Thursday, February 14, 2013

CORTINES CLAIMS STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS HAS EXPIRED ON ALLEGED HARASSMENT: Judge may dismiss sex lawsuit against former superintendent

By City News Service from the LA Daily News |

2/13/2013 07:22:33 PM PST  ::  A judge said Wednesday he was inclined to grant a motion by lawyers for former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the educator made unwanted sexual advances to a male LAUSD employee.

Cortines' attorneys say Scot Graham failed to file an appropriate document with the district before going to court. They maintain he is now trying to get around that requirement by getting permission from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Fahey to file an amended complaint with a change in legal theories.

Fahey sounded skeptical of the plaintiff's request to file a revised suit.

"I don't think the plaintiff can have it both ways," said Fahey, who took the dismissal motion under submission.

Fahey told the lawyers he would hold off on his decision if a settlement was possible. Graham's lawyer, Maurice Pessah, agreed that was a good idea. But attorney Linda Hurevitz, on behalf of Cortines, asked for a ruling on the motion first.

Attorneys for Cortines state in court papers filed in late November that Graham brought a claim last June 8 alleging the LAUSD invaded his privacy and defamed him by publicly disclosing his identity. But they also say he did not file a separate claim with the district concerning the sexual abuses he alleges Cortines committed while serving in his role as superintendent.

Cortines' lawyers maintain that because he failed to file the appropriate second claim within six months of the alleged abuses against him, the lawsuit he filed against Cortines last July 23 is now barred by the statute of limitations.

But Pessah said the amended complaint would clarify that Cortines was acting in his individual capacity and not as a district employee when the alleged sexual misconduct took place in July 2010 at the former schools chief's ranch in Kern County. Graham's lawyers say all the alleged advances were rebuffed by their client.

Cortines' lawyers say allowing Pessah to file the revised suit would run afoul of the state's "sham pleading doctrine" that disallows adding facts inconsistent with previous pleadings.

Graham was hired by the LAUSD as its director of real estate in 2000. His suit against Cortines was filed two months after the district announced that the Board of Education had agreed to pay Graham $200,000 and provide him with lifetime health benefits to settle his sexual harassment claims.

That settlement apparently began to unravel shortly after the announcement, with Graham's attorneys saying he had never agreed to be publicly identified, which the district did in a news release.

Cortines told reporters in May that his interactions with Graham were all consensual. The lawsuit does not name the LAUSD.

According to the lawsuit, Cortines propositioned Graham shortly after he was hired in March 2000. The lawsuit contends that Cortines "violated a myriad of LAUSD policies to hire" Graham, noting that he was not required to submit to any of the "prerequisites of securing employment at the LAUSD."

Cortines left the district in June 2000 and returned to the LAUSD in 2009. He retired in April 2011.

Graham reported Cortines' alleged actions to his supervisor and later to the district's general counsel, but no action was taken and the worker was advised to just "forget about the incident with Cortines," according to the lawsuit.

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