptly left UC on Aug. 21, citing personal reasons.

Homeless shelters will cost more than expected, says 3CDC. The nonprofit group said it will cost about $40 million to build three homeless shelters and help finance others.

With the support of Democrats and Republicans, the Ohio legislature approved pension reforms yesterday. The reforms lower benefits, raise contributions requirements, increase the retirement eligibility age, establish new cost-of-living guidelines and set a new formula to calculate benefits, all for future retirees. For the most part, current retirees are not affected. Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican, said, “We know the changes are not popular, but they are necessary.” Before the changes, the system was losing $1 million a day, according to a statement from Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is pushing against banks that take advantage of college students. In a letter to Higher One, Brown told the bank to rework its contracts with universities. Brown wrote in the letter, “Federal student aid programs should help students prepare for the future, not extract fee income from them.” He went on to ask the bank to redo its contracts so they are “consumer-friendly and consistent with reforms that Congress enacted for the credit card market.”

Ohio’s inspector general found ODJFS wrongly reimbursed organizations in central Ohio with federal stimulus funds when the organizations did not follow rules.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Dayton yesterday. During his speech, he spoke about the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Biden vowed justice will be served.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney unleashed a big foreign policy gaffe yesterday when he politicized the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. The attack was revealed to cause the death of Stevens after Romney made his comments.

Math shows homeopathy, a trend in medicine, is implausible.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.03.2012
Posted In: Media, Media Criticism, News, Courts at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Gannett Weekly Found Guilty of Defamation

Judge orders $100,000 in damages for newspaper’s defaming of police officer

A federal judge announced Wednesday that the Milford-Miami Advertiser, a Gannett-owned suburban weekly newspaper, was guilty of defaming police officer James Young.

Judge Michael Barrett affirmed the jury’s award for $100,000 in damages.

In an article published on May 27, 2010, the Milford-Miami Advertiser wrote that “Young had sex with a woman while on the job.” The accusation was found to be incorrect.

According to court documents, Young was initially fired from his job in 1997 after an internal investigation found semen in Marcey Phillips’s home after Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. But a DNA investigation found that the semen found in Phillips’s home did not belong to Young, and Young was eventually given his job back.

The court documents say the Milford-Miami Advertiser article was written by Theresa Herron, the newspaper’s editor, but online archives of the article “Cop’s suspension called best move for city” say the article was written by Kellie Geist. Update: Herron wrote the section of the article that went to trial, while Geist wrote the rest.

Young testified that Herron never attempted to contact him before publishing the article, according to court documents. Herron testified that she did not fully read the documents for Young’s case, but she said she knew about the DNA testing and did not think it was important to the story.

When contacted by CityBeat, Herron said she did not feel comfortable discussing the case. The story was first reported by Courthouse News Service.

Gannett also owns the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Milford-Miami Advertiser covers community news in Miami Township and Milford, and it is part of the Cincinnati.com network.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 07.19.2012
Posted In: Death Penalty, Courts, Equality at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Racial Bias in Death Penalty Cases Gets Ohio Supreme Court's Attention

Death Penalty Task Force approves changes to prevent discrimination

Ohio’s death penalty came under scrutiny again today, when the Ohio Supreme Court's Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty heard presentations from three different subcommittees on strategies to make sure the process in administering a death penalty sentence in Ohio is transparent and fair.

The task force heard presentations from the Law Enforcement Subcommittee, Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee and Clemency Subcommittee; the Clemency Subcommittee's recommendation was passed, while the Law Enforcement Subcommittee's recommendations were tabled for the next task force meeting, pending further review.

The Race and Ethnicity Subcommittee presented recommendations for dealing with evidence of longstanding racial bias in Ohio death penalty cases.


A 2005 Associated Press study concluded that offenders who killed white victims were significantly more likely to receive the death penalty than when victims were black, regardless of the race of the defendant. See the below chart, courtesy of the Associated Press, which charts the rate of death sentencing for defendants charged with killing white versus black victims during the course of the study, which was conducted from Oct. 1981-2002.




The Supreme Court’s Race and Ethnicity subcommittee made seven recommendations, three of which passed. Those passed include a mandate that all attorneys and judges in death penalty cases attend training to detect and protect against racial bias, and that attorneys must seek recusal of judges who are suspected of being motivated by racially discriminatory factors. Implementing the recommendations won't be immediate; according to Bret Crow, Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Ohio, task forces typically submit a final report to the Ohio Supreme Court for input, a process that might not be completed until into 2013.

