Aftermath of Miller verdict, UMD to submit a motion to dismiss state lawsuit

 Shannon Miller, former UMD women's hockey coach, in December 2014. Miller won the trial against UMD on March 15, 2018. Photo courtesy of Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune.

Shannon Miller, former UMD women's hockey coach, in December 2014. Miller won the trial against UMD on March 15, 2018. Photo courtesy of Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune.

After a jury ruled in former UMD hockey coach Shannon Miller’s favor on Thursday, March 15, both UMD and Miller are hoping to settle the case and looking ahead to the future state trial. U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz issued a ‘stay of proceedings’ on March 30, which means that the post-verdict process is halted for some time. The decision was made by the Schiltz.

According to UMD’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations Lynne Williams, the stay is supposed to last for about a month from the issuing date.

“After that, they will continue to proceed with post-trials motions and hearings and other things after the stay period,” Williams said. “You can think of it as a time where everybody just takes a step back.”

Williams said that the judge will be issuing a hearing schedule after the stay period is over and that there is not yet a decision made to whether UMD will appeal or not.

“With the stay we are on hold for a bit,” Williams said. “After that we will be working our way through post trials motions and assess our options as we move along.”

Williams did say that the university is planning to make a motion to dismiss the state trial, which includes the plaintiffs Miller, former softball coach and women’s hockey director of operations Jen Banford and former women’s basketball coach Annette Wiles.

 Lynne Williams, UMD director of marketing and public relations. Photo courtesy of Lynne Williams/UMD website.

Lynne Williams, UMD director of marketing and public relations. Photo courtesy of Lynne Williams/UMD website.

“We do not think that they have a liable state claim,” Williams said.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who is representing all three plaintiffs in both cases, said that not much has happened since the verdict was read on March 15 other than meetings with the judge.

“The judge has suggested that the parties try to settle the case rather than move forward into proceedings, and we’re currently exploring that,” Siegel said. “Obviously if we settle, we hope to settle the case for all three plaintiffs and if we don’t, then we have a lot of further things that will take place in the federal case.”

Siegel said that if the federal case does not settle, the team will ask the judge to award front pay or reinstatement to Miller and to award attorneys their fees and costs. Siegel also said that he is sure the defendants would be filing motions to set aside the jury verdict.

Regarding the state case, Siegel said that they are proceeding and moving towards another trial, but would settle before a potential trial if possible.

“We are prepared to either settle or go forward,” Siegel said. “We’re very confident in our case, we won the trial so we’re even more confident than we were previously, but if the university would like to to try to resolve the case, we will work with them cooperatively to do that.”

Siegel said that he doubts that the university will appeal the federal case.

“I don’t know what they would have to appeal,” Siegel said. “We had a trial judge that was very careful and fair to both sides, so it doesn’t seem like there is much point in an appeal, but who knows.”

The state trial currently does not currently have a date set in stone. Judge Laurie J. Miller of Hennepin County is head of the case.

In regards to the campus, Williams said that the administration continue to focus on campus climate as it has in the previous years regardless of what has been going on in court.

“We will continue to ask the campus to create ideas and action plans and steps that we can do to improve the campus climate through that process and the system that we have in place,” Williams said. “We have to continue forward with the actions that we believe demonstrate our commitment to diversity and conclusion.”

Williams said that the administration cannot simply create or manufacture anything, but have to prove it over time.

“That’s what we’re asking the campus to help us with; how do we continue to move forward in that area?” Williams said. “It’s not a direct output of the case, because we would’ve done that regardless. It’s a channel that campus community members to help the campus and leadership move forward on this.”

Williams said that the administration continue to stand behind their decision to not renew Miller’s contract.

“We felt that it was the best thing for the long term success of the women’s hockey program and we continue to be adamant in our support for women’s hockey,” Williams said. “We recognize that this is a sensitive topic and not everybody agrees, and that’s where we would ask the campus community to keep engaging us in discussion and tell us where they’re at and tell us what ideas they have.”

UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo and Chancellor Lendley Black were not available for comments.

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