Summer 2010 - an ACLU of Rhode Island Newsletter

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Summer 2010 Newsletter

Volume: XVI, Issue Number: 3

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Newsletter Contents

Judge Rejects Efforts By ICE To Be Dropped From Lawsuit Over Death Of Immigrant Detainee

A federal district court has rejected attempts by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be dropped from the R.I. ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of the family of a detainee who died while in the custody of immigration officials at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. In a 16-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William E. Smith agreed that the ACLU had presented enough evidence of government negligence to keep ICE in the case at this stage of the proceedings.

Hiu Lui “Jason” Ng, the 34-year-old Chinese detainee, died in August 2008 after complaining for months to prison officials about being in excruciating pain. Guards and medical personnel at Wyatt continually accused Ng of faking his illness and denied him medical care, and he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and a broken spine only a week before he died. The lawsuit claims that ICE had legal custody over Ng and knew of violations of his constitutional and statutory rights but did not act to stop them. 

In a hearing in March, the lawyer for ICE argued, among other things, that the federal agency could not be held responsible for the way corrections officers, medical staff and prison officials at Wyatt treated Ng because ICE had contracted out the work, so it was Wyatt’s responsibility to provide care for Ng.

However, Judge Smith refused to let ICE off the hook. ACLU volunteer attorney Fidelma Fitzpatrick had noted that ICE had received a letter from Ng’s attorney almost a month before his death explaining Ng’s condition and that requests for medical treatment had been repeatedly denied. The lawsuit claims that, “Despite his obvious severe and debilitating medical condition, and the actual notice it had received [about his condition], ICE officials ordered that Mr. Ng travel to Hartford, Connecticut from Central Falls. Given his serious and obvious medical condition, requiring Mr. Ng to make this trip represented cruel, inhumane, malicious and sadistic behavior on the part of ICE officials. These actions represented calculated harassment unrelated to any legitimate or legal purpose.” Ng died a week after this trip. 
In related news, the ACLU has objected to a request by the Wyatt Detention Center to prevent any disclosure of videotapes of the treatment of Mr. Ng by guards.  The videotapes at issue purportedly show Ng, in excruciating pain, being dragged out of his cell by prison guards for the unnecessary trip to Hartford days before his death. Expressing concern that release of the videos would “substantially inhibit the Court’s ability to field an impartial jury for the trial of this matter,” Wyatt officials are seeking a protective court order to bar any pre-trial dissemination of the tapes once they are turned over to the ACLU’s lawyers and other parties involved in the case.


The ACLU claims that Wyatt officials “completely contradict” themselves by basing their request on the prejudice they allegedly would suffer if the public saw this evidence, but then asserting in the papers they filed that the video “directly refutes the most serious allegations of misconduct.” The ACLU’s response: “The defendants should not be allowed to have it both ways.” The judge has indicated he will review the video himself and then decide whether, and under what conditions, the video may be released.

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From the Desk of the Executive Director

Summer is supposed to be a time for relaxation, but the forecast for our Affiliate shows no signs of rest ahead.

In a few weeks, you’ll be receiving a special issue of our newsletter, summarizing the just-completed General Assembly session. As in past years, we lobbied on literally hundreds of bills. The end result was not unfavorable: although we were unable to get passed some important civil liberties bills we had been actively promoting, we successfully killed or neutralized dozens of very dangerous bills that had appeared destined for passage.

Our activities are now focused on litigation and education. We have recently been extremely busy filing lawsuits on a wide range of issues – including health care privacy, discriminatory treatment of new political parties, and intrusive drug testing in the workplace.

We also have a full plate of educational activities on the horizon, starting with our annual legislative wrap-up and dessert at the end of July. We expect to hold some fun events in the fall, including a kick-off to Banned Books Week in September featuring readings from “dangerous” books. I hope you will join other supporters in attending these activities.

As always, we are to able to accomplish so much thanks to the generosity of our members. I hope our work continues to earn your support.

~Steven Brown

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Johnston Pays Damages For Unlawful Release Of Driver's License Information

The RI ACLU has favorably settled a federal lawsuit it filed last year against the Town of Johnston for illegally releasing the private drivers’ license information of a firefighter to a Town Councilman during a public dispute between the Council and the Fire Department. The lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney James Kelleher, was on behalf of the firefighter, Edward Simone.

