D.C. Settles Sexual Harassment Claims
Of Women Against Former Deputy Mayor

     Two women who claimed to have been sexually harassed by former deputy Washington D.C. mayor John Falcicchio reached a settlement agreement with the city last week.
     Falcicchio resigned abruptly as Washington’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development in March 2023 amid the allegations. He was a longtime aide to Mayor Muriel Bowser.
     Exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed but the amount of compensation is known to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The two women, who were not identified, also get to keep their jobs.
     “We can confirm that the [Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel], on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, has settled the two administrative complaints against the former Deputy Mayor,” attorneys for the city said in a statement. “The confidentiality provisions in the agreements preclude us from disclosing the terms of the settlements, except as required by law.”
     The two women accused Falcicchio of persistent sexual harassment that included lewd messages and inappropriate comments. Their allegations were backed up through an investigation by lawyers for the mayor’s office.
     Falcicchio, 44, earned $230,000 a year as one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s closest advisors.
     Attorneys for the two female employees said in a statement the city had “allowed his behavior to go unchecked for too long.”
     The investigation of Falcicchio led the Bowser administration to develop new guidelines with a more expansive definition of sexual harassment and methods for reporting it. 
     The D.C. Office of the Inspector General also hired the law firm of Arnold & Porter to review the city’s investigative report.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

American University Students Win $5.4 Million
For Forced Remote Learning During Pandemic

     American University students who were forced into remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic won final approval last week for a $5.4 million settlement of their class action lawsuit.
     They were seeking tuition refunds after claiming the quality of their education declined during their virtual learning in 2020.
     The final approval from U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the District of Columbia also gave their attorneys $1.8 million in legal fees.
     The class action was filed on behalf of three students who said they paid full tuition for a college experience that was supposed to include in-person learning and on-campus activities.
     When they first filed in 2020, Cooper dismissed the students’ lawsuit, saying American University was making "reasonable modifications in response to radically changed circumstances."
     On appeal, the D.C. Circuit revived and remanded most of the lawsuit along with a similar one against George Washington University.
     The appeals court said the students successfully argued the universities breached implied promises for in-person education and other services in exchange for tuition.
     The settlement represents only a discount, not a refund of full tuition. The discount is supposed to reflect the degree the quality of education declined.
     The settlement will give each American University undergraduate enrolled in the spring 2020 semester $400 to $475.
     American University did not admit wrongdoing. The university "is proud of the extraordinary efforts of the members of AU community during those unprecedented times," a spokesman said in a statement.
     The settlement finalized last week is similar to others at universities nationwide. Most recently they included $5 million for students at the University of Chicago and another $5 million for University of Colorado students.
     The case is Qureshi v. American University in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Justice Dept. Plans Reclassification
Of Marijuana to Less Dangerous Drug

     President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a recommendation for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to relax restrictions on marijuana.
     A notice of rulemaking the Department of Justice published in the Federal Register would shift cannabis from the highly restrictive Schedule I classification under the federal Controlled Substances Act to a more loosely regulated Schedule III.
     The proposal represents the biggest change in drug policy since marijuana was criminalized more than 50 years ago.
     For the growing number of cannabis dispensaries in the Washington, D.C., area, it means they will need to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
     Currently the region’s more than dozen dispensaries are regulated only by local authorities.
     Although the dispensary owners are resisting federal oversight by the DEA, they are unlikely to give up their hefty earnings from cannabis products. Together they earned $36 million in 2022, which are the latest figures released by D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration.
     DEA officials say they plan to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug after review and approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
     Schedule I refers to high-level illegal drugs like heroin that carry felony penalties. 
     Schedule III is considered dangerous only when it is abused but is not strictly enforced for possession of it. Other Schedule III drugs include steroids and ketamine.
     Under the proposed rule change, the DEA would treat cannabis dispensaries like pharmacies with strict reporting requirements. The agency would allow sales of cannabis for medical reasons but would continue to ban recreational use.
     The DEA is proposing the rule change on a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The DEA is a division of the Justice Department.
     “Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act,” a Justice Department statement said.
     Biden first recommended a review of federal marijuana law in October 2022. About the same time, he pardoned thousands of persons convicted on federal charges of possession of marijuana.
     “Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said in December. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
     There are about 15,000 cannabis dispensaries nationwide that would be affected by any DEA rule change.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Virginia School Board Revives Names
Of Confederate Leaders for Two Schools

     A Virginia school board voted last week to restore the names of two schools previously named after Confederate military leaders in a move reviving disputes over whether preserving history or avoiding the image of civil rights violations should be a top priority.
     The Shenandoah County School Board changed the names of the schools in 2020 during a national outcry over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
     They changed the names back by a 5-to-1 vote after discussing the importance of preserving their historical heritage.
     Mountain View High School is returning to the name Stonewall Jackson High School. Honey Run Elementary School will once again be Ashby-Lee Elementary School.
     The schools are named after Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and cavalry commander Turner Ashby. Shenandoah County was a stronghold of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
     The school board was motivated partly by a local conservative community group called the Coalition for Better Schools. The group wrote a letter to the school board in April mentioning a survey of local residents that "indicate overwhelming support for this restoration" of the original names.
     The 2020 name change was done hastily and "revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community's heritage and respect the wishes of the majority," the letter said. 
     The school board also approved a resolution affirming its "commitment to an inclusive school environment for all" and denouncing racism.
     Opponents of reverting to the Confederate names were unconvinced of the school board’s sincerity.
     Neil Thorne, a local resident campaigning as a member of a group called Claim the Names, said reverting to Confederate names “will indelibly damage our community's reputation."
     "The naming of these schools was not incidental but reflected the segregated policies of the time," Thorne said in a statement.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Pet Owners Sue Private Kennel
For Dead Dogs After Flooding

     A private kennel in Washington, D.C., is being sued by pet owners whose dogs drowned during flooding last summer.
     The case combines competing interests of tort law in determining whether the kennel, District Dogs, could be liable.
     The plaintiffs are arguing the flooding and drowning of eight dogs was foreseeable but that District Dogs failed to take adequate precautionary measures.
     A statement from District Dogs indicates its attorneys plan to argue the flooding on August 14 was a superseding cause that should absolve the kennel of liability.
     A superseding cause is something that happens after the defendant's action, which was both the proximate cause of the injury and unforeseeable to the defendant.
     District Dogs’ action was pet care. The kennel in Northeast D.C. says it complied with all regulations and passed inspections.
     A report from the city’s emergency management agency also found no code violations by District Dogs.
     Nevertheless, the plaintiffs say in their lawsuit filed in D.C. Superior Court that the business had flooded repeatedly during previous storms, which should have given the owners notice they need to prepare better for high waters. Ten dogs died in the roughly six feet of water that flooded the kennel.
     The lawsuit says District Dogs should be liable for "gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and more."
     The kennel denied liability in a press statement that said,  "We believe that this action is without merit and intend to vigorously defend this suit, complete with a full recitation of all efforts undertaken to ensure the safety of this facility, our staff, customers, and the dogs in our care."
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.