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Writers lose appeal against newspaper

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Two former editorial writers at Indiana's largest newspaper failed to prove they were the victims of religious discrimination, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

James Patterson and Lisa M. Coffey claimed their former employer, The Indianapolis Star, engaged in systematic discrimination against "traditional Christians" who believe homosexual conduct is a sin. They said the Star's top editors opposed public expression of religion in the workplace and discriminated against those who opposed homosexual conduct because of their religion. Patterson and Coffey also argued the paper "softened" its views on homosexuality once Dennis Ryerson became the editor.

Coffey worked for the paper from 1999 until she resigned in October 2003 following an offer to move back ­- full time - to the copy desk, the position she held when she was first hired. The move was prompted by Coffey's continuous misuse of the paper's overtime policy, according to court documents.

While working as an editorial writer, her editors refused to publish an editorial about HIV risks associated with sodomy because of explicit detail about anal intercourse. She was also warned about proselytizing at work.

Patterson joined the Star as an editorial writer in 1995. Court documents note his work was repeatedly plagued with factual errors and often required printed corrections. Even after being placed on a performance-improvement plan, Patterson's editorial errors didn't decrease. Patterson, who is African-American, was fired after 18 months on the plan in May 2005.

In James Patterson and Lisa M. Coffey v. Indiana Newspapers Inc., No. 08-2050, the Circuit judges noted that it accepted the Star's version of the facts, just as the District Court did, because Coffey and Patterson didn't comply with Local Rule 56.1(b).

The Circuit Court then affirmed summary judgment for the Star, finding the two failed to make prima facie cases of religious discrimination. Although both established they belonged to a protected class and suffered an adverse employment action, they failed to prove they performed their jobs according to the paper's legitimate performance expectations and that they were treated less favorably compared to other similarly situated employees outside the protected class, wrote Judge Diane S. Sykes.

Neither employee could prove they were meeting the Star's legitimate performance expectations - Coffey repeatedly violated the overtime policy and Patterson continually made factual errors within his writing.

Patterson's claims for age and racial discrimination, and retaliation, also failed for the same reasons his religious discrimination claim did, the judge wrote.

The two also brought state-law claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, which the District Court properly dismissed because getting fired from a job doesn't qualify.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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