6th Circuit: EMU student can sue for religious discrimination

Julea Ward, who was expelled from an Eastern Michigan University counseling program because she refused to counsel gays and lesbians about their lifestyles, can file a religious discrimination suit against the university, the Detroit Free Press reported.

In Ward v. Polite, et al., 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey Sutton, joined by judges Julia Gibbons and John Adams, wrote that “Ward’s free speech claim deserves to go to a jury.”

“Although the university submits it dismissed Ward from the program because her request for a referral violated the [American Counseling Association] code of ethics, a reasonable jury could find otherwise — that the code of ethics contains no such bar and that the university deployed it as a pretext for punishing Ward’s religious views and speech.”

Judge George Steeh of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan had ruled in favor of the university in 2010. The remanded case now goes back to him.

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Tamara Green transcripts released

For those that can’t get enough of He Whose Name We Have Vowed Not To Mention In 2012 – okay, that’s probably not going to happen – Kwame Kilpatrick, the Detroit Free Press has obtained and released the unsealed transcripts from the Tamara Green lawsuit.

The Freep focused its early attention on a “testy back-and-forth” between the Green family’s attorney, Norman Yatooma, and Kilpatrick’s attorney, Jim Thomas:

After a testy back-and-forth, Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas summed it up with: “Point your finger at me again, and I’m going to break it off and shove it up your (expletive).”

Norman Yatooma, representing Greene’s family, responded: “Do that. Do that now, Mr. Thomas. Come here now, break off my finger and shove it up my (expletive).”

“Thank you for the invitation. Ask (Kilpatrick) a question,” Thomas said.

I’ve seen worse. I’m sure you have as well.

As had been reported before, not all of the deposition transcripts have been unsealed. U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen opted to keep the testimony of former attorney general Mike Cox, Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita, and former Kilpatrick Chief-of-Staff Christine Beatty sealed.

The rest, however, are out there, and paint a picture of the police department’s strange handling of the case.

Although many of the officers were disturbed by how the murder probe was handled, Rosen said there was no evidence that the case was derailed.

Sgt. Marian Stevenson, the homicide detective initially assigned to the investigation, testified that the case was taken away from her after six months and that she was transferred to the 9th Precinct — what she described as the punishment precinct. …

Former homicide Inspector William Rice, whom Greene’s family hired to review the homicide file in 2010, said in a confidential report that the murder probe was reassigned to different investigators so often and there was so much meddling from higher-ups, the investigation lacked continuity and an investigation strategy.

In all, much of the released testimony details strange procedural steps taken by the Detroit Police Department and Cox, who, one State Police investigator said, interviewed Kilpatrick without police and criticized the work of the police investigating the allegations against Kilpatrick.

Have a few hours to kill? You can read all of the released documents online at the Freep’s website.

6th Circuit upholds ruling to toss Iraq vet’s $4.4 million jury award

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge John O’Meara’s decision to throw out a jury’s $4.4 million verdict for James McKelvey, who was subjected to verbal harassment at Selfridge Air National Guard Base because of his disability.

According to the Detroit Free Press, O’Meara decided to take the Army up on its offer to reinstate McKelvey to a job with higher pay at the Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren.

But the panel reversed O’Meara, concluding that the hostile work environment forced McKelvey to quit his job at TACOM. As a result, the Army must provide McKelvey with about $100,000 in back pay.

McKelvey, who had suffered physical impairments in Iraq during duty with the Army National Guard, commenced his civilian employment with the Army in February 2006. A co-worker initiated the harassment when he asked McKelvey why he used “crippled parking.” After that, McKelvey was called a “cripple” on a regular basis, including by his supervisor, who denied McKelvey’s requests for accommodations such as a touch-screen laptop or voice-activated programming for his computer.

Attorney Kevin Carlson, who co-counseled the October 2009 trial with Joseph Golden, told the Free Press he was glad the appellate court reinstated the jury’s finding that he was forced to quit because of disability discrimination. But he said that going back to the place where McKelvey was mistreated is a lot to ask, and he and Golden aren’t sure it’s legally correct.

An account of McKelvey’s lawsuit can be found at Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s website.

Greene lawsuit against Detroit tossed out by federal judge

The Detroit Free Press reports that a $150 million lawsuit filed by the family of Tamara Greene was dismissed Nov. 1 by U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen.

Greene’s family sued the city of Detroit and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2005, saying officials sabotaged the 27-year-old’s murder investigation to prevent her killers from being found.

Greene, who danced under the name Strawberry, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Detroit in April 2003. This happened some eight months after rumors spread that she danced at a never-proven wild party at the mayoral Manoogian mansion in 2002, and supposedly had been assaulted by Carlita Kilpatrick, the wife of the then-mayor.

The Free Press said that there was no immediate comment from attorney Norman Yatooma, who represents Greene’s family, or from attorney James Thomas, who represents Kilpatrick. Yatooma is expected to appeal the ruling.