In settlement of the case, the Town has agreed to pay $15,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees. In a consent judgment filed  with the court the Town has also agreed to take “sufficient steps” within 60 days to prevent similar violations of the law from occurring in the future, and to apprise Simone of the steps taken.

Last April, the Johnston Sunrise, a local newspaper, published a letter to the editor from Town Council member Ernest Pitochelli, which severely criticized the Fire Department. As part of the letter, Pitochelli described seeing a car displaying what he deemed to be an offensive bumper sticker relating to the ongoing Fire Department/Town Council dispute. (The bumper sticker allegedly read: “Firefighters here to save your ass, not kiss it.”) Pitochelli’s letter to the editor cited the car’s license plate number, and then proceeded to both name Mr. Simone as its owner and further identify him as an employee of the Fire Department who was out on work-related disability.


A day after the letter to the editor was published, Simone’s car windshield was smashed in his driveway. Surmising that Pitochelli had unlawfully obtained his driver’s registration information from the local police, Simone filed a complaint with the state police. After investigating the matter, the state police confirmed his suspicions, prompting the ACLU’s suit.

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Coventry Reconsiders School Dress Code Used To Ban A "Patriotic Hat"

In response to a highly-publicized incident when eight year old Coventry student David Morales was barred from wearing a hat to school because it included toy soldiers carrying guns, the school district superintendent has said that the school’s “zero tolerance” policy banning any “images of weapons” will be revised.

In a letter to school officials, the ACLU had argued  that “the decision to ban a hat that was clearly non-violent and non-threatening in any way, and whose patriotic purpose was easily discernible,” violated the First Amendment.

In that regard, the ACLU letter pointed to federal court cases striking down similarly broad dress code bans, including a case that overturned the discipline of a student for wearing a T-shirt demonstrating support for the United States Marines that included a depiction of a rifle. The letter noted that Coventry’s dress code would presumably prevent a student from wearing a shirt with a picture of Rhode Island’s Independent Man, since he is depicted holding a spear.

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ACLU Challenges "Inequitable" Campaign Finance Law On Behalf Of Moderate Party

For the second time in little more than a year, the Rhode Island ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island, challenging the constitutionality of a state law that discriminates against new political parties. Calling the law “unfair, inequitable and constitutionally infirm,” the lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney Mark Freel, seeks to overturn a statute that allows residents to make a donation on their tax return to political parties through a “nonpartisan account,” but excludes new parties from the disbursement.

Taxpayers can make a political party “contribution” on their tax return in the amount of $5 ($10 for married couples) toward the public financing of the electoral process. The taxpayer can designate receipt of the first $2 of the contribution ($4 for married couples) to a political party of his or her choice. Any donation above that amount, or any donation not specifically designated for a particular party, is allocated to a “nonpartisan account.”

Under the statute, the state pays 5% of funds in the nonpartisan account to the political party then holding each of the four state general offices other than Governor (i.e., Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State). The state distributes the remaining 80% of the funds “to each political party in proportion to the combined number of votes its candidates for governor received in the previous election,” thus freezing out any new political parties from gaining a share of those funds.
Since the formula relies upon the results of an election that is held only once every four years, the suit notes that “with each passing year following such a statewide election, those funds are distributed in accordance with increasingly dated and historic results that do not reflect current political realities.” Further, the formula “makes no provision for the recognition of, or inclusion of, new political parties and/or independent candidates either in, or subsequent to, an election to which the formula is applied.”

The lawsuit argues that the “exclusion of state-sponsored economic support for one political party lawfully participating in the 2010 general election process, while according such state-sponsored economic benefits and support to other, pre-existing political parties, is inequitable, unfair” and a violation of the Moderate Party’s First Amendment rights. The suit seeks a court order declaring the statute unconstitutional, and a ban on the distribution of any funds in the nonpartisan account unless done in an equitable manner. RI ACLU volunteer attorney Freel said: “To distribute the money as the statute provides will harm the Moderate Party in its ability to compete fairly in this election. The state of Rhode Island should not subsidize some political parties and exclude others.”

Last year, the RI ACLU successfully represented the Moderate Party in challenging another statute that had barred new political parties from collecting in an off-election year the signatures necessary to gain state recognition as a party.