Recommendations that were tabled to be reconsidered at a Sept. 27 meeting of the task force included the recommendation that all death penalty-eligible homicide cases be maintained and monitored for evidence of racial bias by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender.

According to the Associated Press, the data collection would apply to both old cases and any future homicides that could result in death penalty allegations. It wouldn’t, however, impact whether or not the death penalty should be an option of punishment in the state of Ohio.

Ohio’s death penalty has come under fire several times over the last year, even experiencing an extended moratorium on executions set forth by a U.S. District Judge, who ruled that Ohio unconstitutionally wasn’t following its own death penalty procedure and couldn’t be trusted to ethically carry out executions.

CityBeat reported on July 3 about the avoided execution of Abdul Awkal, a Muslim who narrowly escaped his death penalty sentence with the help of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC). Awkal was ruled not competent enough to be executed after making several statements suggesting he didn’t understand the reason for his execution.
 

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.13.2012
Posted In: Courts, News at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Court: UC's Free Speech Policy Unconstitutional

Judge orders university to change policy

The University of Cincinnati lost a court battle yesterday when a federal judge ruled that the public university's decision to restrict all "demonstrations, picketing, and rallies" to a Free Speech Area was a violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that containing the area in which students and outsiders who obtain the proper permission to demonstrate acted as an unconstitutional limitation.

In February, the UC Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) filed a lawsuit against the university after they were denied the right to circulate freely across UC's campus to gather signatures for a petition to place the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment on the Nov. 2012 ballot.

The students were restricted to gathering signatures only in the university-designated Free Speech Area within the McMicken Commons Northwest Corner, which is less than one tenth the size of a football field. Officials threatened to arrest students who attempted to gather signatures outside of that zone. The space restriction often rendered the the students' efforts ineffective; the Free Speech Area covers, relatively, a miniscule part of UC's campus.

YAL plaintiffs argued that UC's free speech policy was unfairly vague and unconstitutional. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a non-profit, non-partisan legal center, assisted YAL with the lawsuit.

According to a press release from the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, Judge Black's ruling prevents UC from enacting or upholding a free speech policy from:

• “Requiring prior notification for the solicitation by students of signatures for petitions;”

• “Prohibiting all solicitation by students of signatures for petitions in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoor spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks;”

• “Requiring that all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ occur only in the Free Speech Area;”

• “Requiring 5 to 15 days prior notification for any and all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ without differentiations;”

• “Imposing or enforcing any policy restricting student speech in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoors spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks, that is not individually and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling university interest.

In March, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education named UC's speech policies the worst in the nation specifically because of the restrictive free speech zone.

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 12.09.2014 10 days ago
Posted In: News, Courts at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Democrats to Judge: Defer Hunter's Sentence

Former juvenile court judge faces six months in prison

The court case is over, but issues of race and politics that made it so contentious continue swirling.

 

Hamilton County Judge Norbert Nadel sentenced former Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter to six months in jail and a year of probation Dec. 5 after she was convicted on one of nine felony counts last month. Hunter asked Nadel to defer her prison sentence until an appeal of her conviction had gone through. Nadel denied that request today and Hunter will most likely be behind bars soon.


Some say justice has been served, but others say the penalty is too harsh and premature. A letter signed by 56 people including many area Democrat leaders to Nadel Dec. 8 asked the judge to defer Hunter’s sentence until after her appeal is heard. The letter says Hunter’s appeal is made on “substantial grounds” and points out that if she goes to jail now and is latter vindicated, it will be a “pyrrhic victory” because she will have already served her sentence by that time. The letter cites the fact Hunter has no previous record and did not stand to gain financially from the crime.

 

It also points out the racial tension over the case and connects it to larger issues of race relations in the region and around the country, as anger continues over recent police killings of unarmed black men and a refusal by grand juries to indict officers in those cases.

 

“All across the country, serious questions of trust are being raised about the fairness of our justice system in dealing with matters involving race,” said the letter sent by the Hamilton County Democratic Party and signed by Chairman Tim Burke, State Senator elect Cecil Thomas, State Rep. Alicia Reece and other notable party members. “To sentence to jail the only African American to ever be elected to our juvenile court, and one of the very few African Americans to ever be elected in a contested county-wide election in Hamilton County … will only deepen that mistrust. That is particularly true in light of the fact that other first-time offenders under similar circumstances would receive no jail time at all.”

