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May|June 2004
An Illegal Arrangement By Cynthia Joyce
...Join 'Em By Geoffrey Gagnon
Double Blind By Clive Thompson
The Snap-on Wives By Brian Montopoli
The Prudent Jurist By Stephen Gillers
Cases & Controversies
Breaking Up Isn't Hard to Do By John Swansburg

Cases & Controversies


No Thanks for the Memories

ELIZABETH GALE BELIEVED THAT SHE WAS A PAWN of a worldwide satanic cult that had used her to breed children. Those offspring were later exploited for pornography, sexual abuse, and, ultimately, ritual sacrifice. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, she moved from her home, cut off communication with her family, quit her job, and underwent surgical sterilization. She wanted to be sure that she would bear no more children for the cult.

A few years earlier, at Chicago's Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Gale had sought psychiatric treatment for depression. Forgoing conventional treatment, her doctors instead employed controversial therapies like hypnosis to unearth "repressed memories." At the time, many therapists believed that victims of serious traumas had such memories buried in the deepest recesses of their minds. Before Gale began to work with her psychiatric team, she had been feeling suicidal. It was after the treatment started that she began to believe she was a member of a cult. In 1991, she had her tubes tied—with the approval of her team.

Since then, as scores of patients have retracted their tales of "remembered" abuse, the repressed-memory theory has lost favor. Gale became a skeptic in 1997, after receiving treatment for 11 years, when she learned that her psychiatrists had just settled for more than $10 million with another patient who'd undergone treatment similar to her own. Gale soon found new doctors—and lawyers. She filed suit in 1998, insisting that her past was not as turbulent as her doctors suggested and that they had treated her negligently. This February, without confessing to fault—or overexcited imaginations—they agreed to pay Gale $7.5 million.

The Bogeyman is a Cop

COLIN HODGKINS STAYED OUT past his state-imposed bedtime in August 1999. The 15-year-old's dinner at the Steak 'n' Shake in Marion County, Ind., ran late, and as he left the restaurant, he was picked up by cops for violating the state curfew law. He was taken to the local high school, where he was questioned and required to undergo drug tests before he was released into his mother's care.

Indiana's law prohibited minors from being out in public without parental supervision after 11 p.m. on a weeknight. Colin's mother, Nancy, sued, arguing that the law ran afoul of the First Amendment by preventing teenagers like her son from doing activities like attending a midnight mass, a late-night political rally, or a political protest. A district court agreed, so lawmakers amended the law to make such late-night activities an exception to the curfew. Hodgkins was not satisfied and challenged the new law too.

In January, the Seventh Circuit overturned the curfew, agreeing that it curtailed the First Amendment rights of the state's children. The court held that the law, even with the modifications, dissuaded minors from engaging in protected activities, since they risked arrest, detention, and drug tests if they did. The Second Circuit overruled a similar curfew law in Vernon, Conn. last June. But courts are by no means united about whether kids should be allowed out late. Nearly 500 U.S. cities have curfew laws in effect, and many of them have withstood legal challenges.

The Critic Who Wasn't There

DAVID MANNING, THE FILM CRITIC for The Ridgefield Press, raved that Hollow Man was "one hell of a scary ride!"; that the lead in A Knight's Tale, Heath Ledger, was "this year's hottest new star"; and that the underappreciated comedy The Animal was "another winner." Moviegoers who attended those films, all produced by Sony Pictures, may have been disappointed to find that the films failed to live up to Manning's forecasts. Two California viewers decided to get even when the enthusiastic critic turned out to be the creation of a Sony adman with a lively imagination.

In 2001, Omar Rezec and Ann Belknap initiated a class-action suit against Sony for false advertising and consumer fraud. Arguing that Sony had unfairly boosted many of its movies, they sought refunds for viewers' tickets. Sony sought to quash the suit with a special motion, saying that the First Amendment protected the company's ads.

The California Court of Appeal did not take such a kind view of the deception, however. In January, it affirmed a trial court's earlier decision that dismissed Sony's claim and ordered the case to go forward. As commercial speech, a 2-1 majority found, Sony's ads were not immune from attack. "As a practical matter, Sony's position would shield all sorts of mischief," the judges wrote. "A film could be advertised as having garnered 'Three Golden Globe Nominations' when it had received none." Judge Reuben Ortega dissented, calling the case "frivolous" and those who heed blurbs like Manning's "mindless zombies." Sony may have penned false accolades, he said, but viewers persuaded by one superlative sentence to see a bad movie are getting what they deserve.

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