‘Here Is Your Package of Medical Waste’

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – An Albuquerque family who say they found a stinking cardboard box leaking blood and medical fluids on their doorstep sued UPS, the dental office that sent the box out for disposal and the medical disposal company it was supposed to go to.     The Texas Denture Clinic sent a box containing a plastic bag of “sputum, blood, contaminated dental gauze and tubing” to Oncore Technology, a medical waste treatment facility, which refused it, according to the Nov. 4 lawsuit in Federal Court.     For some reason, the package was resent, again via UPS, to a house in Albuquerque where Otley Smith Jr., the son of Oncore’s president Otley Smith Sr., once lived. But Natalie Roberts, Martin Maestas and their three children live there now.     Roberts, who was pregnant at the time, was cooking dinner when the package arrived. Her children went out to the porch to retrieve it, and brought in the stinking box, its cardboard soaked with fluids.     After having the children wash up and putting the box back outside, where it immediately attracted flies, the parents tracked down why the package had been delivered to them and where it was intended to go. They say the whole family was endangered and traumatized by contact with the bloody box, and all have undergone medical testing, which will continue, to assure that they haven’t contracted a disease.     None of the parties in the lawsuit could be reached for comment after business hours Thursday.     The family seeks punitive damages for negligence and court costs.     They are represented by James Lyle.

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Cleared of Wife’s Murder, Cop Sues Sheriff

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – It took six years for Albuquerque police Officer Levi Chavez to clear himself of charges of murdering his wife, and now he’s sued the Sheriff’s Office and the officer who investigated him.     Chavez found his estranged wife Tera dead of a gunshot wound in the living room of their home in 2007. The case made national news when Officer Chavez’s sexual history became known, including affairs with fellow police officers, and that he spent the night before his wife was killed with his current girlfriend. By the time the case ended, the Albuquerque was under federal, and national, scrutiny for its history of civil rights violations.     The coroner initially called it a suicide because of the proximity of Chavez’s police-issued Glock pistol to the body. But Chavez was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.     In his July 15 federal lawsuit, he claims the Valencia County Sheriff’s Department and Det. Aaron Jones used lies, intimidation and extortion of witnesses to build the case against him.     Despite the evidence of suicide, Chavez claims, “Jones tirelessly engaged in his witch hunt for a corrupt police officer … in controversion of all of the evidence.”     Among other things, he claims that Jones “corrupt[ed] the process of the medical investigator’s investigation and findings; corrupt[ed] the process of the insurance fraud investigator’s investigation and findings” and fabricated evidence that he had just bought a life insurance policy on his wife.     Even after the Sheriff’s Office declared publicly that it was dropping the investigation, Jones continued to lie to the press, to the medical examiner and to insurance investigators, Chavez claims.     The day after a jury acquitted him, The Associated Press reported that Chavez acknowledged he had ignored 176 calls from his wife the day before he found her dead.     He seeks punitive damages for defamation, tortious interference, and constitutional violations.     He is represented by Hans William Voss of Albuquerque.     None of the parties were immediately available for comment Thursday.

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Fired for Not Looking Upbeat

     LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CN) – A man with Bell’s palsy sued a behavioral health center, claiming it fired him because his medical condition “would prevent him from being ‘upbeat and positive.’”     Bell’s palsy, or idiopathic facial paralysis, causes muscle weakness on one side of the face, which can droop. David Linares says he was hired as clinical director for Gila Behavioral Health Services without a face-to-face meeting.     When he met with defendant company owners John Dunne and Patricia Dahlin, he says, they “expressed their discomfort with his medical condition and the fact that they did not want him working with children, which is the population GBHS serves. They claimed his medical condition would prevent him from being ‘upbeat and positive.’”     He was “indefinitely suspended” after his first week on the job, and not even paid for that week, Linares says.     He sued the company and its owners in Dona Ana Court for unpaid wages and statutory and punitive damages for human rights violations, disability discrimination, conversion of unpaid wages, and costs.     He is represented by Hope Eckert of Albuquerque.

