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Suns claim win in first round of bulletin battle

June 21, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The Hagerstown Suns claimed early victories in their Church Bulletin Days discrimination legal battle on Monday, saying that an administrative law judge had denied several motions from the plaintiffs in the case.

According to a statement from the team, Maryland Administrative Law Judge Georgia Brady denied a motion for summary judgment, and denied two separate requests to bar certain testimony from the June 28 hearing.

In general, summary judgment can be granted in cases in which both parties agree on the facts of a case.

Michael D. Berman, a Baltimore lawyer working with the American Civil Liberties Union on the case against the Suns, said: "Our response to that is that the trial is next week and unlike the Suns we're going to litigate this in the courtroom not in the arena of public opinion."

"We think we'll win our case with or without these (motions)," Berman said. "It would have been easier to win the case if her rulings had been different."

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The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, said they look forward to the hearing.

According to the statement from the Suns, groups that have filed friends of the court briefs on the Suns behalf include the national Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the American Center for Law and Justice and the Rutherford Institute.

The Church Bulletin Day promotion, in place for the past five seasons, offers families of up to six people a group admission price of $6 if they present a church bulletin when arriving for Sunday home games at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown.

The dispute over the promotion began April 12, 1998, when Carl Silverman, of Waynesboro, Pa., asked that he and his two daughters be admitted to a Suns game for the $6 discounted price even though he did not have a church bulletin.

Silverman was not given the discount, and filed a complaint with the state contending the policy was a form of discrimination.

In March, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations filed a statement of charges against the Suns agreeing with Silverman, thereby initiating the process expected to culminate in a June 28 hearing and an administrative law judge's ruling on the matter.

The judge could rule in favor of the Suns and allow the team to continue the promotion. Or the judge could order the Suns to stop the promotion, pay a fine of up to $500, and order team officials to go to sensitivity training.

Silverman last August filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Suns in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. That lawsuit has been postponed at least until after the administrative hearing.

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