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Reno judge warns: No “circus” in Walgreens discrimination case January 13, 2007

Posted by C.A.R.D in African Americans, Discriminate, Discrimination, NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peo, Racism, Racist.

A Nevada judge who will rule on a Texas man’s discrimination lawsuit against the Walgreens drug store chain warned lawyers on both sides Friday she won’t allow them to turn the case “into a circus.”

The Washoe County district court judge also said she’s not inclined to allow the company to bring up a 25-year-old felony conviction of the lead plaintiff, Bruce Johnson, and ruled preliminarily that Johnson cannot wear a political button in court that reads “Someone Paid the Price” – a reference to past civil rights leaders.

Meanwhile, at a news conference outside the courthouse, Johnson unveiled his new Web site – http://www.stopallthediscrimination.org – that he said will give other victims of discrimination a way to share their stories around the world.

“There is no reason we should still be fighting racial discrimination in 2007,” Johnson said.

Johnson, 43, and three other African Americans from Houston filed the suit against the Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co. in June 2003 after they say they were discriminated against at a store in downtown Reno.

The men said that after they complained about the quality of a photograph processed at the store in February 2003, the clerk shouted a racial slur, slammed a door and refused service. The trial scheduled for Feb. 5 is expected to last two weeks.

“I am here today to tell Walgreens we are ready for trial. We are ready for the truth to finally come out,” Johnson said.

Johnson said earlier each of the men were seeking $2.5 million in damages, but the civil complaint does not specify an amount and his lawyer, Ian Silverberg, said he could not discuss that.

Judge Janet Berry said at the hour-long status hearing that the two sides must reach agreement on the sort of background and medical information that will be allowed as evidence.

“I will not allow any witness to turn this into a circus,” Berry said.

Officials for the Reno-Sparks Chapter of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union were among about a dozen people in the courtroom in support of Johnson.

Clark Vellis, a Reno attorney representing Walgreens, asked Berry to revisit an earlier ruling prohibiting the company from bringing up Johnson’s prior conviction related to credit card theft.

“Mr. Johnson’s credibility is clearly on the line here,” Vellis said. “He’s holding himself out as some sort of person who is representative of a whole class of people and standing up for rights.”

“He has a Web site now … and he’s said this isn’t about money and yet he’s here asking for $10 million,” Vellis said.

The judge said she would review her ruling but that for now, she would ban such evidence unless Johnson testified about his own credibility or made statements such as that he had never been involved with the criminal justice system.

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