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Johnson, Webbert & Young, LLP is pleased to announce that three of the firm’s lawyers – all of the firm’s partners – were selected for inclusion in the 2016 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, one of the legal profession’s oldest and most respected peer-review publications.

Best Lawyers ® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Lawyers are selected for The Best Lawyers in America through an exhaustive peer review process in which lawyers confidentially evaluate their legal peers. Over 79,000 leading attorneys globally are eligible to vote. For 2016, 6.7 million votes were analyzed.

The following attorneys were listed in The Best Lawyers in America for 2016:

Phillip E. Johnson
Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law
Legal Malpractice Law – Defendants
Legal Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs

David G. Webbert
Employment Law – Individuals

Jeffrey N. Young
Employment Law – Individuals

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Our Firm in the News:

Webbert – Settlement of Brunswick School Bullying Case is a Good Thing for the Whole State

Brunswick settles lawsuit over former student who says he was assaulted in school bathroom

Read the entire article here at the Bangor Daily News.

The Brunswick School Department must revamp its approach to bullying significantly as part of an out-of-court settlement with the family of a former student who alleges he was sexually assaulted at Brunswick Junior High School.

The school system also will make a cash payment to the former student’s family as part of an agreement to settle the federal lawsuit filed by the Maine Human Rights Commission and the family of the former student that accused the town, the school district and the junior high principal of violating the student’s civil rights when he was student there.

The suit alleged that while the boy was a student at the school from 2010 to 2012, he was bullied, physically assaulted and sexually assaulted several times. It also alleged that the administration failed to protect him — a claim the MHRC investigator and an independent agency evaluator found strong evidence to support.

On Oct. 26, the Brunswick School Board voted unanimously to “contribute up to $25,000 to the settlement amount,” but attorneys for the MHRC, the boy’s family, attorneys and school officials have all declined to disclose the total settlement amount until a federal judge approves the agreement.

On Monday, however, Augusta attorney David Webbert, who represents the former student’s family identified in court documents only as Jack Doe, and Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, both said that the steps the school system must take to address bullying far outweigh the cash value of the settlement.

Among those steps, the school department is required for this year and next to develop and maintain a computerized system to track allegations of bullying. The system must be searchable by word, Sneirson said, “so that if a student alleges bullying by more than one student, it’s a way for someone to find out if one student is causing a problem in more than one place, or there’s more than one victim. It’s even possible they could figure out which things are happening in unmonitored spaces like bathrooms, stairwells or buses.”

The latter possibility is particularly relevant in the current lawsuit, in which the student alleged he had been sexually assaulted three times in junior high school bathrooms.

Sneirson said attorneys for the school department will be required to send proof they are complying with the terms to attorneys for the plaintiff.

The school must also create a gay-straight alliance and provide annual, in-person training of junior high school staff about bullying and sex stereotyping.

Sneirson said she is not aware of any other schools with similar databases, nor is she aware of any other court case regarding bullying based on a protected class status that the MHRC has been a party to.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in July 2015, alleged “Jack Doe” was 11 years old “when the severe abuse of him at school began and his educational environment became hostile.”

According to the 30-page complaint, over a period of 2½ years “a group of sexually aggressive and violent male students” harassed the student, called him “gay,” subjected him to several “gay tests,” struck him with a lacrosse stick, stabbed him with a pencil, sexually assaulted him on three separate occasions, then threatened him and his family if he told anyone about the assaults.

Allegations that the boy had been sexually assaulted by other students were investigated by the Brunswick police and forwarded to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office, Brunswick police Cmdr. Mark Waltz said in June 2014.

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But a child abuse evaluation by an independent agency concluded “there is strong evidence that [Jack Doe] has been sexually abused,” the lawsuit contends.

The suit specifically alleged that Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace, who in 2015 named Principal of the Year by the Maine Principals’ Association, failed to respond adequately to the student’s repeated complaints and acted “with actual malice and reckless indifference to the federally protected civil rights of Jane Doe and her child.”

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The Maine Human Rights Commission disagreed and sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as — among other new policies — increased training and monitoring policies and practices, a designated on-call counselor to assist victims of sexual harassment or violence during school hours and a review of Brunswick police records for the past five years for “any complaint of sexual assault that was treated as an exclusively criminal matter.”