 

Hunter was the juvenile court’s first black judge. After the election for the seat in 2010 went to her opponent by a very narrow margin, she fought a year-and-a-half-long court battle in order to get uncounted votes counted to prove she had won. She came into the position intent on changing a system where black juveniles are 10 times more likely to be arrested than whites.


Almost 80 percent of children arrested in Hamilton County are black, according to a November federal lawsuit by Covington-based Children’s Law Center against the county.

 

That resolve ruffled feathers. Among others, The Cincinnati Enquirer sued her for refusing to let reporters into her courtroom. Hunter’s methods as a judge were unorthodox and her opponents say often illegal.

 

After a long, dramatic trial, Hunter was convicted last month for interceding on behalf of her brother, a juvenile court employee who was fired for allegedly punching an underage inmate. Hunter obtained medical records on that inmate for her brother, prosecutors charged. A jury deadlocked on eight other felony charges involving fraud, misuse of a court credit card, interfering with investigations and forgery. She motioned for a retrial three times, citing three black jurors who recanted their guilty verdicts and procedural irregularities in the courtroom. Judge Nadel denied all three motions.

 

Critics like Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou say Hunter was quite simply a bad judge and that her indictment and conviction have nothing to do with race. Her stature as a judge only makes her transgressions worse, and she should be disciplined accordingly, her critics say. That means jail time for a low-level felony that usually only gets probation.

 

Judge Hunter is a judge and a public official," Nadel said after Hunter was sentenced. "Unfortunately, it may be a felony 4, but that is a double whammy."

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.26.2014 22 days ago
Posted In: News, Courts at 09:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Update: Protest Marchers Released on Bail

Some of the 15 protesters arrested during Tuesday's Ferguson solidarity rally were held after posting bail

UPDATED Nov. 28, 12:45 PM: Judge Ted Berry waived the tracking device requirement for the protesters today, and those who posted bail (all but one) should be released in the next few hours.

Original Post: Some of the 15 protesters arrested during Tuesday’s march through downtown Cincinnati in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo. paid bail the next day. But while most folks were at home enjoying Thanksgiving Thursday, they were still in the Hamilton County Justice Center because some county offices are closed.

The march drew as many as 300 people during its nearly three-hour duration. During that time, at least 100 protesters streamed onto I-75, bringing traffic to a halt for a few minutes. Police, who had blocked traffic in the northbound lane of the highway, ordered protesters off under threat of arrest.

Those who didn’t leave fast enough ended up in jail.

The protesters were held without bond overnight and arraigned at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bond for the eight charged with shutting down I-75 was set at $3,000. According to Hamilton County Criminal Court documents, two of those arrested, Liz Cambron and Aalap Bommaraju, paid bail early that afternoon. But they’ll be in jail over Thanksgiving, and maybe until Monday, their attorney Joe Russell says.

Judge Melissa Powers, the presiding judge, deemed the arrested protesters flight risks and ordered they be fitted with electronic monitoring devices. But the office that provides the devices closed at noon today and won’t reopen until next week.

“I don’t undersand how my clients are flight risks,” Russell said of Cambron and Bommaraju. “They aren’t the kind of people who want to get anyone run over.” Cambron is a graduate student at University of Illinois Chicago, and Bommaraju is a health worker pursuing his PhD at UC.

He says the two weren’t acting recklessly and were merely exercising their first amendment rights.

The rest of the group arrested on I-75 look to be in a similar situation. Brandon Geary, Robert Fairbanks, Hilliard Herring, Zachary Lucas, Cerissa Newbill and Rhonda Shaw were also arrested on the highway and have been ordered to wear the tracking devices after release on bond.

Representatives with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts said they could not provide any information on the cases during phone calls earlier today.

Russell says it’s not necessarily the judge’s fault the situation has happened. Others, however, feel like the delay was meant to send a message to future protesters.

“The reason they’re still in jail is because the county doesn’t have the electronic monitoring devices available,” Russel said. He was in court Friday morning working to get the two released.

