Lawsuit updates give timeline for case against UNA

by Editor-in-Chief

U.S. Magistrate Judge Harwell Davis issued a timeline in the case of Mitchell versus the University of North Alabama, but the case might receive a judgment before it is eligible to go to trial.

In the rule 26(f) planning meetings, which were Nov. 21 and Dec. 9, 2016, the plaintiff, Director of Environmental Services and Housing Facilities Management Audrey Mitchell, and the defendant asked for a pretrial conference in September and a trial by October, which would last about two to three days, according to the meeting report.

The report listed the plaintiff’s claims to include that Mitchell “has been subjected to years of discrimination, harassment and retaliation due to race since 2006.”

The defendant “denied plaintiff’s allegations and denies that she is entitled to any relief as alleged in the complaint.”

In Davis’ Dec. 27 case document, he decided the parties should be ready for a two to three-day trial by Oct. 10 and should have all discovery, or gathering of evidence, started in time to be finished April 26.

However, UNA’s representation asked for Mitchell’s claims to be dismissed in a Jan. 19 motion.

In the motion, they challenged her claims of race discrimination and retaliation, hostile work environment, coercion and defamation.

Mitchell had 21 days to respond to UNA’s motion.

Her following document came Jan. 23 when she filed a motion to compel. According to the motion, Mitchell hadn’t received documents she requested in the case during the discovery from UNA, and she felt the defendant did not deliver the documents quickly because Mitchell represents herself.

The same day, Mitchell filed a motion to allow accusations of perjury to the case, as well as a motion for the court to rule in her favor and “award her damages for her (lost) wages as well as pain and suffering.”

Davis denied the motion to amend the complaint in a Feb. 2 document.

“While plaintiff wanted to be able to amend her pleadings up to the date of any scheduled trail, presumably to add any allegations about anything occurring between plaintiff and defendant up to that time, there is a point at which the pleadings in any case must be closed, and that point has passed,” he said.

In the planning meeting document, Mitchell asked for the ability to amend pleadings in the case until 30 days before the trial.

The university’s representation asked for a Jan. 13 deadline for Mitchell. In Davis’ order, he acknowledged UNA’s deadline.

The judge’s decision also said Mitchell’s motion for would be considered a “motion for summary judgment” because it had evidence exhibits attached to it. A motion of judgment has to be alone and not with exhibited evidence.

Mitchell’s motion for summary judgment and the motion to compel are “held in abeyance,” or on hold, until the court determines if UNA is entitled to its motion for judgment.

UNA also submitted a Feb. 14 reply in support of the original motion for judgment.

“Despite having readily available years of secretly recorded statements by UNA officials, plaintiff’s complaint is devoid of any factual allegation supporting actionable harassment, discrimination or retaliation based on race or other protected status,” according to the reply. “That plaintiff’s complaint is limited to allegations of petty slights and trivial harms, despite the mountain of evidence plaintiff says she created, further shows the frivolousness of plaintiff’s lawsuit.”

UNA also had a Feb. 17 motion for a mental examination of Mitchell on the grounds that the school is legal entitled to one and that Mitchell has not opposed it, according to the motion. The motion was accompanied by a brief further detailing why UNA’s legal representation felt the exam was necessary.

The university also submitted a brief in support of the motion on the same day, further detailing why UNA’s legal representation felt it was necessary.

Davis denied the motion in a Feb. 21 response.

“The motion is premature because the court has not had an opportunity to rule on defendant’s pending motion for judgment on the pleadings,” he said. “If any claims of plaintiff remain pending after the ruling, defendant may renew its motion”

Updates to the case also include a Dec. 27 protective order through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which gives the attorneys for the parties access to any necessary health care documents and the ability to interview health professionals.

Both parties also entered a joint protective order Jan. 12, which the judge granted the same day. The order will give case documents from the discovery confidentiality from outside parties.

Editor’s Note: Continue to stick with The Flor-Ala for further updates on this story.