Motion granted

Court rules in favor of trial date continuance

Santi Quiroga Medina , News Editor

View of President Pete Menjares’ office window and the Demaray Hall clock tower. (Caitlyn Schnider)

On Oct. 11, Judge Sandra Widlan of The Superior Court of Washington for King County approved SPU’s request for a continuance in their lawsuit with former adjunct nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl.

The motion, filed by Seattle Pacific University on Sep. 28, asked the court to extend the trial date from Jan. 10, 2022 to June 13, 2022.

The university cited three main reasons for the continuance, the first being that one of their legal council members is on maternity leave.

“One of SPU’s two trial counsel, Abby St. Hilaire, gave birth on August 31 and will be on maternity leave through the end of December. Mrs. St. Hilaire has been involved in the case since filing- she is on the notice of appearance dated January 20, 2021,” The motion reads. “If the trial date is not moved, SPU will, as a practical matter, be without key counsel for trial.”

The second reason SPU cited is that having the trial in the middle of the academic year would be disruptive to the SPU community.

“The potential witnesses of this case–as reflected in both parties’ respective witness disclosures–are almost entirely SPU faculty and administrators,” The motion states. “Being available to testify on the current trial date–the second week of class after the holiday break–with the uncertainty of civil standby in the current COVID-induced backlog, interferes with their ability to teach SPU students.”

The petition also stated SPU would like to see the results of two similar cases, Woods v. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and DeWeese-Boyd v. Gordon College, currently being reviewed by the supreme court before their own hearing.

Rinedahl’s team then swiftly filed an objection on Oct. 5, asking for the trial to occur on its initial intended date. The document stated the following:

“SPU fails to show “good cause” at this time to continue the trial date for five months. This motion should be denied.”

The legal team objected to the continuance arguing that the trial will only be a one-day proceeding involving one witness, that the Supreme Court rarely overrules the decision of a lower court, and that “Rinedahl will suffer prejudice.” According to the document:

“Every day that this case is delayed, SPU’s discriminatory hiring policy is allowed to stand, and Rinedahl has to continue with the uncertainty of knowing whether SPU engaged in illegal discrimination. Every day that this case is delayed, Rinedahl does not get the opportunity to work at SPU as a full-time professor. Every day that this case is delayed, Rinedahl has to live with the humiliation that he suffered as a victim without any judgment or justice.”

Rinedahl’s lawyer Daniel Kalish responded to the continuance saying:

“We are, of course, disappointed because we wanted the trial to occur as soon as practicable. That being said, we respect the court’s decision, and we look forward to trying this case in June.”

In contrast, SPU’s Director of Public Information Tracy Norlen expressed the university’s gratitude for the continuance.

“SPU is grateful that the court granted our request to defer trial until June 2022, and we will continue preparing for the case.”