A vigil held Nov. 27 for protesters arrested during a Ferguson solidarity march still in jail after posting bond
Nick Swartsell

A vigil asking the court to release the protesters on bond drew a crowd of about 35 people Thanksgiving day, including family members of some of the protesters. "He didn't even know he wasn't going home," said Evan Geary, brother of Brandon Geary, who also posted bond. "My parents had to tell him he wasn't going home. I'm surprised my parents didn't come. They were very happy this was happening," he said of the vigil. 

Nick Swartsell

 Both Bommaraju and Cambron, along with others who were arrested after entering I-75, are charged with disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor, and inducing panic. That charge is usually a first-degree misdemeanor, but could be a fifth or fourth degree felony if a prosecutor finds that significant “economic damage” was done in the commission of the offense.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.25.2014 24 days ago
Posted In: Courts, News at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
rickyjackson

Man Wrongfully Imprisoned for 39 Years Thanks UC Program

Ricky Jackson says the Ohio Innocence Project was "instrumental" in his exoneration

Ricky Jackson was just 20 and fresh out of the Marines when he went to jail for murder in 1975. Authorities pinned the killing of Harold Franks, a fifty nine-year-old money order clerk in Cleveland, on Jackson and two of his friends, brothers Wiley and Ronnie Bridgeman. The conviction came on the testimony of a single twelve-year-old boy with bad eyesight and a confused story.

He spent the next 39 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Jackson was released last Friday, the last of the trio to be freed after that witness, Eddie Vernon, admitted he made up his testimony under police pressure. Today, Jackson was in Cincinnati to thank those who worked tirelessly to help free him.

“I would have walked if it would have come to that,” Jackson said to a packed house on University of Cincinnati's campus. “I wanted to come meet the people instrumental in saving my life.”

The Ohio Innocence Project, which runs out of University of Cincinnati’s College of Law, has been working on Jackson's case since 2010, digging for years to get public records about the case.  A Cleveland Scene article in 2011 focused more attention on the story as well. Since those beginnings, OIP has played a huge role in getting Jackson exonerated.

OIP was founded in 2003 to investigate and litigate cases where prisoners have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned. The group is made up of UC Law professors and students who use DNA evidence, new witnesses, evidence of police misconduct, and other information to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates. In just over a decade, they’ve helped free 18 inmates who were wrongfully convicted of murder and other charges. Jackson is the longest-serving inmate in Ohio to be exonerated.

Jackson’s codefendant Ronnie Bridgeman was paroled in 2010, but Jackson’s parole board continued to keep him in prison. Jackson says parole boards wanted him to admit guilt and express regret for the crime before they released him. The only problem was, he was innocent.

“I was on the cusp a lot of times,” he said of confessing. “It seemed like, to me, the only way I was going to get out was to admit guilt. But there was a lot more at stake than just me saying I committed the crime when I know I didn’t. That man’s family gets no justice, I get no justice… at the end of the day I just couldn’t lay down with that in my heart.”

He passed the time by staying fit and helping run the prison’s horticultural project. He ran a greenhouse, something he enjoyed immensely. Still, the time was wearing on him.

“After my last parole board hearing, I was really at an all time low,” he said. “I’m running out of time. I’m 57. How much time to do I really have left? I hate to use this cliché, but they came through like a knight in shining armor. When I was at my eleventh hour, didn’t know what direction I was going to take… these guys came.”

Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, says Jackson was steadfast in his innocence. He recalls first meeting Jackson at a recent hearing on his request for a new trial in light of witness Vernon recanting his testimony. Prosecutors were offering Jackson a deal — once again, if he would say he was guilty, he could walk free.

“He just looked at us and said, ‘I don’t need anymore time to think about it. I will not take that deal,' ” Godsey recalls. Prosecutors soon conceded that without their only witness, they had no case. Jackson was free.

There are challenges ahead, to be sure. He spent many of his formative years — when most people go to college, start careers, and build families — behind bars.

The OIP is stepping in again with assistance. The group has raised nearly $43,000 to help Jackson get a new start. They’re also fighting the state of Ohio to get a settlement for him based on his wrongful conviction. That could be huge — $40,000 for every year he was imprisoned, plus lost wages and other damages. But it’s not guaranteed. Sometimes, prosecutors fight against these settlements. So far, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has not officially acknowledged that Jackson and the Bridgemans are innocent or that they were wrongly imprisoned.

In the meantime, Jackson says he’s not sure just yet what he’ll do. But he says he’s up for the challenge of building a life.

