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ACLU to appeal Suns ruling

November 11, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The American Civil Liberties Union and a Maryland commission are taking another swing at the Hagerstown Suns Church Bulletin Day promotion.

As expected, the ACLU and the state Commission on Human Relations are appealing a ruling by state Administrative Law Judge Georgia Brady.

Last month Brady ruled the promotion, which offers discounted admission to fans who bring church bulletins to Sunday baseball games, is permitted under Maryland law because the team offers the discount to all fans at the ticket window.

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In her ruling Brady cited testimony from a now-retired Suns ticket seller who said he tried to give Carl Silverman of Waynesboro, Pa., the discount by using an extra church bulletin on April 12, 1998, which was Easter Sunday. He said Silverman refused to accept the bulletin.

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At the time of the ruling, ACLU attorney Dwight Sullivan said Silverman was not offered another bulletin by the ticket seller.

Soon after testing the bulletin promotion Silverman went to the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, claiming the promotion discriminates against him because he is an agnostic.

The commission agreed with Silverman and filed charges with the state Office of Administrative Hearings seeking to end the Suns' six-year-old bulletin promotion. The ACLU also represented Silverman in his claim.

The case was argued before Brady during a hearing in June and July.

A three member Appeal Board of the Maryland Commission on Human Relations will issue a ruling on the appeal, said Patricia Wood, assistant general counsel at the commission and the attorney who represented the state in this case against the Suns.

Wood said the state has 30 days to submit its reasons for filing the appeal.

She would not say Wednesday on what grounds the appeal will be made.

Sullivan said Wednesday that the administrative law judge "held that a discriminatory advertisement does not violate the statute. One issue we're going to take up is whether that ruling was correct."

Wood said the commission and the ACLU may file separate and different reasons for appealing the ruling, but both appeal requests would be reviewed simultaneously.

She said the board will decide whether to hear oral arguments on the case.

Wood said hopefully the appeal will be ruled on before the Suns opening day in April 2000.

Suns attorney Joseph A. Schwartz III called the appeal "stupidity upon stupidity,"

Schwartz said the ACLU and the state were trying to "grind these guys into the ground with legal fees."

"It's a war of attrition with legal fees," Schwartz said.

"My client doesn't have the money to continue but we'll find a way," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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