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Navajo Fight School District Over Jurisdiction

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – The Navajo Nation has no authority over employment policy in a state school district partly on tribal land, a New Mexico school district claims in court.     Gallup McKinley County Schools countersued a former principal along with members and former members of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court in Federal Court.     Lead defendant Henry Henderson was principal of Navajo Pine High School for one year, in 2008-09. His contract was not renewed. He also resigned, according to the school district’s July 10 complaint.     Henderson, a Navajo, made several claims against the district, with the Office of Navajo Labor Relations, the Navajo Nation Labor Commission, and finally with the Navajo Nation Supreme Court. Among other things, he cited the Navajo Preference in Employment Act.     Conflicting rulings, often favoring the school district, led up to oral arguments in June 2014, in which the school district “reasserted its position that the Navajo Nation lacked jurisdiction over the action and over plaintiff.”     Some of the district’s schools are on reservation land. Some are in Gallup.     The Navajo Supreme Court ruled in May this year that the Navajo Nation does indeed have jurisdiction over schools on tribal land, at least in this case, where it claims the school district waived jurisdiction by appearing in tribal court to argue the case.     In the new complaint, the school district says the Navajo Nation’s courts and agencies have no jurisdiction over a school district which is carrying out its state constitutional mandate to provide a public education for all New Mexico citizens.     Gallup McKinley County Schools seeks declaratory judgment and wants the Nation enjoined from further attempts to adjudicate employment claims against the district, and court costs.     It is represented by Andrew Sanchez with Cuddy & McCarthy in Albuquerque.     Representatives for the Navajo and the school district did not immediately respond to requests for comment.     Lawsuits between tribes and state agencies often turn on jurisdictional issues, as the federal government has primary jurisdiction in Indian affairs.

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Is a Medical Marijuana|License a Public Record?

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – A freelance reporter sued New Mexico, challenging a regulation that conceals the names and addresses of state license-holders for medical marijuana.     Under New Mexico Department of Health regulations the names, addresses and phone numbers of license-holders and applicants are confidential, except for certain Department of Health employees, state and local regulators and law enforcement.     Peter St. Cyr and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government challenged that rule, saying a state agency cannot exempt itself from that state’s Inspection of Public Records Act “by administrative fiat.” They sued the state Department of Health on July 9 in Bernalillo Court     When the plaintiffs requested a list of all medical marijuana producer and distributor licenses issued since 2007, the Department of Health cited confidentiality rules, and added that some licenses are for patient’s “personal production” and use.     The state eventually provided copies of applications, with names and contact information redacted, and without information about pending licenses.     The plaintiffs claim they are entitled to see the records thanks to the Inspection of Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the First Amendment.     They seek declaratory judgment, invalidation of the confidentiality rule except for personal production licenses and applicants, and costs and damages for IPRA violations.     They are represented by Charles Purcell, with Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb.     Neither side was available for comment after business hours Monday.

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Oklahoma Sets Execution Dates for Three Men

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma reset executions for three men, with permission from the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected claims that killing them with a new combination of lethal drugs constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.     Richard Eugene Glossip, lead plaintiff in Glossip v. Gross , will die first, on Sept. 16.     The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday also set execution dates of Oct. 7 for Robert Cole Jr. and Oct. 28 for John Marion Grant.     The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 29 that killing the men with three drugs, beginning with the sedative midazolam, will not violate the Eighth Amendment.     Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt immediately asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for the death warrants.     Executions beginning with midazolam were put on hold after Oklahoma used it for the first time on Clayton Lockett, who took 43 minutes to die of a heart attack, convulsing and gasping for breath, on April 29, 2014. Lockett spoke and tried to rise from the execution table after he had been declared unconscious.     Glossip, Cole, Grant and Charles Warner then sued Oklahoma, which executed Warner in January this year.     The Oklahoma District Court ruled, and the 10th Circuit agreed, that “the prisoners failed to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that presented a substantially less severe risk of pain,” the Supreme Court wrote in Glossip. Those courts also agreed that “the prisoners failed to establish a likelihood that the use of midazolam created a demonstrated risk of severe pain.”     After capital punishment opponents succeeded in persuading large drug companies to stop supplying barbiturates for executions, states turned to smaller, compounding pharmacies to supply them with different drugs.     Oklahoma killed Lockett, and will kill the three men, with midazolam to make them unconscious, followed by a paralytic, then potassium chloride to stop their hearts.     Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court. Justices Scalia and Thomas both wrote concurring opinions, Scalia joining with Thomas and Thomas joining with Scalia.     Justice Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Sotomayor wrote in dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan.     Glossip, a hotel manager, was convicted of paying a handyman to beat their boss to death with a baseball bat in 1997. The handyman confessed and was spared the death penalty for testifying against Glossip, who maintains to this day that he is innocent.     Cole in 2002 was convicted of killing his 9-month-old daughter because her crying annoyed him as he played video games.     Grant was convicted of stabbing a fellow inmate to death in 1998. Grant was in the 18th year of a sentence for armed robbery.

