Cases, Verdicts & Settlements in the News

 

 

 

“One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin, If you make yourselves sheep, the wolves will eat you. My job is to make sure they don’t swallow up my clients as well as make them pay for their actions.” ■

-Mark Frost

June 2017

High Impact

BY Theodora Malison | photography by Alison Dunlap | Philadelphia Life / Suburban Life

In an ever-changing society, civil rights attorney Mark Frost only moves forward. Super Lawyers has coined him as “passionate, determined and aggressive,” in the pursuit of “preserving American citizens’ civil and legal rights”—these traits describe none other than Mark Frost of Mark B. Frost & Associates. These qualities are in part, he says, attributed to his dedication in seeking justice— and in other, his three laborious years served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps post-matriculation. Regardless, Frost has remained one of Philadelphia’s—and possibly one of the country’s—most successful
high profile lawyers, obtaining millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements throughout Pa., N.J., and Del., pertaining to issues of civil rights, freedom of speech, sex and race discrimination, due process, prisoner rights, police misconduct and employment cases.

 

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The Elizabeth Board of Education met at Monsignor Joao Antao School No. 31 on June 16, 2016, for its monthly meeting.
Marisa Iati | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

 

 

January 4, 2017

Purged for our politics, 9 fired Elizabeth school employees claim in lawsuit

BY Marisa Iati | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

 

ELIZABETH – Nine terminated employees of the city school district are alleging in a federal lawsuit that they were fired as political retribution, fueling a long-running war between the school board's two bitterly opposed political factions.

 

The complaint filed Dec. 1 claims the board, comprised mostly of mayor-backed candidates, fired the employees for supporting opposing board candidates. It requests $100,000 per plaintiff, plus interest and other costs.

 

The Board of Education's political factions compete for control over the governing body, and one of the groups had held power for about 20 years before the January 2016 reorganization meeting, the lawsuit says.

 

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December 23, 2016

Hackensack city manager to increase DPW oversight

BY Anthony G. Attrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

 

HACKENSACK — Two Department of Public Works employees have filed a civil rights lawsuit, claiming supervisors forced them to perform free labor, which included making and selling homemade bullets on city property.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Newark, accuses Hackensack DPW Superintendent Jesse D'Amore and Assistant Superintendent Anthony Seidita of violating state and federal racketeering laws, according to

 

NorthJersey.com.

Mario Candela and Richard Terranova say their bosses threatened to fire them if they did not perform the work, which also allegedly included moving furniture from a Hackensack municipal judge's home to a recycling center and siphoning heating oil from a Paterson school to resell privately, according to the report.

 

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The Hackensack Department of Public Works garage, where a lawsuit claims cameras were installed to record workers.
Photo: Carl Su/Northjersey.com

December 23, 2016

Hackensack city manager to increase DPW oversight

BY Steve Janoski , Staff Writer

 

HACKENSACK — The city manager will increase his oversight of the Department of Public Works in the wake of a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights and racketeering law violations by a pair of supervisors.

The decision was announced following the public disclosure this week of a federal lawsuit that two DPW workers filed on Dec. 16.

 

Hackensack officials also issued a statement on Friday saying they were awaiting further instruction on the lawsuit from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, which Ted Ehrenburg, the city manager, contacted after reviewing the suit with city attorneys.

 

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The Hackensack Department of Public Works garage, where a lawsuit claims cameras were installed to record workers.
Photo: Carl Su/Northjersey.com

December 22, 2016

Hackensack DPW employees claim corruption, sue bosses

BY Steve Janoski , Staff Writer

 

HACKENSACK — Two city Department of Public Works employees are claiming that department heads violated their civil rights — as well as state and federal racketeering laws — by forcing them to do free labor on and off city time and threatening to fire them if they didn’t cooperate.

 

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 16 in U.S. District Court in Newark, accuses Hackensack DPW Superintendent Jesse D’Amore and Assistant Superintendent Anthony Seidita of breaking the law a number of times over two years, starting in 2014. The offenses include making and selling homemade bullets on city property during working hours, making DPW workers remove furniture from the Hackensack municipal judge’s home and dump it in the city recycling center, and siphoning heating oil from a Paterson school to resell it privately, the suit said.

 

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September 15, 2017

Cop's mental health should've been aired at shooting trial, judge says

BY Rebecca Everett | For NJ.com

 

CAMDEN – Appellate judges granted a new civil trial against a Camden police officer who shot a man in the torso in 2009, ruling that jurors should have been told he had mental health issues.

