SMOC suit defendant hires D.C. lawyer

SMOC suit defendant hires D.C. lawyer Thursday, January 17, 2008
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM - One of the two private citizens named as a defendant in the federal discrimination lawsuit by SMOC has added a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer to his defense team.

Michael Rosman, the general counsel for the Center for Individual Rights, will serve as co-counsel with Patrick Bannon and Greg Cote, whom Wolfe hired earlier this month to represent him in the complaint brought in October.

"Mr. Wolfe is not a member of any town board," said Rosman. "He's just a private citizen engaging in speech. I believe free speech should be robust. We believe the speech in question is protected by the First Amendment.

"There are some important constitutional principles at issue that deserve our resources," he said.

Wolfe created the Web site, which includes the heading, "Stop SMOC" on its home page. He has run for selectman several times but has never held elected office in Framingham or elsewhere.

Other defendants named by SMOC include Town Manager Julian Suso, Human Services Coordinator Alexis Silver, Selectmen Ginger Esty, Dennis Giombetti and Jason Smith, Planning Board members Sue Bernstein, Andrea Carr-Evans, Carol Spack and Ann Welles, Town Meeting members Peter Adams, Cynthia Laurora, Laurie Lee and Steven Orr and private citizen Anthony Siciliano.

SMOC alleges the group was involved in "a coordinated effort" to push disabled people out of town by limiting where SMOC can open new housing programs.

"I was surprised to see (SMOC) go after private citizens, but it's not without precedent," said Rosman.

Rosman, who joined CIR in March 1994, is the author of several articles, including "Standing Alone: Standing Under The Fair Housing Act." South Middlesex Opportunity Council cites the Fair Housing Act as one of the pieces of federal legislation Wolfe and the other defendants violated.

The Center for Individual Rights joined Wolfe's defense team through Cote, who works with Bannon at Boston-based firm McCarter and English.

The center, which opened in 1989, focuses on free speech and civil rights issues as its top priorities.

"This is a pretty unique case and we're glad to have Mr. Rosman working with us," said Bannon. "(The Center has) a lot of experience in First Amendment issues so it should be a big help to have them on board."

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