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Lawsuit Update

At Thursday’s status hearing for a wrongful death suit brought against the Capitol Police Department, U.S. District Judge James Robertson announced that if the two parties could not agree on a settlement by next summer the case would head to a jury trial July 17, 2006.

The suit, brought by the family of Brandywine, Md., resident Gary Thompson, who died while in police custody, was originally filed in November 2004, and in the past six months the two sides have made several attempts to settle the case. The family is seeking $50 million in compensatory damages, as well as legal fees. [IMGCAP(1)]

Last month, Robertson allowed the plaintiffs to refile the case so that the three arresting officers could be held personally liable for civil damages along with the federal government.

At last week’s hearing, Jane Lyons, a lawyer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office which has been representing the United States since the case originally was filed, said Capitol Police Officers James Davis and Peter Schulze and Detective Teddy Thomas had all applied for legal representation through the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“I expect my office to represent them,” Lyons said.

And while Lyons didn’t count out the possibility that the case could still be settled, Thompson family attorney Jimmy Bell said he’s ready to go to trial.

“Now they have a timeline with a firm trial date. They’ll either resolve it or a jury will resolve it for them,” Bell said. “The family wants the truth to come out since it appears the government is unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions.”

Democracy in Action. A House commission formed this spring to strengthen emerging democracies announced last week that the parliaments of Georgia, Macedonia, Kenya, East Timor and Indonesia had been selected as the first recipients of its legislative assistance programs.

The 16-member House Democracy Assistance Commission will host delegations from the five parliaments in the United States in January. In turn, a Congressional delegation will visit each of the chosen countries in 2006. The commission is also considering undertaking parliamentary strengthening programs in other countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to its chairman, David Dreier (R-Calif.), and ranking member David Price (D-N.C.), the commission includes Reps. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio), Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.), Artur Davis (D-Ala.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.).

The panel’s recently released 2005 report is now available on its new Web site, hdac.house.gov.

— John McArdle and Bree Hocking

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