Judge denies call to dismiss lawsuit

Following a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against University officials and the honor system, Judge Norman Moon dismissed six of eight counts in a Charlottesville Federal Court decision issued July 7.

Annette, Darryl and former University student Jonathan Cobb brought the $1.05 million lawsuit against the University Nov. 30.

"We were able to prove due process was not followed," Annette Cobb said. "There were significant departures from [Honor Committee] bylaws-other students were not persecuted in similar situations."

Defendants originally named in the suit include a slew of Board of Visitors members, faculty and Honor Committee members. Moon dismissed, in both their official and personal capacities, President John T. Casteen III, former Dean of Students Robert T. Canevari, Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore III, Assoc. College Dean Stephen Plog and others.

Jonathan Cobb was expelled from the University for cheating on an ECON 371, Introduction to Statistical Analysis, exam he took in the spring of 1997.

Economics Prof. Ronald Michener first brought up Cobb on honor charges March 10, 1997.

Cobb was then found guilty Dec. 6, 1997. Two months later, he requested and was denied an appeal for a new trial.

"My son never asked for vindication, all he wanted was another trial," Annette Cobb said.

University General Counsel Paul Forch, who is representing the University in this case, did not return phone calls yesterday.

Moon's ruling on the motions to dismiss Federal Court civil action 99-007-C states that the Court grants the "defendant's motion to dismiss as to the breach of fiduciary duties, breach of contract, violation of human rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and substantive due process counts in their entirety."

However, the court denied two of the University's dismissal claims.

"The defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as to the plaintiffs' procedural due process claim to the extent that plaintiffs can demonstrate that (1) there were significant departures from the [Honor Committee] bylaws concerning the appointment of an honor advisor which induced the plaintiffs' reasonable and detrimental reliance, and (2) the reliance was sufficiently unfair and prejudicial to constitute a procedural due process violation," Moon's decision states.

Cobb was not assigned an honor advisor until the fall semester after being charged with an honor violation in March.

"In addition to not being provided with an honor advisor, Cobb was not notified by the Honor Committee of the nature of the investigation prior to the close of the Spring Semester," Moon's decision states.

Honor Committee Chairman Hunter Ferguson said he is unable to comment specifically on pending litigation.

But Ferguson did say that the Committee will be "taking its meetings on the road" next semester to gauge student opinion on potential constitutional revisions designed to make the honor system more fair.

"We are concerned with issues of due process," he said, adding that the Committee's discussions will build upon last year's but will also offer a fresh perspective.

The Committee has met with the Board to discuss potential changes.

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