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ACLU Sues Pawtucket Over Illegal Drug Testing

The Rhode Island ACLU has  filed suit against the City of Pawtucket, charging city officials with blatantly violating a long-standing state law that restricts random drug testing in the workplace.

The lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court by ACLU volunteer attorney Richard A. Sinapi, is on behalf of Romana Ramos, a veteran 17-year city employee who works as a police matron and court interpreter.  On April 6, Ramos was advised by the City’s Employee Benefits Coordinator, Maria Xiarhos, that she had to immediately submit to a random urine drug screen test.

When Ramos objected, she was called into a meeting with Police Chief George Kelley III and Major Paul King who advised her that, on instructions from the city solicitor, if she refused to take the test she would be immediately suspended without pay for 30 days. Faced with that choice, Ramos agreed to take a urine test as well as a breathalyzer test, both of which were negative for drugs or alcohol.
Rhode Island law allows drug testing in the workplace, but in recognition of its invasiveness, intrusion on basic privacy rights and potential inaccuracy, the statute allows testing of employees only when there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is impaired on the job.  Random drug testing is prohibited, and has been for over 20 years. In fact, the suit notes, it is a crime for an employer to subject an employee to an illegal drug test.

The ACLU lawsuit seeks a court order declaring the city’s actions illegal, an injunction barring officials from imposing any further illegal testing demands on Ramos, and an award of compensatory and punitive damages.

Ramos said: “I felt humiliated and stripped of my dignity when I was forced to take this test for no reason at all. I hope my suit will prevent other employees from having to go through this offensive process.” ACLU attorney Sinapi called it “disheartening that city officials in Pawtucket so cavalierly saw fit to violate this important law.”

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Three School Departments Agree To Withdraw From Truancy Court: Affiliate Also Challenges Judges' Attempt to "Gag" Lawyers In The Case

The Woonsocket, North Providence and Cumberland school departments have agreed to stop sending children to Rhode Island’s unlawfully operated truancy court system and to end their participation in the program completely. The school districts are three of six that were named in a class-action lawsuit filed in March by the ACLU, charging that the state’s truancy court system lacks basic due process protections for children.

“We’re relieved that these school departments will no longer be sending children to a punitive court system devoid of due process,” said Robin L. Dahlberg, an attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program.

Under the settlement agreements, the school departments will, among other obligations:

  • cease involvement with the Rhode Island Truancy Court program and seek dismissal of all truancy cases involving their students;
  • refer to family court only those children who are “willfully and habitually” absent, defined in the agreements as being absent more than 10 times in a semester and for reasons other than illness, family emergencies or other good cause;
  • cease immediately the financially burdensome and doctor- rejected practice of requiring all medical absences to be documented with a doctor’s note; and
  • follow state law in giving proper notice of hearings to families referred to the family court.

The ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the abuse of truancy courts is still pending against a number of state family court officials, truancy court magistrates and three other school districts including Providence. The suit charges that the truancy courts are frequently punitive in nature, and that truancy court magistrates threaten vulnerable children and parents with baseless fines and imprisonment, remove children from the custody of their parents without legal justification and fail to keep adequate records of court hearings.

According to the lawsuit, many of the children forced to appear before truancy courts have not, in fact, been willfully or habitually absent from school. Instead they include children unable to attend school regularly due to severe or chronic medical conditions and children whose serious emotional conditions prevent full-time attendance. In some cases, they are children who have missed almost no school days at all, but who have been put into the truancy court system for such infractions as not doing their homework. Some children have been kept in the truancy court system for over two years without ever being given guidelines as to what they must do to be released from the court’s supervision.

Since the suit was filed, the ACLU has heard from more than 40 parents and students raising concerns similar to those of the named plaintiffs. The ACLU expects to amend the complaint to add both more plaintiffs and more school districts as defendants.

***

The ACLU has also fired back at attempts by the Truancy Court magistrates to remove two National ACLU attorneys from the suit, based on the attorneys’ exercise of free speech rights. The judges have claimed that ACLU attorneys Dahlberg and Yelena Konanova engaged in “reckless professional misconduct” by publicly commenting about the lawsuit. The ACLU calls the judges’ effort “nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to stifle the kind of criticism of governmental activities inherent in our democratic system.”

