Miami, FL

Justice Department backs congregations' lawsuit

January 15, 2004
The Justice Department plans to intervene with more frequency in cases like the Surfside lawsuit, in which minority religions may be the victims of discriminatory or exclusionary local zoning laws.
     Two small Orthodox Jewish congregations have attracted a powerful ally in their long-running zoning feud to worship in offices above a Surfside bank: the Justice Department's leading civil rights official.
     Assistant Attorney General Alexander Acosta weighed in Tuesday with a brief but significant appearance before a three-judge appellate panel in Miami.

Court finds felon disenfranchisement law discriminatory

December 29, 2003
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a trial for Florida convicts seeking to restore their civil rights, reversing a decision by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, who had dismissed the case.
     In a Dec. 19 opinion that reviews the history of Sunshine State's constitution, the 11th Circuit said that there is evidence that the state's felon disenfranchisement law discriminated against blacks when it was enacted and that discrimination may persist to this day. Thomas Johnson, et al. v. Governor of the State of Florida, et al.
     A racist boast by a white delegate to the 1868 Constitutional Convention that he kept blacks from taking over the state helped convince the federal appeals court that the law violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

Study: Nissan unfair to Hispanics

November 18, 2002
When Carlos Colon bought his first car in 2000, the Nissan salesman congratulated him on getting a sweet deal.
     Colon, who had moved from Puerto Rico to Miami in 1995, didn't question the 11 percent interest rate Nissan was charging for his new Xterra.
     But a study filed last month as part of a lawsuit against Nissan says Colon may be among thousands of Florida Hispanics charged higher rates than whites with the same credit history. 

Hamilton drops discrimination suit

October 09, 2002
The now-defunct Hamilton Bank on Tuesday withdrew its lawsuit against banking regulators that alleged racial profiling and discrimination on the part of authorities played a part in the closing of the bank earlier this year.
     In a hearing, U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham granted the bank's motion asking for the 10-month-old case to be dismissed without prejudice.
     The decision leaves open the possibility that Hamilton Bancorp, the parent company of the now-closed Hamilton Bank, would be permitted to lodge a new complaint against banking regulators at a future date. 

Judges study limiting secret settlements in civil cases

October 07, 2002
South Florida's federal judges are studying whether to restrict secret settlements in civil lawsuits, making it harder for courts to play a role in burying information about pedophile priests, incompetent doctors, faulty tires and other scandals.
    The proposal by Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King to limit court-sanctioned secrecy pacts comes on the heels of a confidentiality ban tentatively approved by the 10 federal judges in South Carolina.
    In a recent order denying a motion to seal an age-discrimination file, King said he is ''unwilling to routinely go along with the application for confidentiality that is now beginning to be filed in many of the civil cases pending'' in South Florida federal courts. 

Former employees sue blood bank for discrimination

September 30, 2002
Two former employees have sued South Florida Blood Banks Inc. for allegedly discriminating against black workers and blood donors.
     David Louis and Duncan Anches, both black, allege in the lawsuit that they were fired August 5 for objecting to policies they felt discriminated against blacks and for refusing to sign a contract because they weren't given time to review it.
     According to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, blood bank supervisors told Louis and Anches not to solicit black or Haitian-American donors. The supervisors based the decision on federal AIDS-prevention rules that disqualify potential donors if they have been to Haiti within a year or to jail within six months. 

Muslims turned away after Florida scare

September 15, 2002
The Miami hospital where three Muslim medical students were headed before they were detained in a 17-hour terror scare on a Florida highway says they aren't welcome there anymore.
      The head of Larkin Community Hospital said Sunday he had received more than 200 e-mails after the incident, some of them threatening.
      He said the men's medical school, Ross University, had agreed to transfer them to a different training program and that they might be welcome at Larkin later.

Voters opt to keep Miami-Dade gay rights law

September 11, 2002
Residents of Miami-Dade County appeared on their way to rejecting a bid by the Christian Coalition to overturn an ordinance protecting gay rights.
     With 87 percent of precincts reporting, there were 145,971 votes against, or 53 percent, and 130,100 votes in favor, or 47 percent.
     "All ethnic groups were on the same page today on this issue," said Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas. "There's no room for discrimination of any sort. We're a community of inclusion and we sent a very strong message today." 

Settlement reached in Fla. election suit

September 04, 2002
One of the last vestiges of the bitter Florida voter recount in the 2000 presidential election was removed yesterday with the announcement of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the NAACP and other civil rights groups against state and local elections officials and agencies.
     The proposed settlement agreement was filed yesterday with U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold in Miami. Lawyers involved in the case said they expected Gold to approve the agreement.
     In a joint statement, the civil rights groups and the defendants, which included Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith, said that while they "may not agree about the scope, impact and effect of the problems that surfaced during the 2000 presidential election, they share a common desire to promote the continuation and enhancement of election reform in Florida, which transcends their differences." The statement said the agreement was designed to build on changes in election law that were enacted last year by the Florida legislature.
     In the agreement, the defendants did not admit to any of the allegations, but agreed to make changes in their agencies and in election procedures. These included a reevaluation of those who were purged from the voter rolls, applying more stringent criteria than were used before the 2000 election. They also agreed to restore the names of voters who were improperly removed from the voter lists. 

U.S. Rep. has problems at Fla. polling place

September 04, 2002
U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek stopped by a Miami library branch Tuesday to cast her absentee ballot for next week's primary -- only to get turned away because a county computer couldn't verify the 10-year congresswoman was an eligible voter.
     Then poll workers failed to follow procedures spelled out in a new Miami-Dade training manual, which instructs them to contact the main elections office in the case of a computer glitch, such as the one that occurred at the Model City Branch Library, 2211 NW 54th St.
     ''I thought the problems of the 2000 election were behind us. Apparently, they're not,'' Meek, D-Miami, said Tuesday. ``They did not have a [working] computer and the staff was not properly trained.''
     The incident raises fresh concerns by Meek and other black leaders that the problems of two years ago have not been fixed after all, despite a state election reform law passed last year. 

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