By Johanna Kaiser, Development & Communications Associate
You’ll often hear about our work in the courts when we file a lawsuit, settle a case, or receive an important ruling from the court. What you often don’t hear about everything that happens in between the filing of a lawsuit and its resolution. With that in mind, we wanted to offer an update on two of the lawsuits we filed this year.
This federal lawsuit is on behalf of a North Smithfield resident and Air Force veteran Jason Richer whose lawfully possessed guns were seized from him over six years ago. Despite having no just cause to keep the weapons, the North Smithfield Police refused to return the weapons to Mr. Richer. Our suit argues that the Department has violated Mr. Richer’s right to due process and his right to keep and bear arms by retaining his property and challenge’s the Department’s apparently unwritten policy of requiring all gun owners whose guns have been seized, regardless of the circumstances, to obtain an order in state district court mandating the return of the guns.
While the town finally returned Mr. Richer’s guns after we filed the suit, the town denied they had violated his rights. We argue that the court should rule on the merits of the case because the police department’s actions did violate the Constitution and because this could happen again since the department has not adopted a policy that would prevent similar situations.
Meanwhile, in our medical marijuana discrimination case, we've filed an objection to the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case. The lawsuit alleges that Christine Callaghan, who is studying textiles and working towards a masters’ degree at URI, was denied a paid summer internship at Westerly’s Darlington Fabrics because of her status as a registered medical marijuana user.
The defendants argue, in part, that even if the company refused to hire Ms. Callaghan based on medical marijuana status, her claim fails because Rhode Island prohibits discrimination only if it based upon “cardholder status.” But, as our objection notes: “[T]his contention may be swiftly rejected as it is entirely inconsistent with the express, plain language and purpose of the [medical marijuana law]… Given that ‘statutes should not be construed to achieve meaningless or absurd results,’ the tortured construction advanced by the Defendants must be rejected.”
If you’re interested in reading the full arguments the full briefs are available here and here. We’ll keep you updated on both of these matters as the progress through the courts. You can also learn more about the cases we've worked on by checking out our court cases by issue.