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Sep 23, 2008 2:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town appeals ruling in shelter volunteer case

Sep 23, 2008 2:48 PM

Southampton Town attorneys will return to court in November to continue their appeal of a ruling that awarded a former animal shelter volunteer $50,000 after she successfully sued the town for violating her First Amendment rights.

The town appealed the decision shortly after Pat Lynch of Water Mill agreed to a reduced award in July 2007. She had originally been awarded $251,000 after the courts determined that her rights were violated after the town dismissed her as a volunteer dog walker because she was an outspoken critic of the shelter’s euthanasia policy. Ms. Lynch was let go in 2004.

The appeal will be brought before the U.S. Appellate Court in Manhattan on November 17.

In February 2007, a jury unanimously awarded Ms. Lynch $251,000 after U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt ruled that volunteers retain the same First Amendment rights as paid employees. In June of that year, Judge Spatt reduced the award to $50,000 but required that the town still pay an additional $71,000 to cover Ms. Lynch’s attorney fees.

“I accepted [the settlement] because I thought the town, in good faith, would let this whole thing end,” Ms. Lynch said. “I’m really furious I am being put through this.”

Town attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.

Steven Morelli, Ms. Lynch’s Carle Place attorney, said he was able to move up the court date citing concerns over Ms. Lynch’s health. “I think that Pat Lynch is overdue to have this case decided for her,” Mr. Morelli said on Tuesday. “We’re very proud of Pat for standing up for her rights.”

Ms. Lynch added that, in her opinion, the conditions at the town animal shelter in Hampton Bays have improved since she was a volunteer. “The shelter now is exactly the kind of shelter it should have been,” she said.

Vera Chinese

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