CHARLESTON – Citing differences with his clients in settling a sex discrimination suit with WVU Tech, a Charleston attorney is asking a federal judge to relieve him as counsel in the case.
On July 23, J. Michael Ranson of the Ranson Law Offices asked U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to schedule a hearing on a proposed settlement between Tech and two members of the women's softball team.
The players filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
After filing the complaint that alleged inequities between the men's baseball and women's softball teams, Teri Harrison of Cabin Creek and Alexis Cox of Ripley employed Ranson and his wife, Cynthia.
The couple were to file a lawsuit against WVU Tech to enforce a Complaint Resolution Agreement drafted by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The lawsuit, records show, was filed Feb. 1. In it, Harrison and Cox alleged the CRA had either been breached, or Tech had failed to take action.
On June 2, both sides agreed to mediate the dispute, with J. Webster Arceneaux serving as mediator.
In reaching an agreement, Tech "agreed to even more improvements and upgrades to the women's softball and facilities than previously memorialized" in exchange for Harrison and Cox releasing Tech from all legal claims.
However, Tech's attorneys Joanna I. Tabit and J.A. Curia, with the Charleston law firm of Steptoe and Johnson, allege when the final terms of the settlement was reduced to a memorandum of understanding, Harrison and Cox "surprisingly refused" to sign the document.
In a motion filed July 3 to enforce the settlement, Tabit said because a "meeting of minds" had taken place "[a]ll elements of a contractual agreement to settle has been satisfied."
"The Plaintiff's cannot now unilaterally choose to repudiate the agreement," Tabit said.
In his reply, Ranson acknowledged that an agreement had been reached "after several hours of good faith negotiating."
However, for reasons he does not make clear, Ranson said Harrison and Cox, "refused to sign the same and refused to articulate the mediator any additional elements."
Also, Ranson said several days following the mediation, Harrison and Cox e-mailed him and "informed him they would not resolve the matter and would be asking for his dismissal."
Recognizing the conflict between his clients' wishes and the agreement which was reached in good faith, Ranson asked Faber for a hearing to determine if a settlement in fact occurred.
He asked that Harrison and Cox attend the hearing with new counsel to voice objections to the settlement, and if the case goes forward, he be allowed to withdraw.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Case No. 08-0078