/raid1/www/Hosts/bankrupt/CAR_Public/001122.MBX               C L A S S   A C T I O N   R E P O R T E R

            Wednesday, November 22, 2000, Vol. 2, No. 228


BOEING NORTH: Lawyers Plan Appeal against Decertifying O'Connor Case
CANKER PROGRAM: Officials Say Ban Has Little Effect on Citrus Cutting
COVAD COMMUNICATIONS: Cauley & Geller Extends Period in Securities Suit
CRAYFISH CO: Announces Results for Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2000
DEAN REYNOLDS: Association Accuses of Coaxing Elderly Investors

FORD MOTOR: Lawyers Seek Judge's Removal in Ignition System Defect Suit
GIULIANI: Judge Calls NYC AIDS Assistance Program 'Systematic Failure'
INMATES LITIGATION: N.J. Parole Board Agrees to Eliminate Backlog
LYME SHOTS: Fed Health Authorities Investigate about Reactions
MARIJUANA USE: Supreme Court May Review Medical Use

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Military Voters Seek Late Vote Damages
PRI AUTOMATION: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in Massachusetts
TELECTRONICS PACING: Ohio Ct OKs Revised Settlement for Accufix Suit
TOBACCO LITIGATION: Smoker Back in Court in Trial against Imperial
ZIMBABWE POLICE: Courts Duel Over Squatter Evictions


BOEING NORTH: Lawyers Plan Appeal against Decertifying O'Connor Case
Cappello & McCann plans to appeal the judge's decision on decertifying the
class-action suit in the Lawrence O'Connor, et. al. vs. Boeing North
American Inc. case. In September, Judge Audrey Collins granted Boeing's
motion to decertify the class, but the law firm says the decision is wrong.
"Needless to say, we strongly disagree with the judge's recent decision,"
says Barry Cappello, a partner in the firm. Cappello expects a decision
next year on his appeal. Meanwhile, Boeing continues to emphasize that
there is not a link to cancer from its Santa Susana, Calif., plant and
plans to keep fighting. (Hazardous Waste News, November 6, 2000)

CANKER PROGRAM: Officials Say Ban Has Little Effect on Citrus Cutting
A recent court order to ban the cutting of healthy citrus trees in Broward
County should have little effect in Palm Beach County because most of the
region's infected trees have already been chopped down, state officials

"For now, there are no infected trees left to cut in Palm Beach County,"
Liz Compton, public information director for the Florida Department of
Agriculture, said on Monday. "But we still have surveyors up there. Should
they find any more infected trees, those too will be removed."

The state's $ 170 million citrus canker eradication program has long been
mired in controversy, with tree owners in Broward and Miami-Dade counties
complaining of healthy trees being felled. To date, more than 500,000
trees, about 132,000 of them from back yards, have been destroyed.

At issue is whether agricultural officials have acted overzealously in
their aim to protect Florida's $ 8.5 billion citrus industry. The state
policy calls for destruction of all citrus trees -- even healthy-looking
ones -- within a 1,900-foot radius of an infected tree.

On Friday, Broward County Circuit Judge J. Leonard Fleet ordered a
permanent stop to the destruction of that county's "healthy" citrus trees.

The ruling came in response to a joint class-action lawsuit filed by 16
individual tree owners and various government agencies, including Broward
County, Pompano Beach, Davie and Coconut Creek. The lawsuit claimed the
citrus canker eradication program lacks a scientific basis and violates
tree owners' constitutional rights to due process.

In his ruling, Fleet criticized the canker eradication program, saying it
was conceived in secrecy and forced homeowners to participate in a
bewildering appeals process.

The Department of Agriculture filed an appeal with the 4th District Court
of Appeal on Friday. A hearing date has not been set.

For now, state officials will remove only infected trees in Broward,
Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, Compton said. Infected trees are those
that already show signs of the canker, such as brown leaves and fruit, and
raised lesions surrounded by an oily yellow ring.

"We've extended that courtesy to the other counties even though legally we
didn't have to," Compton said.

Unlike Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where residents and government
officials faced off with tree cutters to protect their trees, Palm Beach
County remained relatively unscathed.

This year, officials identified two strains of canker, mainly in Boca
Raton, Delray Beach, west of Boca Raton and Wellington, toppling about
1,500 trees, said Mark Fagan, a spokesman for Agriculture Department.

"Homeowners in Palm Beach County have been very cooperative," Fagan said.
"They know we wouldn't be removing the trees unless the threat was real."

In Broward County, Friday's ruling represented a victory of sorts for tree
owners. But agricultural officials said they're confident the appeals court
will back eradicating all trees within 1,900 square feet of an infected
tree, Compton said.

"Our study shows that 95 percent of this windblown bacteria falls within
1,900 feet, so the appeals court will understand the need for this," she
said. "We're confident we will prevail. There's just too much at stake."
(Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), November 21, 2000)

COVAD COMMUNICATIONS: Cauley & Geller Extends Period in Securities Suit
The law firm of Cauley & Geller, LLP announced on November 20 that it had
filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the
Northern District of California on behalf of all persons who purchased
Covad Communications Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: COVD) ("Covad" or the "Company")
common stock between September 7, 20000 and October 17, 2000 inclusive (the
"Class Period"), including those who acquired Covad shares in connection
with Covad's acquisition of BlueStar Communications Group ("BlueStar") and
those who acquired Covad convertible senior notes. The class period is
being expanded to include purchases between September 7, 2000 through
November 14, 2000, inclusive.

The complaint charges Covad and certain of its officers and directors with
violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint alleges
that defendants misrepresented the revenues that Covad was deriving from
its newly acquired BlueStar business, which, together with defendants'
false representations that Covad would post Q3 2000 EPS of $(1.18) and
revenues of $ 74.7 million, operated to artificially inflated the price of
Covad stock to a Class Period high of $20.93 on September 11, 2000. This
upsurge in Covad's stock caused by defendants' alleged false and misleading
statements enabled Covad to complete a $500 million bond offering and the
$140 million stock-for- stock acquisition of BlueStar. On October 17, 2000,
15 business days after the acquisition of BlueStar was completed and just
18 business days after Covad raised $500 million in a debt offering, Covad
revealed that it was in fact suffering a huge decline in revenues, was not
posting smaller negative EPS growth, and contrary to defendants' repeated
assurances, Covad was forced to reveal the problems it had been
experiencing during the Class Period in attempting to grow its business.
This announcement caused its stock price to drop to as low as $3.50 (or
over $5 per share) on record volume of 70 million shares on October 18,
2000, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to members of the
Class. Finally, on November 14, 2000, Covad announced that the Company
would be adjusting its previously announced third quarter 2000 financial
results, resulting in its stock price dropping over 20% on very high
trading volume.