“We really thought hard about what will help in a school that has seemingly very good policies in place, which Brunswick did,” Snierson said. “[We thought], ‘How can we foster more hands-on practical improvements of tracking bullying issues.’”

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“Certainly, every school board member is allowed to have an opinion,” she said. “We thought everyone was in agreement that this was a good resolution of the case.”

She added that the Maine Human Rights Commission “will be keeping track just to make sure the things that are supposed to happen in terms of the public interest do happen.”

“The settlement is a good thing — a good thing not just for Brunswick but for the whole state,” Webbert said. “It was a learning process for how to do things better for the kids. Really the agenda here should be protecting our students and helping them reach their full potential, and bullying certainly gets in the way of that.”

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Webbert is confident in his appeal of Eves v LePage – “our politicians are not above the law.”

Read the entire story here at the Portland Press Herald.

Attorneys for House Speaker Mark Eves asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn an earlier decision to dismiss Eves’ lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage.

David Webbert said in a statement after the hearing that he was confident in his appeal and said “both the U.S. and Maine constitutions make it clear that our politicians are not above the law.”

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Eves, the Democratic leader from North Berwick, sued the Republican governor last summer, alleging that LePage abused his power by threatening to withhold state funding if an educational institution in central Maine moved forward with hiring Eves to be its president.

The board of Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield did ultimately rescind its offer to Eves, citing the governor’s threats as one of the main reasons.

Eves argued that the governor used his executive power to intercede into his private life for political retribution.

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On Wednesday, each side addressed a three-judge panel seated in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, which will issue a written ruling on the case at a later date. If the case is overturned on appeal, it would be sent back to Maine to be tried.

Webbert said the appellate judges asked several questions that gave him confidence the case may be sent back for a trial.

“The Court recognized that Maine has a ‘citizen legislature” and that the need of Maine Legislators to make a living makes them vulnerable to threats by a Governor to punish them in their ‘private life,’” the attorney said in a statement.

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The dispute began on June 5, 2015, the day Eves signed a two-year employment contract with the school.

On that day, LePage phoned the then-interim president of the school, Richard Abramson, and expressed his extreme displeasure about Eves’ selection. The governor also sent a handwritten note to the chairman of the school’s board of directors, called Eves a “hack” and made it clear that the school would lose the $1.06 million in discretionary funding that it expected to receive in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.

The dispute arose as the Legislature worked to finalize the state’s budget and marked a particularly frigid moment between legislators and LePage, who vowed to veto every bill sponsored by a Democrat because members of the House did not address his policy priorities.

The Good Will-Hinckley board rescinded its offer to hire Eves as its president on June 24. LePage admitted to reporters that he threatened to choke off funding. Eves filed suit the next month.

Eves accused the governor of using taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring by Good Will-Hinckley, and contended that LePage’s actions violated several of Eves’ constitutional rights, including his First Amendment rights of free speech, free association and political affiliation, as well as his 14th Amendment right to due process.

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Webbert says, “information collected since the suit was filed strengthens the case against the town and school department.”

Read the entire store here at the Bangor Daily News.

Settlement hearing set for suit over alleged assaults in Brunswick school

The next phase of a lengthy legal dispute between the Brunswick school system and the family of a former student who allegedly was sexually and physically assaulted at Brunswick Junior High School will likely play out on Aug. 18 in federal court.

The family of the former student, identified as Jack Doe, and the Maine Human Rights Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court charging the town, school department and junior high principal with violating his civil rights. In addition to alleging that the former student was sexually and physically assaulted, the lawsuit claims he was discriminated against based on his gender and sexual orientation while attending the school from 2010 to 2012.

The suit, filed in July 2015, names the Brunswick School Department, town of Brunswick and Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace as defendants. It charges that Wallace acted “with actual malice and reckless indifference to federally protected rights of Jane Doe and her child” and failed to adequately respond to the student’s repeated complaints and charges of assault, discrimination and bullying.

