Washington Post Reporter Tries
To Revive Sex Discrimination Suit
A former Washington Post political reporter argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals last week that she was unfairly subjected to retaliation by her editors after speaking out on gender and sexual assault controversies.
Felicia Sonmez accuses the newspaper of discriminating against her because she is a woman and a sexual assault victim. District of Columbia human rights laws forbid discrimination based on gender and status as a crime victim.
Washington Post editors acknowledged they limited Sonmez’s authority to report on some sexual assault issues. They said they did it to avoid the appearance that her personal opinions influenced the newspaper’s coverage of the news.
They also argued they should be protected from liability under the District of Columbia’s Anti-SLAPP Act.
The law allows judges to dismiss lawsuits intended to punish persons who speak out on public controversies. The newspaper’s editors say Sonmez’s lawsuit could interfere with their First Amendment right to objectively report the news.
Sonmez’s lawsuit was dismissed by a lower court in 2021. Now she seeks to revive it
Sonmez was fired by the Post in 2022 for what its editors say was insubordination unrelated to her pending lawsuit.
She gained notoriety in 2020 after the Washington Post placed her on administrative leave for tweeting about a sexual assault accusation that had been lodged against professional basketball star Kobe Bryant shortly after his death in a helicopter crash.
She drew attention again in 2021 for suing The Washington Post when editors blocked her from reporting on sexual assault cases after she publicly identified herself as a victim.
Supreme Court Agrees to Decide If Bump Stocks Can be Banned
The Supreme Court agreed this month to hear a case that will decide whether a District of Columbia federal court’s decision that prohibits gun bump stocks will withstand a constitutional challenge.
Bump stocks are gun attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns.
The Justice Department banned them after a 2017 mass shooting in which a gunman killed 59 people by firing into a crowd from a Las Vegas hotel window using assault rifles modified with bump stocks. The retired postal worker fired more than 1,000 rounds in 11 minutes into a crowd of 22,000 music fans.
The ban led to court challenges by gun rights advocates claiming Second Amendment rights.
A key issue is whether guns with bump stock attachments are machine guns. There is no dispute that machine guns are weapons of mass destruction that are not allowed under the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms for self-defense.
The National Firearms and Gun Control Act defines a machine gun as "any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
Plaintiffs who challenge the Justice Department regulation say guns modified with bump stocks are different than machine guns.
Bump stocks harness the recoil energy of a semi-automatic firearm to reset the trigger with each shot, thereby allowing the gun to continue “firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter,” according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
However, the shooter must keep forward pressure on the gun with the non-shooting hand while also pushing on the trigger.
That small distinction led the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to say any difference from a machine gun was too small to interpret a bump stock any other way.
The court’s opinion written by Judge Robert Wilkins said that “under the best interpretation of the statute, a bump stock is a self-regulating mechanism that allows a shooter to shoot more than one shot through a single pull of the trigger.
Pizzagate Conspiracy Theories
Return After Elon Musk Message
The Washington, D.C., pizza shop at the center of a 2016 presidential campaign controversy returned last week to becoming associated with conspiracy theories.
It took only one word from the world’s richest man to revive Pizzagate.
“Weird,” wrote Elon Musk in response to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Musk was responding to an X user who posted a message linking the founder of liberal media watchdog Media Matters to the owner of Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Northwest Washington.
Media Matters recently accused X of putting advertisements from major companies next to white supremacist content. Musk sued Media Matters on Monday in federal court in Texas, alleging the organization was driving advertisers away from the social media platform with its false accusations.
D.C. in Brief
We Could Use Your Help
Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation.
You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents.
Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
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Fox News Producer Sues Network
After Refusing to Support Trump
A former Fox News reporter says in a lawsuit moved to federal court last week that he was fired for questioning the television network’s reports that he said were designed to “appease” the Trump administration during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.
Producer Jason Donner says he was terminated during a “purge” of Fox personnel who refused to support former President Donald Trump with their reports.
“As a result of Mr. Donner speaking out against the false news stories being published by Fox News and his political affiliation, Fox News discriminated against Mr. Donner and retaliated against him by firing him,” the lawsuit says.
In one example, Fox News reported during the insurrection that protesters inside the Capitol were “peaceful.”
When Donner – who was inside the building – heard the report, he called the Fox News control room to tell other producers the network was reporting inaccurate information, his lawsuit says.
Letters to the Editor
Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time
Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations.
We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win.
Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
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D.C. Plans More Youth Detention
To Combat Rising Crime Rate
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser last week announced plans to expand youth detention facilities as the city tries to confront an alarming increase in violent crime.
The expansion would include more electronic monitoring of juvenile offenders and a quality assurance team to ensure detention facilities meet required standards.
City officials face a possible contempt of court citation if they fail to provide more housing juveniles awaiting trial.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Andrea Hertzfeld’s threat of a citation was directed most specifically at the lack of shelter houses, which refers to monitored group homes for teens awaiting trial. They still can leave to attend school or for short-term family visits.
On nine occasions, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services sent teens to lockdown facilities despite the fact they had not been convicted of crimes. Hertzfeld said lockdown was not a matter of discretion for Youth Rehabilitation Services.