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FREE TRADE PROTESTERS CONSIDER FILING SUIT MIAMI — On the afternoon of Nov. 21, South Miami native Laurel Ripple participated in what by all accounts was a peaceful vigil by 300 people outside the Miami-Dade pretrial detention center on Northwest 13th Street. The vigil was in support of more than 100 people arrested the previous day while protesting against the Free Trade Area of the Americas conference. After about three hours, the police ordered the crowd to disperse. Then police surrounded Ripple and about 60 other people, and ordered them to the ground. Ripple, a veteran of other anti-globalization demonstrations, said she sat down and covered her face with her arms. But, she said, an officer pulled her arms away and pepper-sprayed her in the eyes, picked her up, slammed her back down, dragged her, pulled her by the hair and placed her under arrest. She screamed in pain. During the incident, her previously sprained ankle was reinjured. She was charged with unlawful assembly, a criminal misdemeanor. She said she knows of two other female protesters who had similar arrest experiences. Her case is pending. Ripple is one of dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of people who have complained about their treatment by police during the FTAA protests and are considering filing lawsuits; a few are seeking criminal charges against officers. Legal experts say the would-be plaintiffs will face formidable challenges, such as the necessity of proving that police actions went beyond their duty to maintain order. At least one prominent South Florida plaintiffs attorney says he’s thinking hard about whether to accept any cases because of the difficulty of winning. — Miami Daily Business Review CONDUCT COMMISSION INVESTIGATES N.Y. JUDGE NEW YORK — Albany, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Thomas Spargo, whose battle over disciplinary charges last year made national news, is now under investigation by the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct for allegedly soliciting donations from attorneys appearing in his court to cover the cost of his legal defense. Sources close to the investigation confirmed that at least three attorneys in Ulster County, N.Y., have given statements to the commission and that the judge has disqualified himself from cases involving those lawyers and others who attended an event last month hosted or organized by Spargo. The commission itself declined comment through its administrator and counsel, Robert Tembeckjian. It is alleged that Spargo solicited contributions from personal injury and matrimonial lawyers who appear in Supreme Court in the Third Judicial District, where he sits, to pay his attorney, David Kunz of DeGraff, Foy, Kunz & Devine in Albany. Justice Spargo declined comment. Kunz was not available. Last week, after attorneys in New Paltz and Kingston, N.Y., gave statements to the commission, Spargo recused himself from cases involving several lawyers and at least three law firms. — The New York Law Journal

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