 

The three judges of the appellate division of the New Jersey Superior Court said in their decision Wednesday that the jury also could have been biased against the shooting victim, Leonides Velazquez, because an assistant prosecutor testified that then-officer Alexis Ramos was not charged in the shooting.

 

Velazquez filed a civil rights suit against Ramos after the Camden city officer shot him twice on Jan. 2, 2009 in front of his home during a verbal argument involving multiple people.

 

The jury found no civil rights violation, but Wednesday's decision grants a new trial on the basis that the trial judge made two incorrect decisions.

 

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An appeals court on Tuesday revived a Camden man's lawsuit alleging a civil-rights violation by a Camden City police officer.
Photo: Courier-Post file

September 14, 2016

New trial ordered in Camden police-shooting case

BY Jim Walsh

 

CAMDEN - A state appeals court Wednesday revived a civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of a city man shot by a police officer.

 

A jury that previously ruled against shooting victim Leonides Velazquez was told too much – and too little – about a late-night incident in January 2009, a three-judge panel said.

 

Jurors should not have heard testimony that the Camden County Prosecutor's Office declined to bring criminal charges against Alexis Ramos, the Camden City police officer who shot Velazquez, the appellate ruling said.

 

It also faulted the trial judge's decision to block testimony about Ramos' mental-health issues, which had led to his removal from the city department's SWAT team 18 months before the shooting.

 

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October 10, 2016

In a reversal, Paterson council OKs $1.6M settlement lawsuit that went to U.S. Supreme Court

BY JOE MALINCONICO

 

PATERSON – After four members changed their votes from last week, the City Council Tuesday night gave its approval to a $1.6 million settlement in a former police officer’s political retaliation lawsuit.

 

The decision followed a week of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying as the Paterson’s lawyers asserted that rejecting the deal would put the cash-strapped city at risk of paying much more in a case that already has cost taxpayers almost $700,000 in legal fees.

The settlement represents the largest in the city’s history in a case that went to the United States Supreme Court. The justices ruled earlier this year that the Constitution’s 1st amendment’s free speech protections applied to the police officer, Jeffrey Heffernan, even though he maintained he simply was delivering a campaign sign for his mother and not actually supporting Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ opponent in the 2006 election.

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July 25, 2016

preparing and arguing in the u.s.supreme court

 

By MARK FROST and RYAN LOCKMAN

 

Frost Lockman Mark Frost, the founder and principal of Mark B. Frost & Associates, primarily concentrates his practice on First Amendment retaliation cases, where he represents police officers and other public employees. He has argued numerous cases in the Third Circuit, as well as Heffernan v. City of Paterson, which he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court and won in April. Ryan Lockman has served as an associate at the firm for the past five years. Lockman recently served as co-counsel for petitioner in Heffernan v. City of Paterson before the U.S. Supreme Court, where he contributed to the briefs and assisted in oral ­argument preparation, among other responsibilities.

 

In 2006, Jeffrey Heffernan—a ­detective in the Paterson (NJ) police ­department—was seen holding a mayoral campaign lawn sign while off duty and was immediately demoted on the government's mistaken belief that Heffernan was supporting the challenger against the ­incumbent mayor.

 

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The Supreme Court in a 6-2 vote ruled Tuesday that a Paterson, N.J., police officer can sue after being demoted when city officials learned he carried a sign for mayor’s opponent.
 
PHOTO: PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

April 26, 2016

Supreme Court Reinforces Free-Speech Protections for Public Employees

 

Justices rule police officer can sue after being demoted over political sign

 

By JESS BRAVIN

 

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court reinforced free-speech protections for public employees Tuesday, ruling that a Paterson, N.J., police officer can sue after being demoted when city officials learned he carried a campaign sign for the mayor’s political opponent.

 

The twist in the case was that the officer, Jeffrey Heffernan, said he hadn’t actually supported Larry Spagnola, a former police chief who was running against Paterson Mayor Joey Torres. Instead, he had picked up the sign on behalf of his bedridden mother, who asked him to get a replacement after a Spagnola lawn sign vanished ahead of the 2006 municipal election.

 

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The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case involving the demotion of Jeffrey J. Heffernan, a police detective in New Jersey.
 
