home sitesearch contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

UL takes Baldwin decision to Court of Appeals

Marsha Sills • msills@theadvertiser.com • July 10, 2008  



On Wednesday, a judge denied UL’s request for a new trial in its battle against discrimination claims made by former head football coach Jerry Baldwin.

The university is now calling upon the First Circuit Court of Appeals to decide on the matter. UL attorneys filed the appeal after 19th Judicial District Judge Don Johnson denied a motion for another trial Wednesday.

"We are pleased that we can now bring this to the Court of Appeals and right this wrong," said Larry Marino, one of the attorneys representing UL in the case. "UL’s got a long and proud history of diversity, racial diversity, not least of which was hiring Coach Baldwin in the first place. After a 6-27 record, we let him go, and there was not a stitch of evidence that his race was a reason that he was fired and that will come out in appeal."

In October, a 19th Judicial District Court jury voted 10-2 to award Baldwin $2 million based on claims in his lawsuit that included discrimination, emotional distress and breach of contract.

In April, Johnson defended jurors’ decision after UL attorneys’ argued that at least two jurors couldn’t recall how they answered some of the questions that led to the $2 million verdict. Johnson also denied UL attorneys’ argument that Baldwin’s attorneys’ fees were excessive, which at the time were in excess of $800,000.

Marino said counsel opted to exhaust its options before appealing to a higher court in order to correct "errors" made in the process.

"There are so many errors in this case that we believed that we have a chance to clear up some of these, if not all of them," Marino said. "So we have pursued this at all levels that we possibly could. This is the last of the mechanisms, or means available to us at the trial court level."

Baldwin’s attorney, Karl Bernard could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Marino said the appeals process will reveal evidence of a "runaway jury."

"On appeal, it’s going to come out very clearly that we had a confused, runaway jury," he said. "That there was an inappropriate member on that jury: a woman who had an unresolved claim of discrimination by her white supervisor and yet the judge let her stay on the jury."

Marino referred to more inconsistencies among jury members in the voting process – arguments that didn’t gain ground with Johnson.

"They held that Coach Baldwin was not fired because of his race, but they also held that race was a determining factor in his firing. That’s inconsistent," Marino said. "You also have them saying breach of contract, but in finding that, also finding there was an abuse of rights. … How can you find an abuse of rights if there was a breach of contract?"

According to court records, jurors supported Baldwin’s claims of breach of contract, but did not find that it was in bad faith. One of the conditions for the concept of abuse of rights is a good faith violation, according to instructions given to the jurors.

Jurors also found evidence of interference with Baldwin’s contract by former Athletic Director Nelson Schexnayder, who was named in the suit.

Jurors did not find that there was an intentional infliction of emotional distress, however did vote that there was evidence of negligent infliction.