In calling for Dahlberg and Konanova’s ouster from the case, the judges cited comments the attorneys made the day the suit was filed. Among them is Dahlberg’s statement: “Pushing kids into the juvenile justice system is not the way to help at-risk youth graduate from high school and, in fact, only increases the likelihood that they will ultimately end up in the criminal justice system.” The judges claim that comments like those violated court rules that restrict lawyers from making extra-judicial statements that “will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.”

The ACLU’s response, filed with the court, vigorously contests the judges’ motion and states that:

  • Revoking Dahlberg and Konanova’s permission to participate in the case would violate their right to freedom of speech, since they “have a right to speak out publicly about the legal and factual allegations of the complaint – a document that is readily available to any member of the public.”
  • The judges’ motion, which didn’t cite a single decision supporting their position, lacks any legal basis.
  • The ACLU attorneys’ comments fully comport with the Rules of Professional Conduct, which seek to prevent lawyers from making inflammatory statements that might prejudice a jury. No one has requested a jury in this case.

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Meet Our Brown University ACLU Chapter

The Affiliate, as some members may know, has two student chapters: one at Roger Williams University’s Law School and one at Brown University.  Both chapters are active in their own ways and have representatives who sit on the Board of Directors.  Over the years the Affiliate has worked together with the student chapters in hosting joint events and similar activities.  Below is an update and brief historical review of the Brown Chapter from from Maria Anderson, the Chapter’s representative. 
The Brown Chapter’s primary goal is to alert the campus to civil liberties issues by fostering debate and working to prevent the violation of students’ rights. In the past, we have had some success in negotiating changes in University policy, including changes to the Disciplinary Policy.

In the 1990’s, the Chapter began a petition drive to bring Brown’s unclear hate-speech code into accordance with Brown’s commitment to free and open debate. We also investigated harassment of Brown students by University police, published a “Your Rights and the Brown Police” pamphlet,  suggested changes to the University Disciplinary Code which were endorsed by the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS), collaborated with UCS on a Student Bill of Rights, organized a student referendum against Brown’s speech code, and investigated alleged mistreatment of mentally ill students.

In later years we also worked on issues of fairness in Brown campus housing. The Brown ACLU began a campaign to make most suites in the housing lottery co-educational (currently, all but a few are restricted to single-sex groups). In 1998-99, the Brown ACLU looked into allegations of racial discrimination in on-campus housing. We found that Black and Latino students were overwhelmingly clustered in three dorms in Pembroke (Emery-Woolley, Morris-Champlin, and New Pembroke), while the centrally located dorms of Hope, Littlefield, and Wayland were overwhelmingly white. The results were published in the “Chronicle of Higher Education,” and resulted in significant shifts in Brown’s housing program.

Though the chapter has been in a transitional phase in the past few years, we have strived to remain active and to maintain a core membership base. This year we circulated petitions, held phone-a-thons, and distributed pamphlets on issues especially applicable to students such as internet privacy rights, fair and open housing, and student rights.

This year we have been primarily working on a website that would function as a resource for the Brown and RISD communities, by keeping up to date on civil liberties, current events related to the Brown or Rhode Island ACLU, and in general providing a forum for online discussion of civil liberties issues. We see this as the next step in fulfilling our commitment to educating those at Brown and RISD about the issues important to them. Bloggers from the Brown ACLU and guest bloggers will post biweekly opinion articles, as well as summaries of relevant news with links to more information.

Last year’s President and longtime member Jason Hitchner has graduated, and we have elected three new club heads, Holly Hunt, Ian Eppler, and Steven Raimondo. The Brown ACLU looks forward to an exciting fall and to continuing to work toward its goals in the upcoming year.

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In Memoriam

The RI ACLU notes with sadness the passing in June of DORIS “DOTTY” GURLAND . Dotty was a long-time and devoted member of the Affiliate. Along with her late husband Joe, who was given the Affiliate’s Civil Libertarian of the Year Award in 1990, Dotty was active in the Affiliate since the 1960’s. She served on the Affiliate Board of Directors in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Throughout her almost 50 years of involvement, she was a proud and vocal booster of the organization, and volunteered for the Affiliate in numerous capacities. The Affiliate expresses its deepest  condolences to her daughters Lisa and Johanna, and gratefully acknowledges their designation of the ACLU as a recipient of donations in their mother’s memory.