ZACH GIBSON / THE NEW YORK TIMES

April 26, 2016

Justices Rule First Amendment Protects Officer Demoted in Misunderstanding

 

By ADAM LIPTAK


WASHINGTON — It has long been established that public workers as a general matter may not be fired or demoted for speaking out on political topics. The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled on a case that involved a twist on that question: What if the official doing the demoting misunderstood what the worker had done?

The justices, in a 6-to-2 decision, said it was unconstitutional to demote a police officer based on the mistaken assumption that he had engaged in political activity.

 

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Jeffrey Heffernan, a 20-year veteran of the Paterson, N.J., police force, was demoted after picking up a campaign sign for the city mayor's opponent.
 
Dale Wetzel/AP

April 26, 2016

Supreme Court Sides With Police Officer In Yard Sign Case

 

Nina Totenberg
Hear on All Things Considered

 

While voters went to the polls in five states Tuesday, electoral politics in a different context were on the Supreme Court's mind too.

 

The court has long held that the government cannot generally punish employees for exercising their constitutional right to free speech. But what if an employee was mistakenly perceived as taking a political position, when in fact he was doing nothing of the sort? That's what happened to a Paterson, N.J., policeman, who on Tuesday won the right to sue for a wrongful demotion.

 

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Hear On All things Considered

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington

April 26, 2016

Paterson faces possible $2M expense after Supreme Court ruling in cop's free speech case

 
BY JOE MALINCONICO AND JEFF GREEN
PATERSON PRESS AND THE RECORD

 

A U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows a former Paterson police officer to pursue his free speech lawsuit against the city could have broad implications for political speech rights of public employees across the country, legal analysts said Tuesday.

The high court ruling in the case, in which the police officer claims he was disciplined after posting a sign for the mayor’s political rival, could serve as a warning to government employers about disciplining workers for engaging in political activity.

 

See FUll Article

PHOTOGRAPHER: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

April 26,2016

LAW
Supreme Court Protects Unspoken Free Speech

 

By Noah Feldman

Congratulations! At long last, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the government can’t punish you for exercising free-speech rights without speaking.

 

In a decision that should count as a blow for constitutional common sense, the court held that the government’s motive in attempting to suppress free speech is what matters, not whether a "speaker" actually said anything.

 

You might think that the case is absurd and the result obvious. But it’s not. Two lower courts and two Supreme Court justices thought otherwise. And the court didn’t go far enough to protect against government efforts to control people’s political beliefs.

 

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January 19, 2016

Heffernan v. City of Paterson Oral Argument

 

The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Heffernan v. City of Paterson, a case on whether city officials violated the free speech rights of a police officer who was demoted after his superiors assumed he supported a challenger in the local mayorial race. In 2006 Jeffrey Heffernan, a Paterson, New Jersey, detective, was demoted to beat cop the day after he was seen picking up a lawn sign for the challenger to the mayor. Mr. Heffernan did not support the other candidate but was picking up a sign for his bedridden mother. The court had ruled that the government cannot retaliate against employees like police officers for supporting a political candidate. The issue in this case was whether the First Amendment protects Mr. Heffernan, since he was not engaging in First Amendment speech or association, but just being a good son.

 

This program contains the audio recording released by the court. Still images of participants were shown on the screen as they spoke. Justice Thomas did not speak.

 

See Program & Listen to audio recording of the arguement

January 25, 2016

demoted NJ cop's First Amendment case divides the Supreme Court


The Supreme Court will decide if the First Amendment covers a public employee fired or demoted over a boss’ misperception that the employee was backing a political candidate.

 

The court last week hashed out the free speech ramifications of just such a scenario in the case of a New Jersey cop who claims his bosses demoted him after mistakenly assuming he was backing a challenger in a local mayoral race.

 

Jeffrey Heffernan maintains his demotion from detective to a foot post in 2005 was political payback by superiors in the Paterson Police Department. He had been spotted with a campaign sign of a candidate running against the mayor who had the support of the police chief.

 

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January 18, 2016

N.J. cop demoted as act of political revenge? U.S. Supreme Court wants to know

 

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com


The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will be asked to decide whether former Paterson police officer Jeffrey J. Heffernan was wrongly demoted based on the perception that he was supporting a challenger to the incumbent mayor.

 

The nine justices announced in October that it would hear the case. Heffernan said he was wrongly demoted after supporters of Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres saw him picking up a campaign sign for challenger Lawrence Spagnola, a former police chief. Heffernan said he was off duty and picking up the sign for his mother.

