Tag Archives: U.S. District Court

Court Throws Out Not Guilty Verdict in Police Misconduct Case Against Gay Man Because Jury Not Vetted for Homophobia


A federal appellate court has tossed out a jury verdict that cleared Key West police of misconduct in a case that dates back to October 2013 during Fantasy Fest.

A new trial was ordered in the case of Raymond Berthiaume vs. the now-retired Lt. David Smith of the Key West Police Department and the city of Key West. Berhiaume alleges Smith tried to frame him in a battery case.

Berthiaume,  said that Officer Smith knocked him to the ground after he had smacked a Key West street sign in frustration during an argument among his friends about going home. Berthiaume’s ex-partner wanted to stay out and swiped the group’s car keys.

Smith booked Berthiaume on a domestic-battery but he was never charged.

In January 2015, Berthiaume sued Smith and the city demanding at least $15,000 in damages. The lawsuit accused Smith of trying to frame Berthiaume for a battery by forcing one of his friends to lie about what happened.

But after a three-day trial in May 2016 at U.S. District Court in Key West before Judge James Lawrence King, a jury ruled Smith didn’t violate any of Berthiaume’s rights Oct. 27, 2013, nor did he make a false arrest.

Berthiaume required surgeries to repair injuries to his jaw and left wrist caused when Smith knocked him to the ground that night.

“Berthiaume noted that homosexuals had only recently begun to gain acceptance in society, and many people still harbor bias or prejudice against homosexuals,” according to the ruling. “Accordingly, Berthiaume contended that in a case such as his, involving both a gay party and gay witnesses, it is necessary for courts to inquire into prospective jurors’ potential biases against homosexuals to ensure a fair trial.”

The federal appellate court ruled that Berthiaume might have indeed been discriminated against by jurors who weren’t asked whether they harbor bias against gays.

“The district court here asked the jurors multiple questions about any biases or prejudices they might have against law enforcement,” reads the decision by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal released Nov. 22. “But the district court refused to ask any questions at all about prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Office Smith retired in 2015 after 25 years with the Key West Police Department.

Michigan Refuses To Pay Legal Fees Of Gay Couple Vindicated By SCOTUS Ruling On #SSM

Brian Merucci and Bruce Morgan

Brian Merucci and Bruce Morgan filed a lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, MI in an effort to have the state recognize their 2013 marriage in New York state.

The couple sought legal fees from the state after the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling declaring same-sex marriage legal in all states. But unlike other couples who asked for restitution of legal fees used to fight for their marital recognition Mr. Merucci and Mr. Morgan. Their case had then been on hold pending resolution of other cases before the high court.

Their attorney, Stephanie Myott, argued that the rulings in other cases by the Supreme Court compelled a ruling in her clients’ favor that includes an award of attorney fees and costs.

But the state is saying that the plaintiffs are not the “prevailing party.” And that the case is moot.

“As this court has recognized, Plaintiffs’ claims have been rendered moot by the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges,” Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy, representing Gov. Rick Snyder, wrote in a recent filing.

“Consequently, there is no need for this Court to provide Plaintiffs with relief to ‘modify’ Governor Snyder’s behavior in a way that directly benefits Plaintiffs. Instead, Plaintiffs’ marriage will be recognized by the State of Michigan without any intervention or relief from this Court. In the absence of any relief, Plaintiffs have failed to meet the ‘prevailing party’ threshold requirement and are not entitled to attorney’s fees “

The plaintiffs contend they would not have had to file the lawsuit if the state had recognized their marriage. They are seeking $34,325.


President Obama Nominates Openly Gay Michael Fitzgerald to U.S. District Court

From the White House:

The White HouseOffice of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release – July 20, 2011

President Obama Announces His Intent to Nominate Michael Walter Fitzgerald to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama announced his nomination of Michael Walter Fitzgerald to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

“I am honored to nominate Michael Walter Fitzgerald to the United States District Court,” President Obama said. “His impressive career stands as a testament to his formidable intellect and integrity. I am confident he will serve the people of California with distinction on the District Court bench.”

Michael Walter Fitzgerald: Nominee for United States District Judge for the Central District of California

Michael Walter Fitzgerald has been a named partner at the law firm of Corbin, Fitzgerald & Athey LLP in Los Angeles, California since 1998, where he handles civil and criminal litigation in both federal and state courts. Previously, he worked at the Law Offices of Robert L. Corbin PC from 1995 to 1998 and at the law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe from 1991 to 1995. Between 1988 and 1991, Fitzgerald served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles. Upon graduation from law school, he clerked for the Honorable Irving R. Kaufman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Fitzgerald received his J.D. in 1985 from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) and his A.B. magna cum laude in 1981 from Harvard University.

Massachusettes Attorney General Martha Coakley Takes On DOMA

Massachusettes Attorney General Martha Coakley is arguing in new court filings that the federal law defining marriage as the union between a man and woman forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its residents and violates the traditional rights of states to regulate marriage.

Coakley has asked a U.S. District Court judge to rule, without a trial, that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the latest step in a lawsuit the attorney general filed in July challenging DOMA

The new court documents filed in U.S. District Court Thursday came in response to a motion from federal attorneys with the U.S. Justice Department to dismiss the case.

Coakley argues in the case that states have traditionally held the authority to regulate marriage, and that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits Congress from interfering with laws that are the domain of states.

She also said the federal law forces Massachusetts to discriminate against same-sex couples who are married in Massachusetts when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits or when a same-sex spouse requests burial in a veterans cemetery with their husband or wife.

Along with Coakley’s legal argument, the attorney general submitted 11 sworn affidavits from state officials and marriage experts testifying on behalf of the state.

In one statement, Dolores Mitchell, executive director of the Group Insurance Commission, testified that Massachusetts has had to spend $47,000 since 2004 to operate separate systems tracking the health benefits of opposite-sex spouses and same-sex spouses for tax purposes since same sex couple must pay tax  on that benefit because the federal government does not recognize the couple as married and Kevin McHugh, payroll director in the Office of the Comptroller, also testified that the state has had to pay an additional $122,607 in Medicaid payroll taxes because the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages.

The Obama administration has already stated that it believes the Defense of Marriage Act is a discriminatory law that should be repealed, but the Department of Justice in the past has been upholding it.  If the DOJ does not  to respond to Coakley’s request for summary judgment by April 30th the U.S. District Court could rule DOMA as unconstitutional and thus make it null and void.

So it seems Martha Croakley’s loss to Scott (Cosmo) Brown for the MA Senate seat might actually in the long run be our gain.