Contact: Sue Null or Charlie Gastineau, both of Cauley & Geller, LLP,
888-551-9944, or info@classlawyer.com

CRAYFISH CO: Announces Results for Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2000
Crayfish Co., Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRFH) (MOTHERS: 4747) announced on November 21
the results of its operations for the fiscal year 2000 ended September 30,
2000. All figures for fiscal year ended September 30, 2000 are prepared in
accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United
States. All figures for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2000 are

Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2000 Financial Highlights

For the Years Ended September 30, 2000 and 1999 (In millions of yen and
thousands of U.S. dollars except per share amounts; U.S. GAAP)

                                           (JPY)     (JPY)      (USD)
                                           FY1999     FY2000     FY2000
                                         (Audited)   (Unaudited)

Total Revenues                         1,141      6,823    63,231

Loss from Operations                  (317)     (1,487)    (13,777)

Net Loss                                (356)     (1,499)    (13,888)

Per Share Data:

Net Loss -- Basic
     and Diluted                 (78,842.86)  (160,222.94)   (1,484.92)


U.S. dollar amounts have been translated at the rate of Y107.9=US$1, the
rate prevailing at September 29, 2000.

           Changes in Number of Hitmail Subscribers by Year ended

                                        FY1999     FY2000

New                                     22,119     68,343

Cancelled                                  932     30,579

Year-End Balance                      21,608     59,372

4th Quarter Ended September 30, 2000

                          Recent Developments

Crayfish acquired 6,480 new subscribers in the 4th quarter ended September
2000 while cancellations reached 16,552

The total number of subscribers decreased to 59,372 on an
accumulated basis at the end of September 2000

Average revenue per month per subscriber in September 2000 increased to JPY
11,200 from JPY 10,900 in March 2000

           U.S. litigation was filed against Crayfish Co., Ltd.

Appointment of chief administrative officer

Status of Hitmail Subscribers

The total number of Hitmail subscribers decreased 14.5% to 59,372 from
69,444 as of the end of the 3rd quarter ended June 2000. Crayfish acquired
a total of 6,480 new subscribers in the 4th quarter ended September 2000, a
58.9% decrease from the 15,784 subscribers newly acquired in the 3rd
quarter ended June 2000, while cancellations reached 16,552, an increase of
86.4%. The reduction in the number of new subscribers acquired compared to
previous quarters was largely attributable to the restructuring of Hikari
Tsushin's sales agents force, which was reduced in numbers from 1,200
persons to 400 persons between January and September 2000. This resulted in
a decrease in the number of sales persons available to market Hitmail and
acquire new subscribers.

The increase in cancellations was due to several factors. Prior to the
restructuring of its sales force, Hikari Tsushin had relied heavily on a
large group of sales agents with whom it had subcontracted to market
Hitmail. Many of the subscribers who were signed on by the subcontracted
agents apparently lacked real need for the e-mail services provided by the
Company and cancelled their subscriptions shortly after the conclusion of
their initial six-month subscription period. The restructuring of the sales
force also decreased the level of customer service and support for
subscribers, resulting in further cancellations. Hikari ceased all Hitmail
marketing efforts on behalf of the Company as of October 31, 2000. However,
it is likely that a high subscriber cancellation rate will continue for
some period of time, and possibly for the next several months.

Overall, average revenue per subscriber in September 2000 increased to JPY
11,200 from JPY 10,900 as per March 2000. The increase is mainly due to the
retention of subscribers who typically use additional optional services.

Month-end balance at the end of the 3rd quarter ended June 1999 was 10,480

                US Litigation Filed Against the Company

On September 8, 2000, the first of eleven related lawsuits was filed
against Crayfish in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York. The lawsuits include allegations that during the
course of its March 8, 2000 initial public offering of 4.045 million
American Depositary Shares, Crayfish failed to disclose material facts
about the decline in business of Crayfish's principal shareholder and
business partner, Hikari Tsushin.

The lawsuits make similar allegations against the underwriters for the IPO,
certain officers and directors of Crayfish and Hikari Tsushin. Certain
plaintiffs have now moved to be appointed as lead plaintiffs and to
consolidate all eleven actions. The Company does not believe the
allegations against it have merit, and intends to vigorously defend against
any actions that are properly brought against it in an appropriate forum.

                        New Executive Officer

In order to strengthen its management team, the Company appointed Mr.
Mitsuharu Kai as Chief Administrative Officer, an executive officer
position, on October 3.

Mr. Kai joined Crayfish in January 2000 and most recently served as
Crayfish's Corporate Secretary and General Counsel. Prior to joining
Crayfish, Mr. Kai held various management positions, including serving as
corporate counsel at Nortel Networks Japan and Toshiba Corporation.

                       Class Action Litigation

As noted above, eleven related class action complaints which name Crayfish
as a defendant have been filed in the United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York.

As alleged purchasers of Crayfish shares during the IPO, plaintiffs seek to
recover damages on an unspecified amount on behalf of the class persons who
purchased shares of Crayfish in, or traceable to, the IPO. Plaintiffs also
seek to recover attorneys fees, accountant and expert witness fees as well
as other expenses incidental to the litigation. The outcome of this class
action litigation, and the resulting impact, if any, on the Company's
financial statements cannot be reasonably estimated at this time.

                           Subsequent Events

Contract Termination - On November 1, 2000, Crayfish's Board of Directors
passed a resolution pursuant to which the February 1, 2000 outsourcing
contract with Hikari Tsushin is to be terminated effective October 31,
2000. Hikari Tsushin served as the exclusive marketing channel for
Crayfish's primary e-mail hosting service, Hitmail under the February 1,
2000 agreement. Under the termination agreement, the Company made a
one-time payment to Hikari Tsushin of JPY 3.5 billion (on November 6, 2000)
and has acquired sole ownership of the revenue stream from its Hitmail
subscriber base as well as the right to continue Crayfish's use of the
Hitmail service mark.

Stock Option Plan - On November 21, 2000, a resolution was made by
Crayfish's Board of Directors to grant a stock option for a total of 368
shares to our 5 directors and 121 employees under the Article 280-19 of the
Commercial Code of Japan and the Article 7 of our Articles of Association.
The purpose of the grant is to strengthen incentive and morale of our
directors and employees. These stock options are to be granted at market
value pursuant to resolutions of the general meeting of shareholders
planned to be held on December 26, 2000.