The suit alleges that over a period of 2½ years “a group of sexually aggressive and violent male students” harassed the student, called him “gay,” subjected him to several “gay tests,” struck him with a lacrosse stick, stabbed him with a pencil and on three separate occasions sexually assaulted him, then threatened him and his family if he told anyone about the assaults.

An attorney representing the family said by phone this week that information collected since the suit was filed strengthens the case against the town and school department.

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In June 2014, the Maine Human Rights Commission voted to uphold its investigator’s report substantiating the complaints and subsequently joined the suit as a plaintiff “to ensure that Brunswick has in place effective measures to prevent a hostile education environment based on sex and sexual orientation,” according to court documents.

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Many case documents have been sealed after both parties in December 2015 signed a confidentiality agreement.

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Webbert wrote that Wallace allegedly told Jack Doe’s father when he was in seventh grade that junior high kids “are like a wolfpack and they tend to pick on the weak, and I think this is what’s going on with your kid, and maybe you should ask him to tone down his individuality a little bit.”

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Webbert wrote that Wallace’s “minimal and belated” responses “were clearly unreasonable in the face of numerous reports of longtime and escalating verbal harassment and physical abuse of Jack by multiple male students,” including being made fun of for being gay more than 30 different times, hit and stuck with a push pin.

Webbert said Wallace admitted in a deposition before the human rights commission that the school’s response to the push pin incident was “in violation of the procedure” for bullying incidents and said Superintendent Paul Perzanoski admitted at his deposition that a written report should have been created.

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Webbert said Jack Doe was still enrolled at the school and attending classes “sporadically” when he made the allegations in October 2012 and was subsequently tutored at home.

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“We think this case is so strong for us on certain issues, and it’s gotten stronger,” Webbert said.

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A mediator will join Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison and attorneys for the two parties at the Aug. 18 conference, Webbert said.

Webbert is asking the appeal court to void Judge Singal’s ruling in Mark Eves’ case against Governor LePage

Read the entire article here at MPBN.

Mark Eves Appeals, Citing LePage’s “Extreme View of Gubernatorial Power”

The attorney for House Speaker Mark Eves is seeking an injunction against Gov. Paul LePaage, in Eves’ appeal filed Wednesday with the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

The brief is an attempt to force the U.S. District Court to reconsider Eves’ argument that the governor acted illegally when he threatened to withhold over $1 million in state funding to a private nonprofit unless the organization fired Eves as its president.

In May, District Court Judge George Singal dismissed Eves’ case, saying, in essence, that the governor’s actions in the Good Will-Hinckley controversy were protected by the so-called immunity clause. That’s the legal concept that essentially protects elected officials from civil lawsuits.

But David Webbert, Eves’ attorney, now argues that Singal erred when he ruled that judicial courts were not appropriate to resolve political disputes. Webbert, in a 131-page brief, wrote that federal courts have upheld civil rights lawsuits between political opponents.

Webbert is essentially asking the appeal court to void Singal’s ruling and provide the legal framework to consider the case. In doing so, Webbert is focusing on a ruling that would “prevent LePage’s extreme view of gubernatorial power from becoming accepted as the norm in Maine politics.”

A response brief from LePage is expected in about a month. Oral arguments before a three-judge panel could take place this fall.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected. Eves is not dropping his pursuit for monetary damages against LePage.

 

Speaker Mark Eves’ Attorney David Webbert says Governor Paul LePage lacks immunity to violate constitution

Read the entire article here by The Associated Press in the Maine Sun Journal.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic Speaker Mark Eves says his appeal of his dismissed lawsuit against Republican Gov. LePage isn’t about money, but about the constitutional rights he claims LePage violated.

His lawyer, David Webbert, this week filed a brief seeking a federal court order that LePage committed such violations and must stop doing so. Additional briefs will be filed before oral arguments are scheduled.

Eves’ lawsuit accused LePage of using blackmail to force Good Will-Hinckley, a Fairfield nonprofit operating a charter school, to rescind his job offer. The lawsuit sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal ruled in LePage’s favor, concluding he was entitled to immunity for his actions.

Webbert said governors lack immunity to violate federal constitutional rights, and said he’s “very confident” the appeal will succeed.

Webbert says, “This case transcends Mark Eves. It really is an important case for all of Maine.”