 

Heffernan sued, claiming that he was demoted in retaliation for his actions in violation of the First Amendment, and was awarded more than $100,000 by a jury. But first a U.S. District Court judge and then Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Heffernan's rights were not violated because he wasn't actually supporting the challenger.


His lawyer, Mark Frost, filed a brief with the high court arguing that it doesn't matter whether or not Heffernan actually took sides.

 

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January 19, 2016

U.S. justices split on New Jersey cop's political retaliation claim


By Robert Iafolla

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court appeared split on Tuesday as it considered whether a New Jersey cop could bring a retaliation lawsuit claiming he was demoted because his boss mistakenly thought he was supporting a political rival in a local election.

 

The nine-member court’s conservative justices seemed hostile to the notion that former Paterson police detective Jeffrey Heffernan could sue for a violation of his right to freedom of association under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment when he did not actually exercise those rights.

 

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Jeffrey Heffernan says he was demoted after he picked up a replacement campaign sign for his bedridden mother.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

January 19, 2016

An Employee Mistakenly Steps Into Politics; Can The Government Retaliate?


On April 13, 2006, Jeffrey Heffernan, a high-ranking detective in the Paterson, New Jersey, police department, picked up a lawn sign from the Lawrence Spagnola mayoral campaign. Spagnola, a former Paterson police chief, was a friend of Heffernan’s; the incumbent, Jose Torres, was supported by the police chief at the time, James Wittig. Another officer, passing by, saw Heffernan pick up the sign and talk to Spagnola’s campaign manager. When Heffernan went to work the next day, he was told he’d been reassigned to nighttime foot patrol as punishment for supporting Spagnola.

 

See Full Article & Listen to the segment

The Supreme Court has a chance to fix an illogical interpretation of the right to free speech.
CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY DHUSS / GETTY

January 20, 2016

Heffernan v. paterson and an absurd first amendment doctrine


On April 13, 2006, Jeffrey Heffernan, a high-ranking detective in the Paterson, New Jersey, police department, picked up a lawn sign from the Lawrence Spagnola mayoral campaign. Spagnola, a former Paterson police chief, was a friend of Heffernan’s; the incumbent, Jose Torres, was supported by the police chief at the time, James Wittig. Another officer, passing by, saw Heffernan pick up the sign and talk to Spagnola’s campaign manager. When Heffernan went to work the next day, he was told he’d been reassigned to nighttime foot patrol as punishment for supporting Spagnola.

 

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November 3, 2015

6 Tips For Lawyers Arguing Their 1st Supreme Court Case

Law360, New York (November 3, 2015, 6:12 PM ET) -- Congratulations on getting the U.S.
Supreme Court to hear your case, a feat most would agree is the pinnacle of any
attorney’s career. But now the real work looms.


Considering the justices grant certification to a mere 1 percent of the docket, which lists an
average of 10,000 petitions per term, you're tasked with crafting and perfecting an
ironclad argument. Because you haven't been this nervous since taking the bar exam,
Law360 culled tips from attorneys who know a thing or two about going before the nation's
highest court.


Practice, Practice, Practice

 

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June 11, 2015

CUMBERLAND COUNTY SETTLES SUIT OVER ALLEGED JAIL ASSAULT OF MAN LATER KILLED BY POLICE

BRIDGETON — A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that Jerame Reid — the man shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Bridgeton — had pending against Cumberland County at the time of his death.

 

Cumberland County recently approved a $340,000 settlement to be awarded to Reid's estate, according to an official close to the case.

The matter is headed to federal court for final approval and then a probate court will decide how the assets are to be distributed.

 

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May 14, 2015

FORMER HACKENSACK COUNCIL WOMAN SUES CITY, CLAIMING 'INTOLERABLE' WORKING CONDITIONS

HACKENSACK – Former Councilwoman Rose Greenman, who resigned in March citing discrimination by council colleagues, alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the mayor and deputy mayor made anti-Semitic remarks to her and forced her out of office by creating "intolerable" working conditions.

Greenman claims the city personnel director and zoning officer were pressured in August by the council leaders to demand to inspect her Prospect Avenue apartment based on a report by Richard Salkin, a Greenman adversary and former city attorney and prosecutor, that she was using it as a law office, in violation of city ordinance.

 

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March 21, 2015

JERSEY CITY POLICE OFFICERS ALLEGES RETALIATION BECAUSE HE STOPPED SUPPORTING MAYOR, DEMS

When Mayor Steve Fulop abruptly demoted former Police Chief Robert Cowan last June, one of the reasons he gave was the number of lawsuits piling up that accuse Cowan of creating an atmosphere of political retaliation and intimidation.