ADS Ratio Change - Effective November 21, 2000, Crayfish has changed the
conversion ratio for the American Depositary Shares (ADSs), representing
Crayfish's ordinary shares, listed on the Nasdaq National Market. The ratio
was changed to 500 ADS represents one ordinary share of common stock, from
5000 ADS per ordinary share.

                        Company Information

Founded in 1995, Crayfish Co., Ltd. (CRFH) of Tokyo, Japan, is a leading
provider of e-mail services to small and medium-sized businesses in Japan,
offering customized, reliable and expandable e-mail services and Internet
solutions under the brand name "Hitmail," as well as additional services to
enhance its customers' capabilities in communication, office operation and
e-commerce. The Company has over 56,000 Hitmail subscribers in Japan, as of
the end of October 2000.

DEAN REYNOLDS: Association Accuses of Coaxing Elderly Investors
The National Association of Securities Dealers has accused broker Dean
Witter Reynolds of coaxing thousands of elderly investors to put $2 billion
into volatile bond funds by fraudulently marketing them as secure,
conservative investments.

NASD regulators filed a complaint Monday against Dean Witter and two
executives, John B. Kemp and Lawrence J. Solari Jr., accusing them of
targeting holders of certificates of deposit and other low-risk investments
in the early 1990s for the brokerage's Term Trusts.

Dean Witter's bond funds were embraced by more than 100,000 customers, many
of them elderly and on fixed incomes. About 30,000 of those investors lost
$65 million after the value of the Term Trusts dropped precipitously in
1994, NASD Regulation said.

The brokerage firm denied the allegations.

''The NASDR's action against our firm and the two named individuals is
unfounded and particularly surprising since it concerns investments sold
seven or eight years ago,'' said Bret Gallaway, a spokesman for Morgan
Stanley Dean Witter Co.

But Barry R. Goldsmith, the NASD's executive vice president for
enforcement, said it took time before investors realized their losses and
several years beyond that for investigators to uncover and document the
depth of the problems.

''It's a fraud case and, obviously, before we bring a case like this with
this kind of serious allegations, we want to make sure we have a complete
record,'' Goldsmith said.

Dean Witter, which conducted an extensive internal marketing effort
encouraging its brokers to sell the trusts, pocketed more than $119 million
in underwriting fees and sales concessions, plus $7 million annually in
management fees, the NASD said.

Kemp is president of Dean Witter Distributors and director of sales for
Dean Witter InterCapital. Solari was the regional director of Dean Witter's
Northeast Region. It was unclear if he still worked for the company;
Gallaway said he did not know offhand.

''The campaign presented the Term Trusts to brokers as a ... safe,
high-quality alternative to CDs,'' the NASD said in a release Monday. ''The
campaign failed to mention, or obscured, the significant risks associated
with Term Trusts.''

Term trusts are proprietary bond funds structured to offer dividends
outpacing the low interest rates offered of CDs. When the funds were
offered in 1992 and 1993, much of their portfolio was comprised of risky
mortgage-derivative securities highly sensitive to interest-rate
fluctuations, according to the NASD.

When interest rates rose in 1994, the Term Trusts lost more than 30 percent
of their value and the dividends paid to investors dropped by nearly
one-third. Morgan Stanley no longer offers new Term Trusts, but the shares
issued in the early 1990s continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Gallaway, the spokesman for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, noted that a
federal judge in New York in 1996 dismissed a class action suit brought
against the company for its marketing of term trusts.

Two other cases are pending a class action suit in state court in Orange
County, Calif., and a suit in state court in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The NASD complaint, filed with assistance from the New York attorney
general's office, will be settled before a panel made up of an independent
hearing officer and two members of the securities industry. The panel has
the power to impose penalties including fines, restitution and suspension
or expulsion of members from the industry. (AP Online, November 21, 2000)

FORD MOTOR: Lawyers Seek Judge's Removal in Ignition System Defect Suit
Gearing up for a retrial in the massive class action against Ford Motor
Co., attorneys defending the auto maker have moved to boot Alameda County
Judge Michael Ballachey from the case on grounds that his actions and
statements raise new questions about his impartiality.

But lawyers for Ballachey and the Superior Court say Ford is just judge-
shopping following the outcome of a related bench trial in which Ballachey
blasted the company for concealing an ignition system defect and recalled
the affected cars.

A judge will be selected this week to resolve the question of Ballachey's
alleged bias.

Ballachey was assigned four years ago to preside over both the jury trial,
to determine whether Ford violated the Consumers Legal Remedies Act by
concealing information to consumers, and a bench trial, to resolve whether
Ford's alleged silence was fraudulent and in violation of the Unfair
Competition Law.

The stakes are high because plaintiffs will be asking for hundreds of
millions of dollars in damages in the retrial.

Ford lawyers, in their disqualification motion, say Ballachey's order in
the bench trial reflects his "total acceptance of plaintiffs' contentions
as to Ford's violations of both the CLRA and the UCL."

Ford general counsel Donald Lough and outside lawyers -- from San
Francisco's O'Melveny & Myers, Phoenix's Snell & Wilmer and Denver's
Wheeler Trigg & Kennedy -- pointed to Ballachey's actions during the first
trial and his choice of words in issuing an order in the bench trial.

Specifically, they cited Ballachey's active role in questioning expert
witnesses during the first jury trial. They noted their consistent
objections to the proposed sequence of hearing the bench trial before the

And they took issue with Ballachey's choice of words in his order, which
accused the auto maker of resorting to "word games" and "tortured
interpretations of common language;" found Ford executives "evasive" in
their testimony; and criticized the company's engineers for "stubbornly"
defending their ignition system design.

"The judge also made clear that where there were conflicts in the evidence
or other material questions of credibility he disbelieved all of Ford's
fact and expert witnesses," the document states.

But Ballachey's attorneys, who filed a response on Nov. 9, counter that
judges are entitled to question witnesses. They maintain that the mere fact
that the judge's decision favored the plaintiffs should not be grounds for
disqualification -- citing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1994 ruling in Liteky
v. United States, 114 S.Ct. 1147.