June also saw the passing of two other long-time ACLU supporters:

  • WALTER QUEVEDO, JR., a former Brown University professor and long-time member and  supporter of the Affiliate, died at the age of 80.
  • EUSTACE “TED” PLIAKAS, who died at the age of 86, served on the Affiliate’s Board of Directors in the 1990’s, and in the 1960’s worked to abolish the state’s constitutionally-suspect Commission to Encourage Morality in Youth.

The Affiliate extends its condolences to their families and friends.

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Appeals Court Allows Child Welfare Suit Against DCYF To Proceed

In an important victory for children’s rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston reversed a federal district court ruling that had thrown out a case against the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) for the mistreatment of foster children in its care. RI ACLU volunteer attorneys Andrew Prescott and Steven Richard had filed a “friend of the court” brief last August urging the appellate court to take this action.

The lawsuit, filed by the Child Advocate and the national advocacy organization Children’s Rights, argues that DCYF has been systematically violating the constitutional rights of foster children, who often face mistreatment, neglect and unstable placements. However, a federal judge dismissed the suit last year on the ground that only the Family Court guardians of the foster children had standing to bring a federal lawsuit on behalf of the children.

In filing a brief urging reversal of that decision, the ACLU called the need for unimpeded access to the courts “a critical right to protect one’s constitutional rights.”   The appellate court agreed, noting that “important social interests are advanced by allowing minors access to a judicial forum to vindicate their constitutional rights … particularly where, as here, the minors seek relief for alleged violations of the guardian’s duty to protect them.”

Responding to the lower court’s claim that the children’s Family Court guardians are available to protect their rights, the ACLU’s brief had also noted there is “clear record evidence that these guardians ad litem have not and will not likely challenge DCYF’s actions and omissions because of alleged conflicts of interest.” Without addressing that specific argument, the First Circuit unanimously concluded that state law did not give the guardians authority to represent the children in federal court litigation.

As a result of the decision, the lawsuit will return to district court for further proceedings.

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ACLU Sues Health Department Over Failure To Adopt Rules Protecting Patient Privacy

Claiming that not enough has been done to protect the privacy rights of patients, the Rhode Island ACLU has filed suit against the R.I. Department of Health (DOH), challenging the inadequacy of rules the agency has adopted to implement a centralized database of patient health care records in the state. The Health Information Exchange (HIE), established by legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2008, will allow medical personnel to routinely access a patient’s entire medical file, including mental health records and other sensitive medical information.

Last year, when the DOH proposed regulations to implement the statute, the ACLU objected that the proposed rules provided virtually no details as to how the system would actually work, and particularly how it would protect the privacy, confidentiality and informed consent interests of patients. The Affiliate has been battling over these issues since the HIE proposal was first floated some years ago.

In written testimony about the DOH’s proposed regulations, the ACLU noted that there were no fewer than seven provisions in the HIE statute that require implementing details about the system to be fleshed out by DOH through a public rule-making process. However, the ACLU argued that those issues were only minimally addressed, if at all, in the regulations. When the ACLU sought an explanation as to why they had not been addressed, the DOH responded that it felt that they could better be handled through internal “policies” that were not subject to the public notice and comment requirement that agency regulations must undergo.

The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed in R.I. Superior Court by volunteer attorney Frederic Marzilli, argues that the Department’s position violates the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), “since all department policies that have general application and which implement, interpret or prescribe law” are subject to the APA’s public vetting process. The suit seeks a court order declaring unenforceable the DOH’s adoption of non-promulgated policies, rather than regulations adopted through a public rule-making process, and requiring DOH to promulgate “regulations that completely fulfill its obligation” under the HIE statute.

Noting the significant privacy issues raised by the HIE, the ACLU called it crucial that regulations setting up the system be as detailed as possible, explaining, for example, the rights patients have to opt out of the system, to correct information contained in it, and to ensure appropriate confidentiality of the data. RI ACLU volunteer attorney Marzilli said: “In light of the important privacy and confidentiality issues raised by an electronic health records system, the legislature clearly envisioned the adoption of detailed regulations through a transparent process of public input. This lawsuit simply seeks to carry out that intent.”

