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BOSTON--Lawyers for a Harvard social club which is facing a lawsuit from a New Jersey woman over an alleged rape there two years ago have asked that the trial be moved to western Massachusetts.
The move by attorneys for the Pi Eta Speakers Club came just weeks after a Massachusetts Appeals Court judge overturned a gag order which prevented the woman or her lawyers from discussing the case with the press or public.
In a motion filed Dec. 17, Boston attorney Lee S. MacPhee argued that news articles about the case have biased potential jurors' minds, making a fair trial here impossible. He asked Suffolk Superior Court Judge Malcolm Graham to shift the case to Franklin, Hampshire or Berkshire County, or to bring a jury from one of those counties to Boston to hear the case.
"My client's right to a fair trial has been compromised," MacPhee said in an interview yesterday.
No date has been set for a hearing on the request to move the trial, which is scheduled to begin March 6.
MacPhee's motion prompted lawyers representing the woman to ask for sanctions against the club and a former president, who is also a defendant in the suit.
The woman's lawyers asserted that the motion to transfer the trial to another part of the state was brought in "bad faith" and is an attempt to punish the woman for bringing the suit.
Mark F. Itzkowitz and Jeffrey A. Newman, the attorneys for the plaintiff, declined to be interviewed for this story. But in court filings they accused the defense of "outrageous misconduct" for filing the motion.
The plaintiff "should not be required to continue to fight costly legal battles to protect her constitutional rights when there is no basis for the defendants to seek to violate them," the two argued. The lawyers also criticized the club for presenting some of the same newspaper clippings which were held to be an insufficient basis for the gag order.
MacPhee said yesterday he was "unconcerned" by the request for sanctions against him and the club.
"It is unfortunate that my client's exercise of its rights is seen by anyone else as sanctionable," he said.
MacPhee also suggested there was an element of hypocrisy to the plaintiffs' efforts to punish him for asking the court to move the case out of Boston.
"Some people think that the rules don't apply to both sides," he said.
The lawsuit, which was filed in August, 1989, alleges that the former Northeastern University student was raped at the club during a 1988 Harvard-Yale game party. In the suit, the woman argues that the club failed to supervise the event adequately and violated state law by serving liquor to minors.
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