 

Now Cowan's allies are claiming Fulop and Cowan's successor, Philip Zacche, are waging their own war of retaliation. In a lawsuit filed last month in federal court, police Lt. David Goldrich claims he was transferred out of the chief's office because he was an ally of Cowan, also known as "Bubba."

 

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March 18, 2015

JERSEY CITY DISBANDS POLICE MOTORCYCLE SQUAD AMID INTERNAL SQUABBLING, SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS

JERSEY CITY - When the St. Patrick's Day parade kicked off on Sunday afternoon, there was something missing: the police motorcycle squad, which usually leads the annual event.

But this year, there was no squad starting off the march because there is no squad anymore. City officials disbanded it last month amid internal squabbling, claims of sexual harassment and a possible investigation into improper overtime payments.

 

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December 5, 2014

IN LAWSUIT, HACKENSACK EMPLOYEE CLAIMS CITY RETALIATED AGAINST HIM FOR CITING IMPROPER LABOR PRACTICES

HACKENSACK — A suspended city sanitation worker has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the personnel director pressed criminal charges against him after the worker complained about department labor practices.

 

Carl Magby Jr., who has been a sanitation worker with the Hackensack public works department since 2006, is seeking reinstatement and more than $100,000 in back pay, lost benefits, legal fees and pain and suffering damages in the lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday.

 

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August 9, 2014

CITY EMPLOYEE SUES HACKENSACK ALLEGING UNFAIR DISCIPLINE

HACKENSACK — An employee is suing the city and two officials, saying she was unfairly disciplined because she spoke in defense of her sister, Agatha Toomey, the former welfare director who cut benefits to homeless man James Brady after he reported finding $850.

 

Nancy Weuste, a payroll supervisor, said she was suspended without pay after former acting Manager Anthony Rottino accused her of improperly approving a retirement check for Toomey and for working from home.

 

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June 5, 2014

25 more Port Authority officers join suit to overturn sergeants exam

JERSEY CITY — Another 25 Port Authority Police officers are suing to overturn the promotion of 96 other officers since 2010, charging the department's promotion process was riddled cronyism and other illegal practices.

 

“This lawsuit makes it abundantly clear that the lives of numerous Port Authority officers were affected by the unlawful promotion practices that favored few, to the detriment of many,” Frost said after filing the second round of complaints.

 

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March 18, 2014

Port Authority officers sue to overturn sergeants' promotions since 2010

The three officers are being represented by Mark Frost, a Philadelphia lawyer who filed a suit on behalf of 17 Hackensack Police officers charging the department’s ousted chief and former assemblyman, Ken Zisa, with extorting campaign contributions and other favors from them. Zisa was fired following an unrelated official misconduct conviction in 2012, and this past January the last four officers to settle the suit shared a $2 million payment from the city.

 

Frost said the Hackensack and Port Authority cases shared an underlying theme.

"The similarities I see," Frost said, "are that the City of Hackensack and now the Port Authority engage in cronyism to manipulate the process in order to help their own."

 

See FUll Article

As part of the settlement Riotto was re-instated with full benefits and seniorty. Additionally, he received $500 thousand in damages.

Attorney Mark Forst said

"This was not only a victory in terms of money and vindication by being reinstated back to lieutenant, but a victory concerning the wrong-doing and cronyism created in the department which was eliminated by virtue of this litigation."

 

See full article

January 15, 2014

Hackensack cops settle lawsuit for $2 Million

Frost, the Philadelphia lawyer who has represented 17 Hackensack police officers since Aiellos came to him, said the settlement signaled the end of an era. Frost said that “important changes” made in the wake of the litigation will improve conditions “for anyone that is working in the Hackensack Police Department. … People can do their jobs without fear or retaliation.”

 

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$7.9 Million verdict in bad faith action

This verdict is the largest bad faith award ever reported in Pennsylvania, according to attorney Richard L. McMonigle Jr. of Post & Schell, the author of "Insurance Bad Faith in Pennsylvania".

protecting the right to clean living

In poor and minority neighborhoods, many homes are tainted with pollution. The result: illness and declining property values. Here's how one community is fighting back.

10 minority firemen sue paterson

Patterson - Ten minority firefighters sue the city claiming its Fire Department is a hostile, racist work environment that gives preferential treatment to whites.