(Ferguson) (AP) – The city of Ferguson, Missouri, has officially named an interim city manager to succeed the executive who resigned after a Justice Department report that found widespread racial bias in the police department.
KSDK-TV reports the Ferguson City Council voted Tuesday night to appoint Pam Hylton to temporarily replace John Shaw. Hylton has been the assistant city manager of the St. Louis County town since April 2011.
Shaw resigned two weeks ago following the report by the Justice Department spurred by last year’s fatal shooting of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer. The report also found bias in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from mostly black and low-income residents.
Six Ferguson officials, including Shaw, have resigned or been fired since the report was released.
by Marie French, AP
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Legislation that would impose new requirements for expert testimony in Missouri court cases has run into opposition from two Republican senators who are lawyers and running for statewide office.
Republican Sens. Eric Schmitt, of Glendale, and Kurt Schaefer, of Columbia, have helped Democrats stall the measure, which is backed by business groups. Both said it could cost businesses more in litigation fees because of the higher standard and likely prolonged legal challenges to expert testimony.
“It is an easier threshold for businesses to keep a lid on costs, really, with what we have right now,” Schaefer said. “Your universe of people that you can call as an expert witness gets much smaller.”
Missouri judges already can decide whether to admit expert testimony, but the standard is primarily based on whether the facts forming the basis of the opinion are “reasonably relied upon by experts in the field.” The standard does not apply to the method by which facts are analyzed. Sen. Mike Kehoe’s measure would require expert witnesses to base testimony on sufficient facts and data, reliable principles and methods and reliably apply those principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Senators are set to hash out the issues starting next week after their spring break. The measure is one of several business-backed legislative priorities related to all court cases – including caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, caps on punitive damages in civil cases and an allowance for “loser pays” rules.
Several Republican lawmakers are united in backing those proposals, which supporters say will make Missouri’s legal environment better for businesses by keeping costs down or reducing frivolous litigation. Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, who sponsored the measure, framed the expert witness change as another pro-business measure.
“Trying to make our state a more business-friendly state and trying to make it a state where we can make it more efficient is a goal of this body,” Kehoe said. “This is just another piece that we can add to it.”
Schmitt and Schaefer are both running for statewide office, though Schmitt told The Associated Press that his run for treasurer has nothing to do with his opposition to the measure. Schaefer is running for attorney general. It’s a new issue, Schmitt said, and raises several questions that need to be fully vetted, as it’s a sweeping change.
The standard that the legislation is modeled on, referred to as the Daubert standard after a U.S. Supreme Court case, is supported by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and sets out more requirements than current state law.
Jay Atkins, the chamber’s top lobbyist, said the main benefit of changing testimony standards is ensuring that the science presented to juries is from legitimate, widely studied fields. He said that would promote efficiency and could benefit either side of a case.
“When a business is being sued, generally speaking, it is most advantageous for the business to provide – to be able to present to the jury – the most reliable and scientifically sound facts available,” Atkins said. “And the way you do that is to make sure that any expert witness who testifies is testifying about a field that has been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny.”
But Kenneth Barnes, a member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys’ executive committee, said the proposed standard makes cases more complicated as different judges can interpret the Daubert standard in vastly different ways. He also said it tries to make the judge a “gatekeeper of methodology,” which increases circuit courts’ workloads and costs for both sides in a lawsuit.
“It actually leads to great confusion both among the judges and the litigants that appear before those judges,” he said.
(Little Rock) (AP) – The National Weather Service in Little Rock says a weak tornado, commonly known as a “water spout” touched down in northwest Arkansas.
Weather service meteorologist Jeff Hood says the tornado briefly touched Bull Shoals Lake in Marion County Tuesday night and did not reach land. He said it will likely be classified an EF0 – the weakest tornado with wind speeds of 65 to 85 mph. There are no reports of damage.
The storm comes ahead of another system that’s expected to produce large hail, high winds and possibly tornadoes in a region that includes northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma and southwest Missouri on Wednesday.
Hood said the greatest threat is golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail as the storm develops starting Wednesday afternoon and continues through the early morning hours Thursday.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri man says he fought for nearly 30 minutes before landing a state-record paddlefish last week.
The Missouri Department of Conservation says the fish snagged by 33-year-old Andy Beolobraydic III of Richwoods weighed 140 pounds, 9 ounces. The previous record paddlefish was 139 pounds, 4 ounces, caught in 2002.
