Judge recommends tossing suit against Dantonio


DETROIT — A federal judge has recommended that a former Michigan State football staff member’s claims against former Spartans football coach Mark Dantonio, former athletic director Mark Hollis and former school President Lou Anna Simon should be dismissed.

Curtis Blackwell filed a lawsuit in November 2018 claiming his employment agreement was violated when he was disciplined while the school addressed sexual assault allegations against three players in 2017. Dantonio, Hollis and Simon were named as defendants in the suit. Two MSU police detectives were also named as defendants.

In a filing Friday, Magistrate Judge Sally J. Berens said the case against Dantonio, Hollis and Simon “appears to have been prosecuted for an improper purpose and should be dismissed.” Berens did not recommend dismissing the claims against the detectives.

The recommendation goes to Janet T. Neff, the federal judge overseeing the case.

“Plaintiff Blackwell’s attorneys have repeatedly misused court process to elicit information unrelated to his case and then have publicly filed that information, at least once in violation of a court order,” Berens said in her recommendation.

She added that it appears Blackwell’s lawyers “have used discovery, not to adduce support for the narrow claim Plaintiff alleges against the MSU Defendants in this case, but to harass the defendants and to build a case they have now filed in state court.”

Blackwell recently filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court, naming Dantonio, Hollis, Simon and current Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman as defendants. That suit alleges breach of contract, violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act for race discrimination and wrongful termination, wrongful termination against public policy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Filings in both cases have included references to possible NCAA violations, and Berens felt that in the federal case, Blackwell’s lawyers have abused the discovery process.

“Plaintiff’s attorneys have engaged in a pattern of seeking discovery on issues unrelated to the claim against the MSU Defendants but that might be relevant to a different claim and that certainly appear to be of interest to the press and public,” Berens wrote.

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