Saturday, April 08, 2006


If this suit is upheld it will make insurance a lot dearer for everybody -- forcing many to go uninsured

A federal discrimination lawsuit filed in Minneapolis accuses Geico Corp. and its subsidiaries of making education and employment status a factor in determining the rates the insurer charged on some automotive policies. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that blacks paid higher rates on auto policies because they are "less likely" than whites to occupy jobs requiring advanced education. Geico, a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., offers auto insurance in most of the country. "Geico didn't get to be the fourth-largest auto insurance company in America by being unfair to anyone," the company said in a prepared statement. "Geico's underwriting and rating systems are based on data, not subjective judgments."

The suit alleges that Geico steered customers to one of its four subsidiaries depending on a risk-assessment formula that includes customers' jobs and education level. Applicants with less education are considered a higher risk, according to the suit. Higher premiums are charged to blue-collar workers than to doctors and lawyers, the suit alleges. The suit says Geico "intentionally" discriminated against blacks and "concealed" the practice from policyholders and regulators. "Geico knew that its use of occupation and education level to establish auto insurance rates would cause African Americans/Blacks to be charged higher premiums than Caucasians with similar driving records," the suit says.

The suit was filed on behalf of three former policyholders but seeks class-action status for blacks who purchased auto insurance from Geico within the past six years. The suit seeks a "permanent injunction" against using such criteria and disgorgement of premium overcharges as well as punitive damages.



AND an injustice to her kids

Two young sisters were taken away from their biological mother and handed over to her former lesbian partner on the orders of the Court of Appeal yesterday. In a landmark ruling that boosts the rights of same-sex partners, the two girls, aged 7 and 4, will now be cared for primarily by the former lesbian partner instead of their mother.

The mother, a teacher, had previously defied the orders of a judge by secretly taking the children to a new home in Cornwall, in “flagrant” breach of an order by the Court of Appeal that the women should share parental responsibility for the sisters. After the mother and children were found, the High Court granted primary care of the children to the former partner. That decision was confirmed yesterday by the Court of Appeal.

Lord Justice Thorpe, who headed the panel of three judges, said in his ruling: “We have moved into a world where norms that seemed safe 20 or more years ago no longer run.” He then posed the question: “Who is the natural parent?” In the past, judges have held that the biological parent is the natural parent, he said. “But in the eyes of the child, the natural parent may be a non-biological parent who, by virtue of long-settled care, has become the child’s psychological parent.” He said that in this case, the upbringing of the children had been shared, and the sisters would not distinguish between the women on the ground of biological relationship. None of the parties can be identified, by order of the court.

Mark Harper, a family law partner with Withers and a member of the Law Society family law committee, welcomed the decision as ground-breaking. He said: “It shows how the courts recognise that it can be the quality of parenting, not genes, that matters, especially in the face of flagrant disobedience of court orders.” Andrew Greensmith, national director of Resolution, the family solicitors’ association, said: “This is welcome recognition of the fact that the world has moved forward and of the effect of a joint parental responsibility that would come from a civil partnership anyway.” Andy Forrest, of Stonewall, the gay rights group, said: “We are really pleased that the courts are doing what is in the best interests of the child.”

The biological mother, referred to as CG, gave birth to the children during the relationship with her partner, referred to as CW. That relationship broke down in 2002 and the mother found a new partner. After initially being denied access to the children, CW was awarded joint residency rights. But despite a condition that the girls’ mother could not take the children to Cornwall, she and her partner moved there. In February this year, Mrs Justice Bracewell heard the case in private at the High Court Family Division and allowed the mother’s partner to take over as the children’s primary carer.

The mother took the case to the Court of Appeal, where yesterday Lord Justice Thorpe said the child’s views on which partner was the psychological parent should be taken into consideration when deciding the claims of same-sex unions. “The family may be created by mutual agreement and with much careful planning. Both partners seek the experience of child-bearing and child-rearing in one capacity or another.” Lord Justice Thorpe, dismissing the mother’s appeal, said that he agreed with Mrs Justice Bracewell’s conclusion that she had “no confidence that if the children stay in Cornwall that CG would promote the essential close relationship” with her former partner’s family. [So flaming what??]

Lady Justice Hallet said that she dismissed the appeal but “with a degree of hesitation”. “I am very concerned at the prospect of removing these children from the primary care of their only identifiable biological parent who has been their primary carer for most of their young lives and in whose care they appear to be happy and thriving.” She said that despite changing attitudes, she still attached greater significance than others to the biological link between the mother and her children.

Although unmarried couples now have fewer legal rights than same-sex couples in a civil partnership, the ruling gives no extra rights to gay couples that unmarried couples do not have. An unmarried father can apply to the court for a joint parental responsibility order.



Legal proceedings against a 10-year-old boy over alleged racist name-calling have been labelled political correctness gone mad, by a judge. The boy from Irlam, Greater Manchester, was summonsed to court accused of racially abusing a fellow pupil. Judge Jonathan Finestein told Salford Youth Court the boys would have been given "a good clouting" in his day. Adjourning it to 20 April, he asked prosecutors to reconsider whether the case was in the public interest.

The boy is accused of abusing an 11-year-old pupil in a school playground between 1 July 2005 and 30 January 2006. The court was told that the boys are now friends and play football with each other. But Mr Finestein said he thought the decision to prosecute the youngster was "crazy" and urged the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its decision. "Have we really got to the stage where we are prosecuting 10-year-old boys because of political correctness? "I was repeatedly called fat at school. Does this amount to a criminal offence? He added: "Nobody is more against racist abuse than me but these are boys in a playground, this is nonsense. "I think somebody should consider reversing the decision to prosecute."

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said the force took all crimes seriously [except for the assaults and robberies that they just issue "cautions" for] and was totally opposed to any racism.


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