BUSINESS LAW

ANOTHER OFFICIAL DISMISSED FROM FANNIE MAE LAWSUIT

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has dismissed a former top Federal National Mortgage Association official from a sprawling sec­urities fraud class action against the mortgage giant and its former officers.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted summary judgment to former executive vice chairman and chief financial officer J. Timothy Howard, finding no evidence that he acted with intent to deceive.

On September 20, Leon granted summary judgment for similar reasons to Franklin Raines, the former chairman and chief executive officer of the organization also known as Fannie Mae. Former investors sued Fannie Mae and its auditor, KPMG LLP, for allegedly violating federal securities laws by manipulating earnings and violating Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

CIVIL RIGHTS

PRISONER PLACED IN POST-RAPE CONFINEMENT WINS DAMAGES

ALBANY, N.Y. — A psychologically brittle former prison inmate who was raped by a corrections officer and then placed, ostensibly for her protection, in solitary confinement, where she was deprived of medical treatment and counseling, has been awarded $606,750.

Court of Claims Judge Philip Patti of Rochester, N.Y., ruled that corrections officials not only neglected to protect Anna O. from a guard they knew had a propensity to exploit inmates, but exacerbated the harm by further traumatizing a mentally fragile prisoner.

His decision on damages followed a 2010 default civil rights judgment in a federal court, which awarded Anna $250,000 in compensatory and $250,000 in punitive damages against former Corrections Officer Donald Lasker.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

FAKE LEGAL SERVICES OUTFIT PREYED UPON PRISONERS

NEWARK, N.J. — A phony legal services organization that charged inmates for a mostly unfulfilled pledge to oversee their lawyers has been hit with a $2.2 million civil penalty.

Essex County, N.J., Superior Court Judge Kenneth Levy ruled on October 9 that the Project Freedom Fund committed 210 violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and advertising regulations.

The state Division of Consumer Affairs received 34 complaints. The division accused the defendants of misleading inmates and their families into paying for legal services and then pocketed the money for personal gain while failing to perform the promised work.

EMPLOYMENT

RETALIATION CLAIM STANDS IN DECHERT ‘MACHO CULTURE’ CASE

BOSTON — A former Dechert associate who alleges that the firm’s ‘macho’ culture caused his work troubles may proceed with his retaliation claim against the firm based on the Family and Medical Leave Act.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton on October 17 denied summary judgment to Dechert on Ariel Ayanna’s retaliation claim. However, the judge granted the firm’s summary-judgment motion on Ayanna’s claim under a Massachusetts sex discrimination law.

Gorton’s dismissal of the state law claim followed his January dismissal of Ayanna’s state law handicap discrimination claim. A jury trial on Ayanna’s Family and Medical Leave Act retaliation claim is slated to start on November 14.

SANCTIONS MOTION MAY ­BACKFIRE IN EPITHET ACTION

A federal judge has refused to sanction the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for filing a racial harassment suit against a company that admitted white employees and managers frequently used the words “nigger” and “nigga” in front of black workers.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball of Utah also refused to dismiss the case against construction company Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc. “The conduct here is constitutionally offensive in any setting,” he wrote. “This is a rare case where there is no dispute as to the pervasiveness of the conduct in question. No reasonable jury could find that a reasonable African-American would not be offended.”

As for the sanctions motion, Kimball called it “wholly without merit. The court is more inclined to sanction Defendants’ for bringing the motion than it is to grant the motion.”

ENERGY

JUDGE REJECTS BID TO MINE COAL NEAR FLIGHT 93 SITE

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly 300 acres in rural Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001, have been taken by eminent domain, but the rights to the coal underneath the land remain a point of contention.

Now U.S. District Senior Judge Donetta W. Ambrose has sided with the U.S. government, holding that Svonavec Inc. did not have a right to mine the coal spreading across the great majority of the land, with the exception of an 8-acre parcel agreed to by the government at the time of the taking.

Svonavec had owned the land before it was taken by the government for a memorial park in 2009. But the company “relies primarily on missing, unrecorded, and incomplete documents to support its chain of title for the alleged coal leases,” Ambrose said.

EVIDENCE

COURT FILES CONSIGNED TO CLOSET; CASES ARE DROPPED

ATLANTA — Officials said they would not prosecute the vast majority of the first 111 neglected criminal files that were discovered in a utility closet and in the office of a trial court case manager.

Fulton County, Ga., State Court Judge Susan Forsling said on October 16 that she counted at least 18 cases that county solicitors asked to be reset on a trial calendar. All the rest of the cases were nolle prossed.

The hearing was the first of five that Forsling scheduled before the end of the year to resolve more than 2,000 old files found in May. Forsling has said her longtime aide probably let a handful of cases slip through the cracks every month, resulting in stacks of files being hidden in his office and in an unused utility closet. The aide resigned in the spring after a 38-year career with the county.

WRONGLY CONVICTED MAN MAY CITE GRAND JURY RECORDS

NEW YORK — There is no categorical bar to the use of grand jury testimony as evidence against defendants in malicious prosecution suits, a federal judge has ruled.

Dealing with an application to unseal grand jury minutes by a man who claims he was wrongly charged with a shooting because police detectives improperly influenced lineup and photo identifications by the key witness, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken made that ruling on an October 11.

Kelby Frederick spent more than one year in prison before Queens County, N.Y., prosecutors dropped the charges against him once a witness revealed he had been influenced by detectives investigating the 2009 shooting of another man.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

MOVIE PIRATE SENTENCED TO 40 MONTHS IN PRISON

A federal judge in Seattle has sentenced a man who pirated movies and television shows to 40 months in prison and ordered him to forfeit nearly $410,000.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones on October 12 sentenced San Jin Kim on two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Kim was indicted in December 2011 and pleaded guilty in July 2012 to operating websites to distribute pirated copies of movies, television shows, software and workout videos.

Prosecutions for intellectual property crimes aren’t very common, but they’re increasing, said Jenevieve Maerker, an intellectual property associate at Boston’s Foley Hoag, who wasn’t involved in the case.

MEDIA LAW

FORMER N.M. MAYOR LOSES FIGHT WITH NEWSPAPER

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by ­former Gallup, N.M., Mayor Harry Mendoza against a newspaper and its publisher after they alleged he participated in the 1948 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.

Mendoza contended the Gallup Independent and Robert Zollinger portrayed him in a false light and invaded his privacy. Mendoza has denied involvement in the episode.

State District Court Judge Louis DePauli ruled that Mendoza cannot seek damages on that claim because he undoubtedly was a public figure. DePauli said he mistakenly ruled the opposite way during a trial on the lawsuit that ended when jurors announced they were deadlocked.