“It’s not difficult at all," he said. "Compared to what I just came from, this is beautiful.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 11.07.2014 42 days ago
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Courts at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Federal Court Building

Federal Court Upholds Region's Same-Sex Marriage Bans

Ruling preserves bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee; will likely to go Supreme Court

The Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld laws banning same-sex marriage in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.  

The 2-1 decision covers six cases in those four states brought by a total of 16 couples. Among them are Cincinnati residents Brittani Henry-Rogers and Brittni Rogers, who are fighting so both can be listed as parents on their son’s birth certificate. James Obergefell of Cincinnati is also involved, asking courts for the right to be listed on his husband Jim Arthur’s death certificate. Earlier, a lower district court found in their favor.

“We just want to be treated as a family, because we are a family,” Henry-Rogers said in an August interview after the 6th Circuit hearings.

Justices Deborah Cook and Jeffery Sutton ruled that the debate over same-sex marriage is best decided by voters, not by the court. Justice Martha Daughtrey dissented.

“When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote in the majority opinion. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way."

The case is a somewhat surprising setback for same-sex marriage advocates, who had been on a winning streak in federal courts. The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit Courts have previously struck down laws in a number of states banning same-sex marriage. Gay marriage is now legal in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

"This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia,” said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio in a statement yesterday. “It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine represented the state in the case. His office said in a statement it was "pleased the court agreed with our arguments that important issues such as these should be determined through the democratic process."

The decision leaves intact Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, at least for now. That’s created a split in federal court rulings among various circuit courts, something the Supreme Court will most likely have to sort out. Some legal experts think the Supreme Court will ultimately find same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The court has refused to hear appeals to lower court decisions striking down bans, leading many to think a majority of the court supports legalization.

Strangio said the ACLU will be filing for Supreme Court consideration. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who represents the Ohio couples, has said he will be working to bring the case to the nation's highest court as well. Other advocacy organizations have also vowed to continue the fight.

“Now, more than ever before, the Supreme Court of the United States must take up the issue and decide once and for all whether the Constitution allows for such blatant discrimination,” said Human Rights Coalition President Chad Griffin. “We believe that justice and equality will prevail.”

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 07.01.2014
Posted In: Courts at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Federal Court Building

Federal Judge Strikes Down Kentucky Gay Marriage Ban

Next showdown will happen at federal appeals court in Cincinnati

A federal judge today ruled Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. But same-sex couples in the state can’t get marriage licenses just yet. 

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that a 2004 amendment to Kentucky's state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage violates the guarantee of equal protection under the law found in the U.S. constitution.

It's another sign that the tide may be turning in the region. The decision comes as a similar ban looks to be in serious legal trouble in Indiana, and just before an August federal court date that will decide questions surrounding the issue in Ohio and other states. Since February last year, federal courts have upheld the right to marry for same-sex couples 19 times.

The decision came in response to a challenge to Kentucky’s ban by two same-sex couples. Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James were denied a marriage license on Jan. 2013. They were charged with trespassing after refusing to leave the Jefferson County Clerk’s office after being turned down for their license. A jury eventually found them guilty, though the two were fined only $1. The two other plaintiffs in the case, Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, applied for a license in February 2013. The two have lived together for 34 years.

The plaintiffs and other same-sex couples looking to marry will have to wait a little longer, though. Heyburn has delayed implementation of his decision until after Aug. 6, when a higher court, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, will hear several gay marriage cases from Kentucky, Ohio and two other states. Those cases will be heard in Cincinnati.

Heyburn, who in February also ruled that the state must recognize same-sex marriages from other states, rejected Kentucky’s reasons for its ban. Lawyers hired by the Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear argued that traditional marriage helps ensure economic stability and a favorable birth rate in the state. The state’s Attorney General Jack Conway refused to defend the law on behalf of the state.

“These arguments are not those of serious people,” Heyburn said in his decision. He said there is “no conceivable, legitimate purpose” for the ban, which keeps same-sex couples in the state from enjoying the economic, social and emotional benefits of marriage. These include tax benefits, the ability to share insurance, the ability to adopt children as a couple and other rights.