"It is the duty of the court to be objective and fair to the parties before
it," Chief Assistant County Counsel Richard Karlsson wrote. "However, it
would be absurd if this meant a trier-of-fact might be disqualified for
making the very rulings and determinations that the underlying case would

Ballachey's attorneys added that Ford should take its complaints to the
court of appeal.

Alameda County Presiding Judge William McKinstry will determine this week
whether a local judge will decide the disqualification motion. Attorneys
from both sides have said they anticipate the Judicial Council will be
called upon to assign the case out to a judge from another county.

"If a presiding judge determines that it might look bad to resolve an issue
inside, then we will assign out the case," said Lesley Duncan, a
supervising analyst with the administrative office of the court who
oversees such judicial assignments.

In their papers, Ford lawyers cited comments Ballachey made during the
trial, such as when he said a Ford expert's testimony was a "manipulation
of questionable data that might lead a cynic to recall the aphorism about
'lies, damned lies, and statistics. (The Recorder, November 20, 2000)

GIULIANI: Judge Calls NYC AIDS Assistance Program 'Systematic Failure'
Citing a host of federal and state constitutional rights violations in the
provision of housing services to AIDS-infected residents, a federal judge
has issued an injunction forcing New York City to meet its legal obligation
to efficiently run its own program. Henrietta D. et al. v. Giuliani et al.,
No. 95-CV-0641 (SJ) (E.D.N.Y., Sept. 18, 2000); see AIDS LR, April 3, 2000,
P. 5.

The operation of the New York City Division of AIDS Services and Income
Support has been a "systematic failure" -- even by the city's own
statistics, persons with AIDS are not receiving the prompt provision of
housing services mandated by law, said Judge Sterling Johnson Jr.

Those deficiencies, he said, constitute a violation of each plaintiff's
rights under both the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. @ 12132,
and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. @ 794.

"The extensive evidence proffered at trial establishes unequivocally that
defendants are chronically and systematically failing to provide plaintiffs
with meaningful access to critical subsistence benefits and services, with
devastating consequences."

The class action, filed in 1995 on behalf of some 25,000 New York City
residents who have either AIDS or an HIV-symptomatic illness, alleged that
the manner in which housing services are provided hinders the access to the
benefits by the intended recipients. Persons with AIDS are either
physically unable to attend the sometimes rigorous face-to-face meetings
required to obtain benefits, the suit charged, and they place their health
in danger by being forced to sit for hours in germ-infested waiting rooms
with other residents.

In ordering compliance with the regulations, Judge Johnson pointed to the
experiences of plaintiff class members whose benefits were repeatedly
terminated without reason, even after they successfully challenged the
terminations before a state "fair hearing" board. Other AIDS-infected
clients were routinely assigned to vermin and roach-infested housing units
without heat or the refrigerator necessary to store their medications.

Since its 1997 creation, the Division of AIDS Services and Income Support
(DASIS) has amassed a record of "consistent failure" when it comes to
meeting its own time requirements for placing clients in either general or
emergency housing situations, Judge Johnson declared.

He ruled that the New York State Department of Social Services is also
liable for failing to use its authority to force the city into compliance.
The state replied that its provision of a hearing system to adjudicate
benefits disputes fulfilled any duty it had to supervise the city
departments and officials named in the class action.

But, said Judge Johnson, the state provided no evidence that its
fair-hearing process is available to challenge the varied problems that the
plaintiffs face, including DASIS' "lack of responsiveness, its failure to
comply with legal deadlines, and its failure to provide intensive case
management services."

" Desperately ill and impoverished clients should not be forced to pursue
legal recourse each time their rights are violated. The fact that fair
hearings are available in some circumstances is thus no defense to a claim
of systematic and widespread violations of plaintiffs' rights," he added.

The judge said that testimony from the plaintiffs and community service
representatives who work to secure benefits for DASIS clients -- and even
the defendants' own data -- "painted a picture of an agency that routinely
fails to provide access, meaningful or otherwise, to its clients."

While the defendant agencies said a permanent injunction should not be
entered because plaintiffs' attorneys used outdated evidence at trial,
Judge Johnson said he found no merit in the argument. First, he noted, the
"vast majority of the evidence upon which plaintiffs relied was quite
contemporary" and "merely confirmed" the validity of older evidence that
had been presented. Second, he observed that the defendants had offered no
"evidence or data" to suggest that plaintiffs' evidence was somehow
outdated or presently invalid.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollack was assigned by Judge Johnson to
monitor the defendants' compliance with the terms of his order for three

The plaintiff class is represented by Susan J. Kohlmann, Karen B. Dine and
David W. Oakland of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts; Armen H. Merjian
and Virginia G. Schubert of Housing Works Inc.; and Victoria Neilson of the
HIV Law Project.

Representing the city are K. Lesli Logorner, Lisa Brauner, Ruby Bradley,
Paul Marks and Michael D. Hess of the City of New York Law Department. The
state is represented by Assistant Attorneys General Vincent Leong and Anne
H. Bomser. (AIDS Litigation Reporter, October 18, 2000)

INMATES LITIGATION: N.J. Parole Board Agrees to Eliminate Backlog
The N.J. Parole Board settles a federal class action by state inmates by
agreeing to eliminate its backlog, speed up the hearing process and pay a
sanction if it falls short. The agreement calls for injunctive relief only
and does not include monetary damages, but the board will pay $110,000 for
the plaintiffs' attorneys' fees. Class Action Pact Lets N.J. Choose: Hasten
Parole Process or Pay Fine The running tab is $17.50 a day, per inmate

The New Jersey Parole Board has settled a federal class action by state
inmates by agreeing to eliminate its backlog, speed up the parole hearing
process and pay a sanction if it falls short.

The Nov. 10 settlement calls for injunctive relief only and does not
include monetary damages. However, the parole board has agreed to pay
attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs, totaling $110,000.

The changes are expected to eliminate the backlog by mid-January, according
to plaintiffs' attorney Philip Stephen Fuoco, who heads a firm in
Haddonfield. The key provisions of the settlement:

  * Inmates who currently are past their parole eligibility dates will
     be granted panel hearings within the next 10 weeks.

  * Those who become eligible for parole in the future must be given
     hearings by their eligibility dates.

  * The board agrees to create an administrative appeal process for
     inmates who feel they have not been granted hearings on time.

  * The parole board may defer hearings pending psychiatric evaluations
     for no longer than 90 days; the previous deadline was 180 days.

  * If the board fails to meet these timetables, it must pay sanctions
     of $17. 50 per inmate for each day beyond the deadline. The money
     would go to the nonprofit American Friends Service Committee's
     Prisoners Resource Center.

