Occidental responds to former athletic director Jaime Hoffman’s lawsuit

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Occidental College submitted a formal response Oct. 25 to the lawsuit filed by Jaime Hoffman Sept. 24.

The college’s first motion was to ask the court to narrow the scope of the lawsuit, according to Vice President of Marketing and Communications Marty Sharkey.

“The college believes that many of the claims do not have a proper legal basis,” Sharkey said. “There are many claims in there; if one side believes something is not a valid legal claim, there are procedures that happen early in the process where parties are allowed to narrow the scope. In looking through the suit, the college feels that there are many parts of it that don’t have that proper legal basis.”

According to Beth Gunn, one of Hoffman’s attorneys at Gunn Coble LLP, Occidental did not answer the complaint and instead filed two motions, one to strike certain portions of the complaint and the other to dismiss claims from the case.

“In our view, the motions are meritless, and will have little effect other than expend attorneys’ fees,” Gunn said via email. “In deciding these types of motions, the court is limited to reviewing the subject matter contained in the complaint, but Occidental is asking the court to review material outside the subject matter of the complaint.”

The date for hearing the motions is scheduled for Dec. 20. Gunn Coble will be opposing the motions.

According to Gunn, one of the motions Occidental has filed seeks to strike references to Rachel Cronin, who formerly acted as Interim General Counsel for Occidental, and is now representing Occidental and President Jonathan Veitch from the law firm O’Melveny & Myers.

“She is the attorney primarily litigating the case,” Gunn said via email. “One of the motions Occidental has filed seeks to strike references to Ms. Cronin from the allegations in the complaint, as allegedly “attorney-client privileged.” We believe this argument is not grounded in applicable law and Ms. Cronin is a pertinent fact witness in the case. There are also members of the Board of Trustees at Occidental who are members of O’Melveny & Myers and who may also be fact witnesses or otherwise involved in this case.”

The lawsuit is currently entering the discovery phase, according to Sharkey.

“What that essentially means is that both sides have the right to gather information from each other and this phase is often quite lengthy — in this case, we would anticipate 12 months or even more,” Sharkey said. “Once the lawsuit has been filed, both parties know what’s in it and then can say we want to talk to this potential witness or that potential witness. There are all types of information that they may want to have access to in order to inform how they’re going to approach it. That’s why it is often so lengthy.”

While the date for hearing the motions is currently set for Dec. 20, it could be rescheduled, which is common for civil cases, according to Sharkey.

“Just to reiterate what we said in the initial statement on October 1 and also looking at the last article and the various responses to the case so far, that while we respect Jaime’s right to tell her story, we think a lot of the college’s actions have been mischaracterized and we do think that the facts of the case will bear that out,” Sharkey said.

A case management conference with the court has been scheduled for Feb. 21, 2019, according to Gunn.

“It is typical for a judge to set trial and other dates at this initial conference with the parties,” Gunn said via email.

Director of Communications Jim Tranquada deferred to Sharkey for a statement. Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Rhonda Brown declined to comment. Rachel Cronin could not be reached for comment.