SMOC discrimination case defendants want case dismissed Thursday, Janury 3, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - A trio of defendants in the federal discrimination lawsuit brought by SMOC filed motions last week to dismiss the complaints against them, saying the case was an attempt to squelch public debate.

Private attorneys for Town Meeting members Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr filed the motions separately in U.S. District Court in Boston, with each arguing the claims against them as individuals should be thrown out.

In its lawsuit, filed Oct. 24, South Middlesex Opportunity Council argues that Laurora, Lee and Orr are part of "a coordinated effort" to push disabled people out of Framingham.

Efforts to reach Douglas Brooks, Valerie McCormack and Wayne Henderson, the lawyers for Laurora, Lee and Orr, respectively, were unsuccessful yesterday.

Among the other defendants are Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver, three selectmen, four Planning Board members, Town Meeting member Peter Adams and private citizens Anthony Siciliano and Harold Wolfe.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Orr said he believed it was an effort by the social services agency to "shut people up."  SMOC lawyer Howard Cooper questioned that assertion, saying the lawsuit was supported unanimously by SMOC's 26-member board of directors.

Cooper also noted the case cannot be considered a strategic lawsuit against public participation - or SLAPP suit - which is filed to intimidate opponents and hit them with a heavy legal bill, because it was filed in federal court.  Anti-SLAPP legislation only covers cases in state court, he said.

In other news related to the case, the date for the scheduling conference with Judge Douglas Woodlock was moved from Jan. 18 to Jan. 22.  The previous date conflicts with the third scheduled mediation session.

Also, lawyers Gregg Corbo and Jonathan Silverstein appeared in federal court on Adams' behalf yesterday, making Wolfe the only defendant for whom an attorney has not appeared in the case.  Wolfe is still looking for a lawyer, but said he is not sure if he will hire one before mediation starts Jan. 9.

Retired federal Magistrate Charles Swartwood III will serve as mediator in the case, with sessions also scheduled Jan. 10 and 18.  They are closed to the public.

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