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Murder Victim’s Mom|Seeks Help From GEICO

     RIO ARRIBA, N.M. (CN) – The mother of a man who was kidnapped and murdered in his own pickup truck sued GEICO for uninsured motorist benefits, because the kidnappers didn’t have auto insurance.     Steven Duran was abducted by Toby Gonzales and Rudy Salazar on Feb. 8, 2010. They drove him to a remote area in his own pickup, then beat and strangled him to death and burned his body in the truck. He was 26.     In her July 6 lawsuit in Rio Arriba County Court, his mother Mary Ann Duran sued the two men and GEICO, which rejected her underinsured/uninsured motorist claim.     The murder case was settled in court after years of trials, appeals and bizarre twists. After being arrested, Salazar agreed to testify against Gonzales, but changed his mind during trial.     At one point, Gonzales was mistakenly released from jail and was at large for three days.     Salazar was convicted of second-degree murder in 2011 and sentenced to 25 years in state prison.     Gonzales was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping and tampering with evidence, but the jury hung on a second-degree murder charge. A Rio Arriba County judge sentenced him to 33 years in prison.     Those convictions were appealed on claims of inadmissible evidence, and Gonzales pleaded guilty to accessory to murder, cutting a deal so that it would not involve more prison time.     Trial testimony indicated that the three men had been drinking and using cocaine when they fought. Duran’s body was found in his burned pickup truck in an arroyo three days after he was murdered.     His mother seeks insurance benefits from GEICO, and punitive damages for bad faith and breach of contract, and benefits for wrongful death from the murderers.     She is represented by David Idinopoulos, with Elias Law, of Albuquerque.     None of the parties could be reached for comment after business hours Tuesday.

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Homeowners Worry About Access Via Rez

     ALBUQUERQUE (CN) – A landowners group sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs, claiming it’s trying to deny them access to their property on roads that cross tribal land, a right they claim has existed for 160 years.     Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land, Water and Rights sued the B.I.A. and the Department of the Interior on Tuesday in Federal Court, demanding access to six roads north of Santa Fe.     The landowners claim that rights-of-way across tribal lands were established in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, after the Mexican-American War, and re-established in cases throughout the next century and a half.     They claim the roads in question predate 1900, as state or county roads, and that the B.I.A. is revoking the easements without providing any alternative access.     The roads at issue – County Roads 84, 84A, 84B, 84C, 84D and Sandy Way – are between Santa Fe and Espanola, in an area with breathtaking views and high property values. Many homes on 84 and Sandy Way are listed in the $500,000 range. The area is dotted with small reservations known as pueblos.     Due to the peculiar nature of Native American law, such rights of way issues are not unusual in the West.     Virtually all tribes were thrown off their land at one time, then sometimes allowed to return. On occasions, the federal government carved out islands of land inside a reservation for the Anglo settlers who had moved there. Sometimes the rights of way were not legally established, but the tribe allowed the Anglos to stay put. The Anglos then, whether they “owned” the land or not, depended upon tribal goodwill to maintain access.     The federal government’s exclusive right to deal with the tribes – bypassing the states – often complicated roads issues.     Neither side in this case immediately responded to requests for comment.     The landowners claim the B.I.A. violated their constitutional right to equal protection, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Administrative Procedure Act.     They seek declaratory judgment and costs.     They are represented by A. Blair Dunn, with WARBA LLP, in Albuquerque.          (Editor’s note: After this story had been posted for a day, the Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land, Water and Rights complained of “errors and omissions” in it.      (Among other things, the group denied, as Courthouse News reported, that “The area is dotted with small reservations known as pueblos.”     (“Actually, no, the area is dominated by large Spanish land grants that were legally titled to local tribes,” the group wrote. “The entire community in question is surrounded by a land grant issued by the Spanish to the San Ildefonso Indians during the colonization of New Mexico in the 16th-19th centuries.” The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed the land rights under the new government, the United States, and “Native property holders enjoyed the same property rights as all other Spanish/Mexican land grantees,” according to the NMML.     (The group denies that New Mexico tribes were ever “thrown off their land” or that the U.S. government ever “carve[d] out islands of land inside a reservation for the Anglo settlers.” It says there was no need for rights-of-way at the time since roads were “free for all to use” under Spanish and Mexican law.     (The group says that “confirmed land grant owners have owned these lands since the 18th century and it is their descendants that now live in El Rancho. They have never ‘depended upon tribal goodwill’ for access to these properties.      (It characterized the Courthouse News report as “faulty and fluffy fiction,” and concluded: “We take offense at the way our case has been presented in your publication and would request that if you have any integrity of reporting that you take the superfluous and fallacious content out of this news story or actually have someone do the research necessary to correctly report the complexity of the case we have filed.”     (Courthouse News stands by its story.)

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