The ruling continues a wave of recent decisions by federal courts upholding marriage rights for same-sex couples. But there’s still uncertainty even as the tide shifts. Most recently, on June 25, a judge struck down Indiana’s ban, allowing same-sex couples to immediately apply for marriage licenses. That decision was overturned a few days later on appeal, and couples who married in the three-day window are now waiting for a final decision to see if their marriages are valid in the state’s eyes. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.20.2014
Posted In: Courts at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
workers comp

Courts: Ohio Agency Owes Area Businesses Big

Recent decision says Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation charged unfair rates

What do the Cincinnati Ballet, Jungle Jim’s and the YWCA have in common? Last month, an Ohio court upheld a ruling that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation has been overcharging these and thousands of other businesses and organizations in the state. Meanwhile, the BWC cut rates for other employers who were part of preferred groups, Ohio’s 8th District Appellate Court said.

Now an advocacy organization is pushing for the BWC to pay back the difference.

While the ins and outs of the rates are complicated, the underlying concept is fairly straightforward: Worker’s compensation functions as a kind of insurance for employers. If an employee gets hurt on the job, worker’s comp will pay for lost wages and medical costs so long as the business is current on its monthly workers comp payment. A lawsuit brought by some employers receiving higher rates charged that those rates were unfair, even forcing some employers into bankruptcy.

The courts have agreed. The appellate court’s decision upholds an earlier ruling against the BWC by the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

The courts ruled the BWC, along with lobbyists of some favored businesses, rigged workers compensation rates so that some companies picked to be designated “group rate employers” received what the court called “excessive, undeserved premium discounts” on their workers compensation insurance plans. Where did the money for those discounts come from? According to the court, from businesses who were not part of the special group rate. Those businesses paid almost $860 million extra on their workers compensation plans.  

BWC hasn’t started paying back the money, and head Steven Buehner told a Cleveland news outlet last week that the agency will appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. It has until June 30 to do so.

Buehner says the agency’s rates simply reflect the nature of providing insurance — that low-risk customers receive lower rates than higher-risk clients. Buehner said there isn’t some big pot of money somewhere that the BWC is sitting on and that it hasn’t cheated anyone out of any funds.

If the court’s ruling holds, the BWC will owe more than 100 Cincinnati-area employers $100,000 or more, including a number of nonprofits and arts organizations. All told, the BWC could owe area businesses more than $100 million. Progress Ohio, an advocacy group, has asked Gov. John Kasich to act and make sure the BWC pays the money back.

According to Progress Ohio, which is advocating for the employers in question, the BWC could owe the Cincinnati Ballet more than $300,000, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park nearly $150,000 and the Cincinnati YMCA $140,000. BAE, a British-owned security and armaments business with a plant in Fairfield, is the area employer owed the largest amount of money; according to the advocacy organization, the BWC charged BAE more than $1.4 million extra in premiums.

The Cincinnati YWCA is also owed payback — about $14,000. The organization told WCPO earlier this week it will be "thrilled" to get that money back so it can use it to help women and children in need.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 06.09.2014
Posted In: Courts at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mu rape flier

Ohio Supreme Court Orders Rape Flier Records Unsealed

Butler County judge acted improperly sealing files, court says

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled June 5 that a Butler County judge acted improperly when he sealed records relating to a 2012 rape flier posted at Miami University.

Judge Robert Lyons ordered the records sealed after a student at Miami University was charged with and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for posting a flier listing the "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" in a coed residence hall bathroom at the school.

When sealing the record, however, Lyons cited a law pertaining to sealing cases that don't reach a conviction, an error that he acknowledged later. 

The case drew national attention, in part due to the graphic nature of the list, which included pointers like "If your [sic] afraid the girl will identify you slit her throat." It also drew scrutiny for Lyons' unusual move making the records in the case, and thus the student's name, unavailable to the public.

The Cincinnati Enquirer sued to have the records released. After the suit was filed, Lyons allowed the student to withdraw his guilty plea. The state of Ohio then dropped its case against the student, and Lyons sealed the case again under the same law he had cited previously.

Misdemeanors require a one-year waiting period before cases can be sealed. Judge Lyons argued that this isn't the case for minor misdemeanors like disorderly conduct and that no waiting period applied. In a 5-2 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there is no such distinction.

The student left Miami shortly after the incident.

You can find the full text of the court's decision here.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.10.2014
Posted In: News, Courts, LGBT at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_gaymarriage_juliehill

Lawsuit: End Same-Sex Discrimination on Birth Certificates

Couples married outside Ohio sue over recognition on children's birth certificates

A federal court in Cincinnati could get another chance to advance LGBT rights if it takes up a lawsuit filed Monday that calls on Ohio to recognize the names of married same-sex parents on their adopted children’s birth certificates.