Read the full story here at the Portland Press Herald.

House Speaker Mark Eves filed an amended lawsuit Friday against Gov. Paul LePage, further accusing the chief executive of violating his rights in the Good Will-Hinckley school hiring controversy.

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Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, said he expects from his prior discussion with LePage’s attorney in the case, Patrick Strawbridge, that the governor will first file a motion to dismiss one or both counts in the lawsuit before answering the individual factual claims in the complaint.

“It is a little different from the first one because we know the facts better,” Webbert said. “It is pretty much the governor’s own words. The case pretty much stands on his own statements.”

Webbert said that if LePage files a motion or motions to dismiss, that almost guarantees the case couldn’t reach trial before 2017.

“If he wants it to go quickly, he would file an answer. If he wants it done in 2016, that’s what he would do. The federal courts in Maine move pretty quickly,” Webbert said.

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Webbert said he took extra lengths in the amended complaint to explain why he feels federal court is the proper venue to settle Eves’ dispute with the governor. The case involves different branches of government and would affect more people than other civil disputes involving just a few individuals, he said.

“This case transcends Mark Eves. It really is an important case for all of Maine,” Webbert said.

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Black Nurse’s Discrimination Lawsuit Can Proceed. David Webbert says, “the ruling was an important one.”

Read the entire story here at the Bangor Daily News.

A lawsuit filed by a black nurse who says she was taunted on a daily basis while working at the Maine State Prison can proceed, a federal judge has ruled.

Cannell’s attorney David Webbert said Tuesday the ruling was an important one, since there has been a trend in the workplace for companies to subcontract work and then deny responsibility when discrimination occurs.

He said the prison has a poor track record and is behind the times in treatment of blacks and women in the workplace.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , Edit

Atty. Gray: Clear Pan Am violated the law

Read the entire story here at the Kennebec Journal.

RailroadWinslow man says Pan Am fired him for medical leave request.

“I think it is pretty clear they violated the law,” said Allison Gray, a human rights attorney from Johnson Webbert and Young in Augusta, which represents Thomas.

 

On Thursday, Gray said that unlike what happens in many other investigations, Beauchesne did not hold conferences with the parties and only used their initial filings to make his investigative decisions.

That is “a sign of the strength of our case” and Pan Am’s liability, Gray said.

Eves and Webbert Press Conference

Eves photo from Bangor Daily News

House Speaker Mark Eves addresses reporters during a press conference July 30 outside the U.S. District Court in Portland. Eves and David Webbert (right), his attorney, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage accusing him of blackmailing Good Will-Hinckley. Laura Eves (left), Mark Eves’ wife, looks on.

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LePage can use up to $400,000 for private attorney to fight Eves lawsuit.

Read the full article here at the Bangor Daily News.

Allison Gray says her client will file suit against T-Mobile

Read or listen to the entire article here at MPBN News.

Agganis’ lawyer Allison Gray says her client will file suit in federal court this week against T-Mobile, alleging that the company subjected her to a hostile work environment based on her gender.

“What we feel is she should have been taken seriously, and instead she was silenced,” Gray says. “And that practice violates her civil rights.”

Agganis says she’s bringing suit, in part, to be a voice for those who may not feel empowered to do so.

 

Portland Minimum Wage – Legal knots and likely challenges. Webbert says, “That language leaves uncertainty to the law.”

Read the full article here at the Portland Press Herald.

That language adds uncertainty to the law, said David Webbert of the law firm Johnson, Webbert & Young, which specializes in employment issues. He said “primarily” has been defined as 50 percent-plus. But “substantially” is less clear, Webbert said, so opponents may turn to the courts for a definition.

 

Represented by Allison Gray, Waterville woman sues T-Mobile alleging sexual harassment

Read the entire article hear at the Portland Press Herald.

Former employee Angela Agganis says she was touched inappropriately by a call center supervisor.

Angela Agganis of Waterville filed a complaint Oct. 9 in U.S. District Court in Portland, accusing the company of subjecting her to a hostile work environment based on her sex. She is represented by Allison Gray, a civil rights attorney with Johnson, Webbert and Young in Augusta.

Read more firm news here.