Manatt Scores for Female Athletes in Title IX Class Action
Court Rules Against School District in Eastern San Diego County
LOS ANGELES, CA – March 23, 2009 – Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the national law and consulting firm, played an important role in a recent precedent-setting victory on behalf of female athletes, when a judge ruled that their high school discriminated against them by offering far fewer opportunities to participate in athletics than boys. The Manatt team represented the athletes on a pro bono basis alongside the California Women’s Law Center and the Legal Aid Society/Employment Law Center. Manatt partner Matthew Kanny accepted the pro bono co-counseling engagement, which was led by Manatt associates Yoanna Binder and Erin Witkow, and paralegal Lindy Willingham, with assistance from associate Alison White.
On March 20, 2009, the court issued an order granting plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment and finding that the defendants, Sweetwater Union High School District in Eastern San Diego County and several of its managers and employees, “are not in compliance with Title IX based on unequal participation opportunities in athletic program[s].”
In effect, the court found that Castle Park High School did not give girls an equal chance to participate in sports. This is the first case in which a class of high school female athletes has won a summary judgment motion under Title IX on the issue of failure to provide equal participation opportunities to girls.
“When Manatt was asked to join in the class action on behalf of these courageous young women, we were intrigued,” said Cristin Zeisler, the firm’s Director of Pro Bono Activities. “When we learned of the great disparities between girls’ and boys’ sports at the school, we were outraged and compelled to action. We are proud of the tireless efforts of our team and co-counsel, and so gratified that the order makes it clear once again that unfair treatment in our schools will not be tolerated.”
In April 2007, the students sued for injunctive relief under Title IX of the 1972 Education amendments, which bars sex discrimination in education, including athletic programs. In August 2008, shortly after Manatt joined the legal team as pro bono co-counsel, the court certified the case as a class action. The class has three remaining claims that will be set for trial in San Diego District Court.
Manatt has a long history of pro bono leadership, with both professionals and staff actively involved in the firm’s many pro bono representations. In 2008, the firm devoted nearly 33,000 hours to serving hundreds of small nonprofit organizations and individuals unable to afford legal services. Earlier this year, the firm was recognized with the coveted National Law Journal's Pro Bono Project of the Year Award for creating and growing the nation-wide Holocaust Survivors Justice Network – the single largest coordinated pro bono effort in U.S. history. In 2008, Manatt received “Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year” awards from Public Counsel Law Center, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, as well as a President’s Pro Bono Distinguished Service Award from the State Bar of California, among others. Over the years, numerous local, state and national bar associations, legal service entities and the media, have honored the firm’s pro bono service.
About Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLPManatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, provides legal and consulting services to a global client base from offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Sacramento, California; New York City and Albany, New York; and Washington, D.C. Manatt includes Manatt Health Solutions, a healthcare policy and strategic business advisory group, and ManattJones Global Strategies, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary that develops and implements strategies to expand client businesses and facilitate their effective competition in global markets. For more information, visit www.manatt.com, www.manatthealthsolutions.com, and www.manattjones.com.
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