Belobraydic caught the fish Saturday in the James River arm of Table Rock Lake. It was 56.75 inches long and 43.75 inches around.
The fish was certified as a state record Monday after being weighed on a certified scale in Branson.
It is being kept frozen at a business in Richwoods, about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis. Belobraydic says he hopes an outdoor company will have a cast made of the fish and display it publicly.
(Jefferson City) – A local representative has filed legislation regarding gender-neutral housing, unisex public bathrooms, and the development of a 350-acre campground in Shannon County.
Rep. Jeff Pogue, R-Salem, filed legislation last week that would prohibit the use of state funding to create a “gender-neutral environment”, such as housing, unless required by a federal or state court order. Pogue also submitted a bill last week that prohibits state-funded multi-stall restrooms from being unisex unless the restroom in question is single-occupancy.
Pogue told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he filed the legislation to “protect the social norms” that have been in place since Missouri was made a state in the 1820′s. If made law, the bills would impact the University of Missouri’s plans to open a gender-neutral dormitory later this year.
Camp Zoe legislation filed
Pogue also filed a bill last week that would stop the Department of Natural Resources from developing the old Camp Zoe property until questions regarding funding and impact on local business and the environment are met with approval.
“The Camp Zoe project may well be one of the best projects to take place in our area for many years, or it may be a gigantic boondoggle of monumental proportions”, Pogue said in a statement, “In either case, DNR needs to be upfront with the legislature and the people of our area with its plans and the estimated costs for this project.”
The Missouri State Park system bought the 350-acre Camp Zoe area in 2013. The property had belonged to James Tebeau, who pleaded guilty in June 2012 to one federal count of maintaining drug-involved property. Tebeau had hosted concerts at Camp Zoe for a number of years, but a raid in October 2010 found up to 200 dealers selling marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and other drugs. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Legislators are on spring break this week, and will return to Jefferson City Monday.
(West Plains) – West Plains City Clerk Mallory Hawkins says that the city-wide yard sale will be held in the second full week of April, and it’s a good opportunity to clean out your homes and garages. What you can’t sell those two days can also be put out the following week for the city-wide clean-up:
The number for the sanitation department is 417-255-2330.
(West Plains) – West Plains economic development director Bob Case held a presentation during the West Plains City Council meeting on Monday, where he proposed the council approve a written set of business incentives for new and expanding businesses in the city.
Case spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us that the council, and the city’s legal team, will be going over the documentation to make sure things are correct before the council grants approval:
Case added that there are a wide variety of incentives available for businesses who may be looking to relocate or expand in West Plains:
More information on the city can be found at www.westplains.net.
(Winona) – The Winona Police Department is beginning a Community Crime Prevention Council.
Chief Alonzo Bradwell spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us that the program was created to help prevent thefts and drug activity in the community:
Chief Bradwell added that the meeting will take place on April 2:
Chief Bradwell added that crime prevention tips and more will be discussed, and the public is invited to attend.
(Mountain View) – The Mountain View Police Department is urging businesses to be on the lookout for a possible scam in the city.
Chief Jamie Perkins says that the department recently received reports of a white male asking businesses about their security systems, under the pretense of being hired to work on the property by the owner of the building. Perkins says that several businesses were broken into shortly after the meeting.
The man is described as being roughly 6 ft. tall, and weighing over 200 lbs., driving a full size dark truck.
Perkins says that businesses should be aware of who they are giving sensitive information to, and check with others to see if they had work done by the inquiring party.
If you see anything suspicious or you have questions about security systems, call the Mountain View Police Department at 417-934-2525.
(Little Rock) (AP) – The Arkansas Senate has rejected legislation to require bills be reviewed for their racial impact.
Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock said racial impact statements would be similar to fiscal impact statements, environmental impact statements and victim impact statements used in courtrooms.
She said no one spoke against her bill in the Judiciary Committee, but Monday’s vote in the Senate was only 13-9 – five votes short of the 18 needed to pass. Two years ago, it picked up 15 votes.
Elliott said there were numerous town hall meetings statewide to talk about the bill.
Legislators would be given the option to change their bills if the statement found there would be an impact based on racial disparities.
Monday’s vote was erased and the bill can come up again.