Manatt Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary of Sweetwater Case

Manatt is proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the landmark Ollier v. Sweetwater Union High School District victory, which upheld the Title IX requirements for equal funding for men’s and women’s sports teams.

The case began when the Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego, California, denied a request by the girls’ softball team to provide the same resources as the boys’ baseball team and fired the team’s coach. With the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC) and Legal Aid at Work, Manatt filed a class action lawsuit in 2007 that fought against sex discrimination and retaliation as well as to uphold the rights of women student athletes who received disproportionate athletic opportunities. After years of litigation, and with national implications on funding for women’s sports on the line, the team achieved a landmark appellate decision in 2014 upholding Title IX and setting a precedent that equitable funding in schools is mandated under federal law. This case was the first to prevail under the three part test of title IX’s mandate for equity in athletics:

  1. Accommodate student interest and participation in athletics regardless of gender
  2. Provide proportional financial support for men’s and women’s teams
  3. Offer equal benefits and opportunities, including for facilities, coaching and equipment

Since 2007, nearly 50 Manatt attorneys, paralegals, and staff devoted close to 5,800 hours to the Sweetwater matter. The Manatt team included Partners Joanna McCallum, Viral Mehta and Kenneth Julian; Associate Lauren Chee; Specialist Eric Naggar; Senior Paralegal Hunter McArn; and Senior Project Coordinator Randall Gordon, as well as additional invaluable contributions from other Manatt alumni.

During a recent event celebrating Women’s History Month, Manatt Employment and Labor Leader Esra Hudson and CWLC Staff Attorney Julianna Gesiotto discussed the impact of the case and its importance for equitable funding in high school sports.

“The Sweetwater case set a valuable precedent for girls in sports – that their opportunities, treatment and participation matter just as much as their male counterparts and should be supported accordingly,” Gesiotto said.

“This was an incredible victory upheld at every level,” Hudson said. “From the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California where it was tried through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it was agreed that the girls’ team was denied rights enshrined in Title IX.”

Learn more about the case and the California Women’s Law Center here.

Learn more about Legal Aid at Work here.



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