  * The board agrees to allocate an additional $100,000 in its fiscal
     2001 budget toward improvements to aid in compliance.

The settlement includes a nonretaliation clause as added security for
inmates who feared that their participation in the suit could lead to

The parole board will have up to two years to fully comply with the
settlement, which will remain in effect for another 18 months after the
board has complied.

The agreement is expected to eliminate the parole board backlog, which had
kept inmates in limbo over their release dates, says plaintiffs' attorney
Joseph Osefchen, an associate with the Fuoco firm.

The suit, Hawker v. Consovoy, No. 00-CV-2106 (JAP), filed in May in
response to numerous complaints by inmates about parole board procedures,
alleged that the board's practices violated several provisions of N.J.S.A.
30:4-123, such as failing to file a pre-parole report on inmates within 120
days of their eligibility dates. The suit also charged that delays in
granting parole panel hearings to eligible inmates violates the Fourteenth
Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983.

In some cases, prisoners waited months past their parole hearing dates for
the board to decide whether they could be released and correspondence to
the board went unanswered, Osefchen says.

The board agreed, in the settlement, to send written acknowledgments of the
letters it receives regarding parole status.

David Ruhnke, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of
New Jersey, says the procedural changes are overdue because inmates have
been complaining about the unreasonable delays for years. "These inmates
... weren't asking for anything special," Ruhnke says. "They were just
asking the parole board to do its job."

However, Ruhnke fears that the monetary sanctions may not be enough to keep
the board from not fulfilling some of its obligations under the agreement.
Runhke says he would support steeper financial penalties.

Chuck Davis, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, while not
commenting on the settlement provisions, says it was a reasonable
compromise in addressing backlog.

Fuoco wrote in an open letter to the inmates that he felt the agreement was
a win for them. "Never before has the state even admitted to a problem in
the parole system, let alone agreed to the comprehensive, systematic relief
we have obtained," Fuoco wrote.

Former Parole Board Chairman Andrew Consovoy acknowledged a backlog of 200
cases as of February, and had said it had been as high as 1,000 a year
before that. But the defense lawyers' association at that time estimated
the backlog to be around 2,400.

Consovoy resigned in July amid a probe by FBI and state investigators into
alleged organized crime connections. (New Jersey Law Journal, November 20,

LYME SHOTS: Fed Health Authorities Investigate about Reactions
Federal health authorities are investigating whether some people who
received the vaccine against Lyme disease later developed severe cases of
arthritis and even Lyme disease itself as a result.

The Food and Drug Administration has received reports of such problems,
mainly from doctors and researchers in the Northeast. The vaccine, made by
SmithKline Beecham Biologicals, a subsidiary of the British pharmaceutical
giant SmithKline Beecham, was approved by the drug agency two years ago,
and about 440,000 Americans have received it. SmithKline Beecham defends it
as safe.

Dr. Susan S. Ellenberg, director of biostatistics and epidemiology at the
F.D.A., said the agency, working with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, would investigate the reports "to find out what the cases
really are, to get more information." Dr. Ellenberg and Dr. Walter A.
Orenstein, assistant surgeon general and director of the centers' national
immunization program, said it remained to be determined whether the vaccine
was the cause of the reported illnesses.

"We have a vaccine that provides considerable, proven benefit -- about 80
percent protection against Lyme disease -- and only theoretical risk with
respect to arthritis," Dr. Orenstein said.

As a first step, the investigators will seek to determine whether, over
all, vaccine recipients report arthritis or Lyme disease more often than
people who have not received the vaccine. Until that initial step is taken,
there is no evidence that the vaccine causes problems.

There is no way to determine how many people believe they have developed
health problems caused by the vaccine. But in interviews, more than a dozen
doctors in areas where Lyme disease is common say they have treated 170
people with arthritis and Lyme disease that they attribute to the vaccine.

According to SmithKline Beecham, the vaccine was tested in controlled,
double-blind clinical trials involving 10,936 people; after two years,
those who were vaccinated were not reported to have suffered any more
illnesses than those who were not.

But when the drug agency's vaccine advisory committee recommended that the
vaccine be approved for marketing, several members expressed concern that
the vaccine could set off an autoimmune condition that, in turn, would
result in arthritis. Some also said they feared it could cause flare-ups of
Lyme disease among people previously infected with the Lyme bacteria,
Borrelia bergdorferi.

Ultimately, in May 1998, the advisory committee endorsed the vaccine
unanimously, concluding that the concerns were only theoretical and that
data gathered in the clinical trials showed that the vaccine was safe.
Carmel Hogan, a spokeswoman for the company, said of the vaccine: "Lymerix
is the only clinically proven vaccine to protect against Lyme disease and
both the F.D.A. advisory committee and the F.D.A. Office of Vaccines have
determined that the vaccine is safe."

Until now, the government was actively investigating illnesses that broke
out after vaccination only if they were officially classified as serious --
defined as life-threatening, persistent and long-term or requiring
hospitalization. Lyme disease and arthritis were not generally regarded as
meeting those criteria.

Researchers from both the drug agency and the disease-control centers will
now investigate all cases of arthritis and all symptoms of Lyme disease
reported to have developed after a patient has been vaccinated, Dr.
Ellenberg said. The cases under investigation are concentrated in seven
states: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York,
Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

Dr. Orenstein likened the new investigations to those begun in the fall of
1998 after the licensing of the rotavirus vaccine against childhood
gastroenteritis. Within six months, doctors reported 15 cases of intestinal
blockages among vaccinated infants; though the number of cases was small,
the rate was so much higher than normal that the drug and disease-control
agencies declared a moratorium on the vaccine's use while the investigation
continued. In October 1999, 98 cases cases had been reported and the
manufacturer, American Home Products of Madison, N.J., withdrew the vaccine
from the market, Dr. Orenstein said.

Some doctors say the drug agency should never have approved the Lyme
vaccine or should have responded more quickly to adverse reports. Dr.
Andrea Gaito, a New Jersey rheumatologist and president of the
International Lyme and Associated Disorders Society, said she had told the
agency that 21 patients developed severe arthritis soon after being given
the vaccine by other doctors.

Dr. Gaito, who does not give the vaccine, said she believed that the
vaccine caused arthritis and Lyme disease itself but that the problems were
not always linked to it because the vaccine took effect only after three
immunization shots given over the course of a year. "The F.D.A. had just
better withdraw this vaccine now," Dr. Gaito said.

