Discrimination Claims Against John Marshall Survive Summary Judgment

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on April 04, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Two former associate professors at the John Marshall Law School are suing the school for discrimination and breach of contract.

Last week, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied in part, and granted in part, the school's motion for summary judgment.

Here's a breakdown of the claims against the school:

The Claims

Kamina Pinder, an African-American woman, and Scott Sigman, a white male, were on the tenured professor track at John Marshall Law School ("JMLS"). The pair started a for-profit business called Law School Advantage ("LSA"), a "preparation program for incoming law students." Whether the two got permission from school officials to start the program is in question, but they agree that they used JMLS computers to start their venture, and did not seek permission to start the business. The plaintiffs and JMLS disagree as to whether the employee handbook required permission for the kind of business the plaintiffs started.

Later on, the employment contracts of Pinder and Sigman were not renewed because they were operating a business that may pose a conflict of interest, and they did not seek permission to start the business. Plaintiffs initiated an action in federal court alleging race-based discrimination, retaliation, breach of contract, and bad faith under state law. JMLS moved for summary judgment, and a magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation.

The Order

Judge Duffey, of the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, adopted the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge. Because there existed enough questions of fact to warrant a trial, all but one of the claims survived JMLS's motion for summary judgment.

It's very early in the litigation cycle, so we'll be keeping an eye on how this case turns out. It will be interesting to see how an institution charged with teaching about the judicial system will conduct itself within the judicial system. Dean Richardson Lynn stated: "Of course you are always disappointed when you don't win your motion. We had hoped it would go the other way, but it's just summary judgment. It will be a fair and interesting trial," reports The National Law Journal.

Does that mean the parties won't settle? We wouldn't rule that out just yet.

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