An attorney for former Ooltewah High School employees claiming they were wrongly mistreated during a 2015 rape case wants to beef up their lawsuit with more evidence pointing to the man who was the Hamilton County Schools superintendent at the time.
Attorney Curtis Bowe did not expand Thursday on what he plans to add about Rick Smith, the former superintendent and one of many public officials named in his clients' June lawsuit.
But Bowe must make the changes before early January as attorneys move toward an Oct. 30, 2018, trial date that U.S. District Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger set Thursday.
"That needs to be a very tight timeline," said W. Carl Spining, an attorney representing Smith and the school district. "We need to know what the facts are so we can defend, and I think we need to know them very, very soon."
Bowe filed the 33-page civil lawsuit in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court on behalf of former Ooltewah High School Principal Jim Jarvis, former athletic director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, as well as all of their spouses. Bowe said school, county and state officials violated the men's rights by "illegally disseminating false facts" and stripping them of the "opportunity to defend their employment against the untrue and malicious allegations" after the December 2015 trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., during which a freshman student was raped with a pool cue.
Many of those agencies and officials, including the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, the Hamilton County Department of Education and the Hamilton County district attorney general, have asked for the case to be dismissed. Their attorneys say these public officials are immune to the lawsuit because they were acting within the scope of their duties. Bowe, however, says there are exceptions for immunity, and he wants time to develop the facts.
Bowe said Thursday he hasn't had time to amend the complaint since he filed it.
His case is one of three pending lawsuits against the school district. Two minors who said they were raped on the Gatlinburg trip claimed in their lawsuits that Hamilton County knew abuse was happening but failed to protect its students. All three cases are consolidated so attorneys can easily share evidence and avoid deposing the same witnesses multiple times.
Judge Steger laid down several dates Thursday to guide multiple legal teams through the scheduling maze.
He said he plans to address the motions to dismiss soon but encouraged everyone to consider mediation, too. During mediation, both sides air their desires and better understand how to compromise with their opponent, Steger said.
Given that multiple attorneys are working on the case and about to generate thousands of dollars in fees, that's not a bad idea, he said.
"Ninety-seven percent of the cases [in federal court] get resolved short of trial," Steger said. "So some of your efforts should be aimed at that ... and that's my sermon on mediation."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeter son918.