Categotry Archives: Law

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Tyron Garner

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Categories: Law

Tyron Garner, a plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down sodomy bans in 13 states, died on Sept. 11 from complications of meningitis. He was 39.
In 1998, the Harris County Sheriff’s Department received a false report of an armed intruder inside the Houston, Texas, home of medical technologist John Lawrence. Two deputies entered the apartment without a warrant and found Garner and Lawrence engaging in consensual sex. The police arrested the men and charged them with breaking the Homosexual Conduct Law, a misdemeanor, which banned oral and anal sex between people of the same gender.
Garner and Lawrence were jailed overnight. They pleaded not guilty at their arraignment, but changed their pleas to no contest in order to challenge the constitutionality of Texas’ sodomy law. Both were found guilty of “deviate sexual intercourse” and ordered to pay fines of $125, plus $141.25 in court costs. Subsequent appeals challenging the law failed, forcing the men to seek an audience with the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court declared homosexual relations a basic civil right under the 14th Amendment, and ruled that what gay men and women do in the privacy of their bedrooms was not the government’s business. The 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas invalidated sodomy laws in 13 states and fueled the civil rights debate over gay marriage and adoption.
“Because Tyrone Garner and John Lawrence had the courage to challenge homophobic sodomy laws, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that love, sexuality and family play the same role in gay people’s lives as they do for everyone else. That’s a colossal legacy and one for which his community will forever be thankful,” Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, stated.
Although Garner was unemployed at the time of his arrest, he had worked as a home health care provider and restaurant cook. In recent years, he operated a barbecue stand in Houston. Last January, Garner was diagnosed with meningitis, a condition that causes fluid to build up on the brain. He lost the use of his legs in August and was recuperating in a physical rehabilitation center when his condition worsened. Garner was then rushed to the hospital, where he later died. His brother, Darrell Garner, described Tyrone (as he preferred to be called) as an “easy-going person, very giving and a nice guy all around who helped out elderly neighbors all the time.”
Read the 2003 Supreme Court Decision in Lawrence v. Texas (.pdf)

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Jim West

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Categories: Law, Military, Politicians

James Elton West, the former mayor of Spokane, Wash., who was ousted from office amidst a sex scandal, died on July 22 of complications from cancer surgery. He was 55.
Born in Salem, Ore., West attended the University of Nevada at Reno prior to enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division for three years, and earned a certificate of completion in law enforcement at Johnston Technical Institute in N.C.
West’s career in law enforcement, however, was short-lived. Between 1975 and 1978, he worked as a patrolman for the Medical Lake (Wash.) Police Department and as a deputy sheriff for Spokane County. West obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Gonzaga University in Spokane and supervised a camping program for juveniles with minor offenses, then entered the political arena.
A former Boy Scout leader, Spokane city councilman and state senate majority leader, West spent the next two decades championing an anti-gay agenda. The lifelong Republican actively sought to have gays and lesbians barred from working in schools, day care centers and some state agencies, voted to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, allowed a bill that would’ve banned discrimination against gays and lesbians to die in committee without a hearing and opposed giving benefits to domestic partners of City Hall workers. As such, voters in West’s district were quite surprised when the media revealed he was involved in a sex scandal.
After spending several years investigating West for sexual misconduct and misuse of his political position, The Spokesman-Review published an expose that revealed West frequented chat rooms on Gay.com and offered autographed sports memorabilia, seats to Seahawks and Mariners games and a City Hall internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old high school student. The online pen pal was actually a forensic computer consultant working for the newspaper.
Allegations that West sexually molested two youths at a Boy Scout camp during the 1970s and early 1980s and offered city jobs to other gay partners were published in the newspaper as well. West categorically denied these claims and law enforcement officials could not confirm the accounts. Although the FBI launched a 10-month public corruption probe into his activities, West was never charged with a crime.
West did publicly acknowledge that he had had relations with adult men but claimed he hadn’t done anything illegal. He sent city staffers a remorseful e-mail, and refused to resign as mayor of Spokane. In response, the voters held a special election on Dec. 6, 2005, and recalled West on a single charge that he had used his office for personal benefit. He was the first Spokane city official to be recalled from office.
The sex scandal wasn’t the only time West found himself in hot water. In 1998, he threatened building industry lobbyist Tom McCabe over the publication of a newspaper ad. “You son of a bitch, you better get me ’cause if you don’t, you’re dead,” West said in a message recorded on McCabe’s voice mail. West was later charged with two misdemeanors. The court placed West on probation and ordered him to pay a $250 fine, make a $500 donation to charity and apologize.
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Ed Masry

