News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
High Court Declines Ore. District’s Appeal
The Portland, Ore., school system lost its bid last week to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower-court ruling that reinstated a $1 million jury verdict in favor of a fired special education teacher.
Pamella E. Settlegoode sued the 49,000-student district in 2000 after it did not renew her contract to conduct physical education classes for students with disabilities. She contended that the district had retaliated against her for complaining about subpar classroom conditions for her students. ("$1 Million Jury Award Is Reinstated For Teacher Who Criticized Conditions," Law Update, April 21, 2004.)
In 2001, a federal jury in Portland awarded her compensatory damages of $902,000 from the district and punitive damages of $50,000 from each of two administrators in the city school system. The U.S. District Court judge handling the case set aside the verdict, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, unanimously reinstated the jury award last April.
On Nov. 8, the high court declined without comment to consider the district’s appeal in Portland Public Schools v. Settlegoode (Case No. 04-313).
The Portland district will now have to pay the judgment, as well as an as-yet-unspecified sum for Ms. Settlegoode’s legal costs. The district’s own legal bills in the case have topped $400,000, a figure expected to climb as the two sides haggle over lawyer’s fees, a lawyer for the district said.
Vol. 24, Issue 12, Page 26