The Law: Decisions

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> The West Point cadet's path to graduation is studded with booby traps. He can be "skinned" for a dirty uniform, shaggy hair, a dusty room and a host of other minor offenses. Cadet Joachim Hagopian, 22, of East Longmeadow, Mass., collected 107 demerits for the first half of this year, five more than the maximum permitted, and was therefore dismissed. He decided to appeal to the courts. In New York, Federal Judge Charles L. Brieant Jr. granted a preliminary injunction, ordering the academy to reinstate Hagopian pending a trial. In his 18-page decision, Brieant noted that almost half of Hagopian's demerits were reported by his company's tactical officer, who then awarded the demerits and finally determined whether the demerits were correct, without Hagopian ever receiving a fair hearing. "Such merger of prosecutorial and judicial function [in a case leading to expulsion]," Brieant said, "does not satisfy due process or the simple needs of natural justice." West Point said it would obey orders.

> An ever-increasing number of waterfront suburbs are trying to keep outsiders from their beaches by making them pay stiff fees. The New Jersey Supreme Court took a stand against that trend by ruling that Avon-by-the-Sea must stop charging nonresidents a $2.50 beach-use fee when residents pay only $1.25 a day. Writing the majority decision, Justice Frederick W. Hall said: "The public trust doctrine dictates that the beach and the ocean waters must be open to all on equal terms."

> When Mrs. Fannie Jefferies quit her $125-a-week typing job in New York, she decided to begin training as a teacher at Queensborough Community College, and to go on welfare as a needy mother. Three months later, city welfare officials decided that she was not eligible for benefits because her college was not a vocational school. Besides, she could already support herself as a typist. Mrs. Jefferies brought suit, and was joined by three other women in similar circumstances. Federal Judge Charles H. Tenney ruled that "the crucial issue" was whether the federally supported program for needy people included "those attending four-year college programs, as well as those attending vocational schools." He said that the federal statute permitted welfare recipients to get "institutional training," and therefore the states could not deny them benefits while they pursue a "specific vocational objective" in college.

> "At what point," asked Queens County Civil Court Judge Leonard Finz, "does a jury's reasonability end and a judge's reason begin?" At issue was a hospital bill of $8,999.45 charged to Mrs. Elena Bubliatis. She and her husband had been severely injured in an auto accident, and the husband later died. Because their medical insurance was deemed insufficient to pay all the expenses, the hospital got Mrs. Bubliatis to sign a guarantee-of-payment form for her husband's bills while she was still under, as Finz put it, "extreme physical and emotional stress." When the hospital sued to collect, the jury found in its favor, but Finz set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial. Said he: "A jury's verdict should stand undisturbed except when in so doing, an unconscionable result would remain that would be offensive to the professional sensitivities of the court."