Dr. Charlene C. Demarco of Egg Harbor, N.J., an internist and family
doctor, said 50 of her patients had developed autoimmune arthritis after
receiving Lyme vaccine from other doctors and 30 others appeared to have
flare-ups of previous Lyme infections.

Dr. Demarco said the agency had not moved quickly enough after initial
reports of adverse effects.

Dr. Ellenberg conceded that the drug agency had at times acted too slowly.
"We wish that some of these cases had been brought to our attention
sooner," she said. "They should have been given a higher priority." She
said "we have made that clear" to the unit that takes in the reports and
records the medical data.

Still, other doctors and clinicians challenged the suggestion that the 170
people who developed problems suffered them because of the vaccine. "I
would say, 'Show me the data,' " said Dr. Gregory A. Poland, chief of
vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Even though the vaccine advisory committee recommended approval of Lymerix,
the panel's chairwoman, Dr. Patricia L. Ferrieri of the University of
Minnesota Medical School, said it had taken the action with unusual
"ambivalence" because of concerns about the possibility of severe

Dr. Allen C. Steere, who directed SmithKline Beecham's trials of the
vaccine, told the committee that it was hypothetically possible that the
vaccine could set off an autoimmune reaction in which the body's immune
system attacks its own tissue, and that this could cause
treatment-resistant arthritis.

Dr. Steere had expressed the concern as early as 1995, shortly after the
start of the clinical trials, when he said that some patients were already
developing joint pain after getting the vaccine.

"A small percentage of patients have developed joint pain and arthritis
following vaccination," Dr. Steere said in a letter to the National
Institutes of Health.

As far back as 1989, Dr. Steere and research colleagues found that people
with what they called prolonged, treatment-resistant Lyme arthritis often
carried a gene variant called HLA-DR4. The suspicion was that among those
people, some chemical component in their joint tissue resembled a chemical
in the invading Borrelia bergdorferi. This, it was thought, could cause the
immune system to attack a person's own tissue along with the foreign

In July 1998, two months after Dr. Steere recommended the vaccine's
approval, he and colleagues reported in the journal Science that they
believed they had found the guilty molecular twins: a piece of protein on
the outer surface of the Lyme bacteria was strikingly similar, they said,
to a natural human protein in blood and other cells. This raised the
theoretical possibility that when an infected tick bites a human, the
person's immune system T-cells, the soldiers on the front line of the
body's defense against disease, could destroy not only the foreign invader
but also some of the body's own protein.

Some 60 patients who believe they were made ill by the Lyme vaccine are
suing SmithKline Beecham for monetary damages, said Stephen A. Sheller, a
lawyer with Sheller, Ludwig & Badey, of Philadelphia, which is handling the
suits. And class-action suits have been filed by the firm in New York, New
Jersey and Pennsylvania seeking to require the company to warn doctors and
patients that it poses possible risks for those who are genetically
predisposed to autoimmune arthritis or who have been previously infected
with Lyme bacteria. (The New York Times, November 21, 2000)

MARIJUANA USE: Supreme Court May Review Medical Use
A case that tests the federal prohibition on the sale of marijuana for
medical use goes before the Supreme Court at its private conference on Nov.

The justices are expected to discuss whether to add the case, United States
Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Jeffrey Jones, No. 00-151, to the
court's docket for argument and decision next year. It's one of dozens of
cases the court will consider. Action on these cases will be announced Nov.
27 or later.

Among the cases expected to be discussed Nov. 22, the following have been
selected by Washington, D.C., practitioner Thomas Goldstein as the ones
with the best chance of being granted review. Goldstein does not otherwise
participate in the preparation of the column.

Medical Marijuana. A long-running conflict between Californians and the
federal government over the medical use of marijuana is finally making its
way to the Supreme Court, in the case of U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Cooperative and Jeffrey Jones, No. 00-151.

State voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, which allows seriously ill
patients to grow and use marijuana to relieve pain.

The Clinton administration went to court to halt distribution of marijuana
in the state through "buyers' clubs," citing federal drug laws that bar
marijuana sales. The government also claimed that marijuana has no accepted
medical uses.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, brother of Justice Stephen Breyer,
agreed with the government in 1998 and ordered a halt to marijuana
distribution in the state. But the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
reversed, ruling that " medical necessity" could trump the federal drug

Based on the new ruling, Breyer issued an order authorizing legal
distribution of marijuana through buyers' clubs. The Clinton administration
appealed again, and the Supreme Court in August issued an emergency order
blocking implementation of Breyer's order. The court ruled 7-1, with
Justice John Paul Stevens dissenting and Breyer recusing.

In the government's petition to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Seth
Waxman says the Ninth Circuit decision "undermines the enforcement of the
federal drug laws" and would encourage advocates of other unapproved drugs
and devices to cite "medical necessity" as a defense.

Reynolds Metal v. Ellis, No. 99-1787. Federal jurisdiction over disputes
involving employee benefit plans under ERISA.

Rodriguez v. Reno, No. 99-2085. Habeas corpus rights in deportation

United Steelworkers v. Herman, No. 00-129. Eligibility requirements for
union officers.

Sinkfield v. Kelley, No. 00-132. Standing in racial gerrymandering cases.

Daley v. Club Misty Inc., No. 00-270. Whether a referendum to revoke a
liquor license violates due process for the owner.

United States v. United Foods Inc., No. 00-276. Whether compelled
advertising for the mushroom industry violates free speech rights of
growers who dissent. (Note: Goldstein is one of the lawyers representing
United Foods. )

McQueen v. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control,
No. 00-285. Regulatory taking of unused coastal property.

Tankleff v. Senkowski, No. 00-327. Whether a confession given to police
after a belated Miranda warning is tainted by the earlier unconstitutional

Northwest Airlines Inc. v. Duncan, No. 00-404. Whether the federal Airline
Deregulation Act pre-empts a class action by flight attendants over
exposure to secondhand smoke.

Board of Education of Central Community Unit School District 301 v.
Scionti, No. 00-406. Due process rights of a student expelled from high

Kasaks v. Novak, No. 00-432. Pleading requirements under the Private
Securities Litigation Reform Act.

NextWave Personal Communications Inc. v. FCC, No. 00-447. Enforcement of
Bankruptcy Code against federal agency.

Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley, No. 00-454. Whether the Navajo Nation may
impose a hotel occupancy tax on non-Indian guests of a hotel owned by non-
Indians on land within reservation.

