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GAY MARRIAGE BAN RAISES NEW QUESTIONS When voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, critics charged that the ban would impair the ability of courts to adjudicate a wide array of cases, including domestic violence between unmarried couples. Now legal theory is running into reality. In a first test case in Ohio, a Cleveland judge recently heard arguments on whether the state’s amended constitution prohibits the Buckeye State from recognizing a legal relationship between unmarried people in its domestic violence laws. The Cuyahoga County public defender’s office has raised the challenge in four domestic violence cases. “The issue presented is one of interpreting statutory language in the domestic violence statute, in light of a recently enacted constitutional amendment,” said John Martin, Cuyahoga County assistant public defender and appellate supervisor. Ohio’s amendment is of particular interest to civil rights lawyers because it is one of the most far reaching. Known on the November ballot as Issue One, the amendment prohibits the state from “recognize[ing] a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.” Prosecutors say the public defender’s office has not met the high burden necessary to challenge the constitutionality of a state statute. The law obligates a judge to adopt a narrow reading of a statute in order to preserve its constitutionality, they argue. “The argument that there are unintended effects is self-defeating,” said Cuyahoga County assistant prosecuting attorney Matthew Meyer. “Courts are obligated to cut through that to get at the framers’ intent.” Meyer argues that domestic violence laws do not confer legal status on unmarried persons, but rather define prohibited conduct among a certain class of individuals. — The National Law Journal LAWYER WINS SUIT OVER PERFORMANCE REVIEW In a recent state appeals court ruling, a Chicago lawyer accused of allegedly cursing and displaying improper behavior during a performance review won a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against his employer, which fired him after the review. The Illinois First District Appellate Court, an intermediate court, ruled that the lawyer was defamed and upheld a $300,000 jury verdict favoring the plaintiff, Daniel Popko, a trial specialist for CNA Financial Corp. who was fired in 1999 after nearly 16 years on the job. The appeals court rejected CNA’s argument that what happened during a private corporate meeting — in this case the performance review — did not warrant a defamation claim because it was never printed. “Their main argument was, ‘What’s said in the corporation, stays in the corporation.’ But that’s not the law in Illinois, nor is it the law in most states,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Rathsack, a solo practitioner in Chicago. CNA’s attorney, Allison Blakley, a partner in Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Chicago office, could not be reached for comment. According to Rathsack, Popko was fired after a supervisor accused him of using profanity and becoming belligerent during a performance review that did not render a favorable evaluation. Popko has consistently denied the allegation, he said. — The National Law Journal

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