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Categories: Hollywood, Law

emasry.jpgEdward Louis Masry, the personal injury lawyer featured in the Academy Award-winning movie “Erin Brockovich,” died on Dec. 5 of complications from diabetes. He was 73.
Born in Patterson, N.J., Masry’s family moved to Southern California when he was 12 years old. He joined the U.S. Army in 1952, served two years and was discharged as a corporal. Although Masry returned to California and attended the University of California Santa Barbara, University of California Los Angeles and University of Southern California, he never received his bachelor’s degree. However, high test scores gained him entrance to Loyola Law School, where he earned his J.D. degree.
Masry opened his own law firm in 1961 and focused on criminal defense, business litigation, entertainment law and First Amendment cases. For the next four decades, the cantankerous, risk-taking attorney worked on countless lawsuits, but was best known for winning a $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas & Electric.
In the 1990s, Masry and his self-trained legal assistant Erin Brockovich spearheaded the class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 600 residents of Hinkley, Calif. They claimed PG&E knowingly allowed its tanks to leak poisons into the groundwater and put the town’s residents at risk for serious health problems. At the time the case was settled, it was the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history.
Their efforts were depicted in the 2000 Steven Soderbergh movie “Erin Brockovich,” which starred Julia Roberts in the title role and Albert Finney as Masry. Roberts won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of the feisty mother/advocate; Finney received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. That same year, Masry was elected to the Thousand Oaks, Calif., City Council. He served for five years, including one as mayor pro tem, before retiring in Nov. 2005 to concentrate on his health and family.
Masry received numerous honors for his litigation career and environmental efforts, including the U.S. Congressional Award for Outstanding Trial Lawyer of the Year (1982, 1988 and 1990), the Academy of Justice Award from the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the Environmental Hero Award from the Environmental Defense Center for Commitment to Environmental Justice. He was also the president and CEO of Save the World Air, Inc., an organization that creates products designed to reduce harmful emissions from internal combustion engines.

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William H. Rehnquist

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Categories: Law

wrehnquist.jpgWilliam Hubbs Rehnquist, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, died on Sept. 3. Cause of death was not released. He was 80.

Born in Milwaukee, Rehnquist attended Kenyon College in Ohio until 1942 when he was drafted. He served in the Army Air Corps as a weather observer in North Africa during World War II, then used the GI Bill to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political science from Stanford University.

Rehnquist received another master’s in government at Harvard University before returning to Stanford for his law degree. He graduated first in his class in 1952. One of his classmates was Sandra Day O’Connor, a jurist who would eventually become his colleague on the Supreme Court.

After clerking for Justice Robert Jackson and Justice Felix Frankfurter, Rehnquist moved to Phoenix, where he worked for a local law firm and became a Republican party official. The political connections he made in Arizona helped him land a coveted job as an assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In this position, he screened candidates for potential Supreme Court slots. When Justice John Marshall Harlan decided to retire in 1971, Rehnquist’s boss Attorney General John Mitchell put forth his name for the job. Rehnquist was confirmed a few months later and joined the Court on Jan. 7, 1972.

Rehnquist spent three decades on the bench and 19 years presiding over the highest court in the land. Elevated to the chief justice position in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Rehnquist was known for his conservative ideology, for strongly supporting states’ rights and for narrowly interpreting the U.S. Constitution. He affirmed use of the death penalty and was one of only two dissenters in the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which established a woman’s right to have an abortion. The second-oldest man to preside over the Supreme Court, Rehnquist was also the second chief justice in U.S. history to preside over a presidential impeachment — that of President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted.

Outside of the courtroom, Rehnquist painted, sang, collected stamps and enjoyed playing the occasional game of poker. He married Natalie “Nan” Cornell in 1953 and fathered three children; Nan died in 1991 of ovarian cancer. Rehnquist also published several books about the law, including “The Supreme Court” and “Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson.”

Despite suffering from thyroid cancer in recent years, Rehnquist refused to stop working. According to CNN, he was “in his office until a few weeks ago.”

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James Dougherty

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Categories: Hollywood, Law, Writers/Editors

James Edward Dougherty, a retired Los Angeles police detective who was once married to Marilyn Monroe, died on Aug. 15 from complications of pneumonia. He was 84.
Norma Jeane Baker was only 16 years old when she wed Dougherty, 21, in 1942. At the time, her only goals in life were to become a homemaker and mother. During World War II, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific. While he was overseas, however, Baker began rethinking her future plans.
Although her husband didn’t approve, Baker decided to pursue a career in acting and modeling, and change her name to Marilyn Monroe. When 20th Century Fox offered her a film contract, it included a stipulation that she be a single woman, so Monroe decided to ask for a separation. Dougherty was on a ship in the Yangtze River getting ready to go into Shanghai when he was served with divorce papers in 1946. He contested the separation, at first, but eventually gave in to her demands.
Upon his permanent return to the states, Dougherty worked as an electrical contractor and ran a gas station in southern California. Several police officers who were regular customers encouraged him to consider a career in law enforcement. Dougherty easily passed the entrance exam, completed his academy training and went to work for the Los Angeles Police Department. As a patrolman, he once handled crowd control for the premiere of his ex-wife’s film, “The Asphalt Jungle.” Dougherty later worked his way up the ranks, serving as a detective and an instructor for the department’s first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
After 25 years on the force, Dougherty retired in 1974. He spent the remainder of his life residing in Arizona and Maine. Dougherty was elected to a county commission in Maine, and taught at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. In 1986, he lost a congressional bid to Republican Rep. Albert G. Stevens.
For years, Dougherty refused to talk about his marriage to the legendary sex symbol. But he broke his silence in 1976 with the publication of the book, “The Secret Happiness of Marilyn Monroe.” Its sequel, “To Norma Jeane With Love, Jimmie,” was released in 1997. Dougherty’s second marriage to Patricia Scoman ended in divorce; his third marriage to Rita Lambert lasted for 32 years, until her death in 2003.
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