Florida v. Perkins, No. 00-462. Whether a defendant's identity can be
suppressed at trial as the fruit of an illegal search.

Hanks v. Finfrock, No. 00-483. Requirements for certificate of
appealability under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

Novello v. Robbins, No. 00-489. Attribution of institutionalized spouse's
Social Security income to other spouse under Medicaid.

Tony Mauro is Supreme Court correspondent for American Lawyer Media and The
Recorder's Washington, D.C., affiliate Legal Times. His e-mail address is
tmauro@legaltimes.com. (The Recorder, November 20, 2000)

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Military Voters Seek Late Vote Damages
Attorneys representing several hundred active-duty military troops who
unsuccessfully tried to vote in the presidential election plan to file a
suit with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting late voting privileges for the
troops or exemption from federal income taxes during the next four years.

"It's almost an outrageous request," said Sean Campbell of Campbell &
Jones, the San Antonio firm drafting the class-action suit. "But it's also
equally outrageous that we're the stronghold of democracy in the world and
we should find ourselves in this position."

Clients include a Fort Hood officer and three Army recruits in basic
training at Fort Lee, Va. They all claim they were denied the right to vote
in the Nov. 7 contest. They requested mail-in ballots or tried to vote in
person, but were denied, attorneys allege.

Defense Secretary William Cohen and the U.S. Postal Service will be among
the primary defendants in the suit, attorney Philip E. Jones said in
Tuesday's editions of the San Antonio Express-News.

The firm decided Monday night to file it in the Supreme Court, where
attorneys hope it will receive rapid consideration because of the unusual
nature of the pleading.

If voting privileges are denied, the suit will seek damages based on the
amount of income tax a typical taxpayer would owe the Internal Revenue
Service during the next presidential term, which starts Jan. 20.

The idea is to give punitive damages to troops "who have been taxed without
representation," Jones said.

Army 2nd Lt. Samara Ballard, 23, of Redding, Calif., said she requested an
absentee ballot Oct. 17 but got it four days after the election. She said a
sister, Army Capt. Aryn Ballard in Fort Myer, Va., had the same problem and
that both of them have complained to Congress.

Samara Ballard says voting for president is not something she takes

"It's difficult for me because it's not only choosing the president of the
United States, but it's my boss, my commander in chief," said Samara
Ballard, who is posted at Fort Hood in Killeen. "And I feel that I really
would like to be able to have a say in who I have as a leader."

Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood declined comment on the expected
suit and said he was unfamiliar with the recruits' claims.

But, Flood said it's up to those in the field to make arrangements to vote,
and he stressed that while "very isolated" incidents may have occurred,
military voting went well. (The Associated Press State & Local Wire,
November 21, 2000)

PRI AUTOMATION: Milberg Weiss Files Securities Suit in Massachusetts
The law firm of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP announces that a
class action lawsuit was filed on November 20, 2000, on behalf of
purchasers of the securities of PRI Automation, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRIA) between
January 27, 2000 and September 11, 2000 inclusive (the "Class Period"). A
copy of the complaint filed in this action is available from the Court, or
can be viewed on Milberg Weiss' website at: http://www.milberg.com/pria/

The action, numbered 00-12398, is pending in the United States District
Court, District of Massachusetts against defendants PRI, Amram Rasiel,
Mitchell G. Tyson, and Mordechai Wiesler. The Honorable Robert E. Keeton is
the Judge presiding over the case.

The complaint alleges that PRI promoted itself as a leading supplier of
factory automation systems for semiconductor manufacturers. Throughout the
Class Period, defendants represented that the Company was ramping up
production of its state-of-the-art Turbostocker XT. Defendants also
repeatedly claimed that PRI was "well positioned" to meet the surging
demand for factory automation systems and that PRI had an edge over its
competitors due to its "technological leadership" and "specialized
manufacturing skills." The complaint alleges that, as result of these
misrepresentations, PRI's share price increased, from $75.43 at the
commencement of the Class Period to a Class Period high closing price of
$89.56 on March 9, 2000. Company insiders took advantage of the artificial
inflation of the Company's stock price; between March 1 to March 15, 2000,
when as a result of defendants' misrepresentations, PRI stock was trading
at or near the Class Period high, insiders sold 36,600 PRI shares for
proceeds of $ 3,214,800. In addition, prior to the disclosure of the
adverse facts, PRI completed a public offering of 1,705,000 shares netting
proceeds of approximately $85.1 million for the Company and$18.5 million
PRI insiders.

The complaint alleges that, unbeknownst to investors, PRI was experiencing
significant and material manufacturing problems and that therefore, PRI was
not "well positioned" to take advantage of the surging demand for
automation systems. The truth emerged on September 11, 2000 when, after the
close of trading, defendants disclosed in a conference call with analysts,
and an announcement over the PR Newswire, that it was having
"manufacturability, capacity and supply chain problems" in its Factory
Systems Division relating to the new Turbostocker XT, which had been
scheduled to transition into high volume production during the quarter.
Defendants warned that, as a result of these problems, they expected PRI's
net income for the quarter to be breakeven, not counting one-time special
charges, down from net income of $9.8 million, or $0.38 per share in the
third quarter.

On news of PRI's earnings warning, the Company's shares fell 39% in a
single day, from a closing price of $42.68 on September 11, 2000 to a
closing price of $25.87 on September 12, 2000, making PRI one the day's
five biggest NASDAQ losers.

Contact: Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP Steven G. Schulman or
Samuel H. Rudman Phone number: (800) 320-5081 Email: priacase@milbergNY.com
Website: http://www.milberg.com

TELECTRONICS PACING: Ohio Ct OKs Revised Settlement for Accufix Suit
On July 19, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
reversed the approval of a class action settlement in the Telectronics
Pacing Systems, Inc. Accufix Atrial "J" Leads Products Liability
Litigation. After subsequent negotiations, the parties to the litigation
have reached a new class action settlement, which was preliminarily
approved on November 20, 2000, by the United States District Court for the
Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, at Cincinnati.

The class action and settlement covers all United States residents or
citizens who have had Accufix Atrial "J" Pacemaker Leads, Model Numbers
330-801 and 329-701, placed in their bodies, or may have any existing or
future claims against the Accufix Research Institute, Inc., TPLC Holdings,
Inc., and all affiliates, including Nucleus Limited and Pacific Dunlop
Limited, relating to the Accufix Atrial "J" Pacemaker Leads, Model Numbers
329-701 and 330-801. Plaintiffs and Class Counsel have determined that the
proposed settlement and equitable distribution of settlement funds to class
members would be fair, adequate and reasonable, and in the best interests
of the class members.