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Pride Fest Draws Another Huge Crowd

As in past years, the Affiliate’s table at this year’s Pride Fest in downtown Providence was a popular spot. The June 19th event brought a large and diverse crowd in a new location right along the water. Aside from the great take-away gifts we had to offer, our handouts were also extremely popular among passers-by, who showed a great interest in the ACLU’s work. The Affiliate thanks volunteers John Blakeslee, Marc Cohen, Carl Krueger, Sharon Mulligan and Maggi Rogers, along with staff member Amy Vitale, for taking the time to promote and educate event-goers on the ACLU’s mission.

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ACLU Sues Over DMV Procedures In Suspending Driver's License For Incident Occuring On "00/00/000"

The Rhode Island ACLU has  filed suit in federal court to contest the Division of Motor Vehicles’ actions in advising thousands of motorists that their license and registration would be suspended due to alleged unpaid fines that may go back decades.

The lawsuit calls the notices sent out by the DMV “facially unconstitutional,” pointing out that they give the recipients no information about the nature of the alleged offense leading to the suspension, about the penalty for the offense, or even the date that the offense purportedly took place.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Warwick resident Gerald Carbone, who  received a “notice of action” from the DMV that his license would be suspended. In giving a reason for the suspension, the notice unhelpfully indicated that the “date of incident” was “00/00/0000,” that the reason for the suspension was that he was “not entitled to lic. issue,” and that the fee he owed was “$0.00.”

In addition to arguing that the notices themselves violate basic principles of due process, the lawsuit, filed by RI ACLU volunteer attorney James E. Kelleher, contests the DMV’s efforts to “suspend the alleged violator’s license first and then provide a hearing at some indefinite point after suspension.” It is “crystal clear,” argues the ACLU, “that a post-suspension hearing is inadequate to meet the dictates of due process.”
The notices were apparently prompted by recent DMV actions consolidating and updating various agency computer database systems.

Recently the Division of Motor Vehicles took a first step to address the ACLU’s lawsuit. After a court hearing, the DMV mailed affected individuals a new notice advising them of their right to a hearing to contest the violations, and creating a mechanism to lift in the interim any license suspension that may have been imposed.

The new notice advised the recipients that if they timely request a hearing , any license that has been suspended as a result of the defective first notice would be reinstated (with a few exceptions for certain designated serious offenses), and any fines they paid would be refunded.

Rather than going through with new hearings, the state is considering dismissing all the charges in light of their age and the difficulties the DMV will face at any hearings requested by motorists under the revised notices. By law, the burden will be on the DMV to prove the alleged violations, not on the motorist to disprove them. If the DMV nonetheless decides to proceed with hearings, motorists who have requested one will receive a new notice that provides details about the charge and a hearing date. Until the hearing is held and a decision rendered, no adverse action may be taken against the license holder.

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Upcoming RI ACLU Events

The Affiliate is going to be quite busy in the upcoming months.  Below is a list of the events our members will have the opportunity to attend.  Be sure to watch your mailbox, and visit our website frequently at www.riaclu.org, as more detailed information will be posted closer to the events. But mark the dates on your calendar now!
                                            


Legislative Dessert Wrap-Up — Thursday, July 29th   This year’s event will be held in Cranston at  the R.I. Council of Community Mental Health Organizations.  Join us for some delicious desserts and recap the 2010 Legislative Session with some of our friends in the General Assembly.

Barrington House Party September We’ve had successful house parties elsewhere in the state this year, and the next one will be taking place in Barrington. It’s a great way to meet fellow ACLU members in a fun and relaxed setting.  If you live in the Barrington area, watch for your invitation once a date is set.

Banned Books Event — Friday, September 24th Remember when “The Catcher in the Rye” was considered dangerous? Or “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Of Mice and Men”?  They still are in some places. To celebrate the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain such titles, the ACLU will kick off Banned Books Week with Rhode Island authors reading from challenged books.  Join authors Thomas Cobb (“Crazy Heart”), Mike Stanton (“The Prince of Providence”) and others at the Providence Athenaeum on Friday, September 24, from 5:00-7:00 p.m.  More details will be sent out as the event nears.

Annual Dinner — Thursday, November 4th This year’s Annual Dinner Meeting promises to be a fun event, as national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author Jim Hightower will be the guest speaker. More details and invitations will follow as the event gets closer. In the meantime, it’s never too early to get your ads in for the dinner program book (see the form provided inside) and we hope you’ll participate in this way, even if you can’t attend.

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