Civil rights attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the couples adopt a child in Ohio.

“Birth certificates are the primary identity document in our society,” Gerhardstein’s firm explained in a statement. “Birth certificates tell the child, ‘these adults are your parents,’ and tell the community that these adults and children are a family. Medical care, access to schools, travel and release of information are all easily accomplished with birth certificates and are constantly burdened without accurate birth certificates. Forcing families to accept incorrect birth certificates imposes life-long harms and is a direct attack on family dignity.”

Although opponents of LGBT rights contend that allowing same-sex couples to adopt could hurt children, the research suggests otherwise.

A Boston University meta-analysis released in March found “children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” Possibly harmful factors found in the study instead include widespread discrimination and the parents’ limited rights, neither of which can be blamed on same-sex couples. 

The complaint filed Monday comes on the heels of recent rulings that advanced same-sex rights in Ohio and across the country.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited constitutional grounds to force state officials to recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates. That case came about after a same-sex couple in Cincinnati filed for recognition. The Republican-controlled state government, defended by Attorney General Mike DeWine, is appealing the ruling.

That ruling followed a June 26 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that effectively struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and requires the federal government to recognize some same-sex marriages.

In enforcing the ruling, President Barack Obama’s administration on Monday plans to grant sweeping equal protections to married same-sex couples around the country, even those who reside in states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. The Justice Department’s decision applies to courthouse proceedings, prison visits and the compensation of public safety officers’ surviving spouses, among other areas. 

At the state level, FreedomOhio is working to get same-sex marriage on the ballot this year. The campaign is facing some resistance from other LGBT groups, but FreedomOhio says it already has the petition signatures required to put the issue to a vote in November.

The full complaint:


 
 
by German Lopez 01.20.2014
Posted In: News, 2014 election, Governor, Courts, Mayor at 09:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.

Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail, but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy after controversy since before she won her election.

State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights” into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and restrict access to the ballot.

A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov. John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane suppliers off the roads on weekends.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.

Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.

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by German Lopez 01.15.2014
 
 
scott stiles

Morning News and Stuff

City personnel changes spur backlash, county seeks MSD compromise, judge indicted again

The latest administrative shakeups at City Hall spurred controversy after the city administration confirmed City Solicitor John Curp will leave his current position and one of the new hires — Bill Moller, a city retiree who will become assistant city manager — will be able to “double dip” on his pension and salary ($147,000 a year). Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at todays council meeting. The hiring decisions are up to Interim City Manager Scott Stiles, but some council members say they should be more closely informed and involved. (This paragraph was updated after council members called off the special session.)

Hamilton County commissioners plan to vote on a resolution today that attempts to compromise with City Council on controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Both the Democrat-controlled city and Republican-controlled county agree the issue needs to be resolved soon so MSD can get on with a $3.2 billion sewer revamp mandated by the federal government. But it remains unclear whether the county’s compromise, which adds some inclusion goals and funding for training programs, will be enough for City Council. In December, Democratic council members refused to do away with the city’s contracting rules, which require MSD contractors to meet stricter job training standards and programs.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was indicted on a ninth felony charge yesterday. The charge — for misusing her county credit card — comes on top of eight other felony counts for allegedly backdating court documents and stealing from office. In response to the first eight charges, the Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hunter as she fights the accusations and replaced her with a formerly retired judge, who will be aided by the juvenile court’s permanent and visiting judges in addressing Hunter’s expansive backlog of cases.

A bipartisan proposal would allow Ohioans to recall any elected official in the state.

Duke Energy cut a $400,000 check to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for redevelopment projects at Bond Hill, Roselawn and Queensgate.

Sixty-two people will be dropped from Hamilton County voter rolls because they didn’t respond to a letter from the board of elections challenging their voting addresses.

It’s official: Democrat Charlie Luken and Republican Ralph Winkler will face off for the Hamilton County Probate Court judgeship.

Facing state cuts to local funding, a Clermont County village annexed its way to higher revenues. But the village has drawn controversy for its tactics because it explicitly absorbed only public property, which isn’t protected from annexation under state law like private property is.

More Ohio inmates earned high school diplomas over the past three years, putting the state ahead of the national average in this area, according to a report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.

Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says he supports legislative efforts to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years.

One Malaysian language describes odors as precisely as English describes colors.

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