Class members have the right to opt-out, or exclude themselves, from the
terms of the settlement. Any class member wishing to opt-out must inform
the Court, in writing, of his or her intention to opt-out by Tuesday,
January 16, 2001. A class member who opts-out of the settlement is excluded
from all benefits of the Settlement, and may not receive any payments
pursuant to the terms of the settlement. Class members who do not opt-out
of the settlement are bound by the terms of the settlement, and will not be
able to pursue any claims related to their Accufix Atrial "J" Pacemaker
Leads, Model Numbers 329-701 and 330-801, and their ability to recover will
be limited to the terms of the settlement.

Members of the Class defined above should contact the Plaintiffs' Steering
Committee for a copy of the notice of the class action and settlement and
for any information about the litigation. They should write to the address

Plaintiffs' Steering Committee In Re Telectronics Litigation, 1513 Fourth
and Vine Tower, 5 West Fourth Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Contact: Richard S. Wayne, Esq. of Strauss & Troy, 800-669-9341

TOBACCO LITIGATION: Smoker Back in Court in Trial against Imperial
A former tobacco executive was back in court yesterday for the start of his
David-and-Goliath trial against cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco that
alleges mild cigarettes are deceptively dangerous.

Joseph Battaglia, 59, alleges Imperial misled the public and failed to warn
smokers about the risks of so-called mild cigarettes.

Battaglia filed his suit in small claims court three years ago because
proceedings there are generally thought to be quick and inexpensive.

But his lawyer suggested that because he's dealing with a defendant with
plenty of time and money to devote to the case, there have been ongoing
delays. "Joe can't afford to sue big tobacco, nobody can," said Douglas
Lennox, a lawyer with Toronto's Rochon Geneva who stepped in to represent
Battaglia free of charge after the case had dragged on for two years.

Battaglia is seeking $ 6,000 in damages, the maximum allowable in small
claims court. He also wants Imperial to be honest about the risk of its
product and "devote considerable resources to developing safer cigarettes."

Battaglia has smoked since he was 16, when he started working for Rothmans.
He switched from regular to mild cigarettes in 1994. Since filing his claim
three years ago, he has been diagnosed with heart disease.

"It's what I was afraid would happen to me when I (filed the claim)," said
Battaglia, who has tried to quit smoking many times but still smokes about
a pack of Matinee Extra Mild a day.

"And I'm saying that (Imperial) contributed to it."

Neil Collishaw, research director for Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada,
testified two factors make Imperial's Matinee Extra Mild cigarette's
deceivingly dangerous.

The package claims Battaglia's cigarette of choice contains 0.4 milligrams
of nicotine, and lab tests confirm this amount. But the suit alleges the
amount a smoker actually gets is six times higher than that.

Collishaw testified smokers of mild cigarettes often inhale more deeply and
more often than smokers of regular cigarettes, thus exposing themselves to
more nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide.

The other way in which mild cigarettes "cheat" smoke-analysing machines,
says Collishaw, is through their ventilation holes.

When being tested in a lab, the microscopic holes in a cigarette's filter
allow more fresh air to flow through the cigarette.

But when a smoker holds the cigarette in his or her hand, the holes are
usually covered up, meaning less fresh air goes into the smoker's lungs.

As the trial continues this week, Imperial's witnesses, including a former
Imperial chief executive officer and a former assistant deputy health
minister from Health Canada, will have their chance to refute these claims.

The case represents only the second time that a Canadian tobacco company
has gone to trial in a product-liability case.

Rob Cunningham, a lawyer and senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer
Society, says four class-action lawsuits are filed against the tobacco
industry in Canada.

Battaglia said he is not in the battle for the money -- he's just glad to
be getting his day in court.

"I feel very fortunate to be here today to make a difference for all the
people who can't be here." (The London Free Press, November 21, 2000)

ZIMBABWE POLICE: Courts Duel Over Squatter Evictions
Zimbabwe's controversial land reforms sank deeper into legal confusion
Tuesday, after a lower court judge told police to ignore a Supreme Court
order to evict squatters from white-owned farms.

High Court judge Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled Monday that police were at least
temporarily not to evict squatters who have occupied more than 1,600 farms
here since February, contradicting a Supreme Court ruling 10 days before.

The judge's decision confounded legal experts here, who said a High Court
does not have the power to overrule a Supreme Court order.

"Normally that does not happen. It was extraordinary in this circumstance,"
said Marcus Chiume, the lawyer who represented the attorney general's
office in the case. Chiume said he did not know about the latest order
until after it was issued. "The latest court order appears to have achieved
the objective of heightening the state of confusion. The police now have to
contend with dealing with two directly contradictory orders," said Malcolm
Vowles, deputy director of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU).

The CFU, which represents 4,500 mostly white farmers, brought the case to
the Supreme Court in a bid to end the politically-charged and often violent
squatter movement. Vowles said the CFU would return to the Supreme Court to
challenge the lower court's order.

The squatters have been led by self-styled veterans of the 1970s liberation
war, with the government's open support.

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court is still deliberating on a complete decision to
the CFU's legal challenge to the government's latest land reform scheme.
But ahead of a final decision, the nation's top court issued a consent
order on November 10, declaring that the government's "fast track" land
reform scheme was unconstitutional, and ordering police to evict the

Judge Chidyausiku however said the police had to wait until a final ruling
on the complete case, which is expected in a few weeks. His ruling came
after a black peasant farmer filed a class-action suit on behalf of all
farmers on occupied land.

The farmer, Samson Mhuriro, was legally resettled on formerly white-owned
farmland in 1998, according to the state-run Herald newspaper. Legal
experts said it was unclear if he had any standing in the case since he was
not affected by the Supreme Court order.

Under the "fast track" land reform scheme, land was to be taken from white
farmers and resettled with landless blacks before the beginning of the
rainy season earlier this month. Farmers say they would support a more
orderly land reform scheme, and say the government has targetted them and
their black laborers because they were believed to support the year-old
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The MDC became the ruling party's first real opposition in 20 years in the
June elections, when it won nearly half of contested parliamentary seats.
Vowles said the CFU would return to the Supreme Court to challenge the
lower court's order. (Agence France Presse, November 21, 2000)


S U B S C R I P T I O N  I N F O R M A T I O N

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