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Huffman Gets Another Victory in Court : Jurisprudence: Judge orders state school system to pay his attorneys fees. Fullerton's Shumard and Bedell told to pay punitive damages totaling $4,500.

March 23, 1994|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The California State University system Tuesday was ordered to pay $300,000 in attorneys fees to representatives of former Cal State Fullerton volleyball Coach Jim Huffman, who in February won a $1.35 million judgment in his wrongful termination suit against the school.

Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Bauer also denied a CSU attorney's motions for a new trial and to have the $1.35 million award reduced. In addition, Bauer ordered two defendants, Fullerton Athletic Director Bill Shumard and university administrator Jack Bedell, to pay Huffman punitive damages totaling $4,500, $3,000 for Shumard and $1,500 for Bedell.

Defense attorney Kevin Gerry said the CSU system will appeal the ruling, perhaps as early as today. The appeal process could take up to two years, during which time Huffman's $1.35 million judgment will earn 10% interest.

"We see this as one of the best investments we can make in this economy," said Jared Huffman, Jim's brother and attorney. "We've analyzed the verdict and researched the law and have no question whatsoever that we will prevail on most, if not all, causes of action on appeal."

Huffman estimated that his San Francisco-based firm of Boyd, Huffman & Williams could incur another $200,000 in attorneys fees during the appeal process. In 18 months, the $1.35 million would earn about $200,000 in interest.

If a state appellate court upholds the verdict of the Superior Court jury, that could push the CSU system's financial liability over $2 million. Judgments against the system come directly out of the CSU's operating budget.

"I think the taxpayers of the state and students of the CSU system should be aware that their representatives are wasting money in this matter," Huffman said. "It's the same type of horrible decision-making that has characterized the defendants from the very beginning of this case.

"These are the same people who rejected our $300,000 settlement offer when the complaint was filed (in December, 1992) and our $350,000 settlement offer two months before trial."

Jim Huffman, who now works at an Anaheim sports apparel company, said he was unfairly fired in March, 1992, after he fought and blocked the school's effort to kill the women's volleyball program in January, 1992.

The university contended it acted properly when it fired Huffman, whose teams went 25-80 in his three years (1989-91) as coach.

But Huffman's attorneys successfully argued during the three-week trial that the coach was fired in retaliation for his sex-discrimination lawsuit that saved women's volleyball, forced changes in the school's athletic policies and embarrassed the school.

A jury determined that Shumard and Bedell, then the school's acting vice president for academic affairs, had "acted with reckless disregard of, or callous indifference to" Huffman's First Amendment rights. Shumard also was found to have acted with "fraud, malice or oppression" in terminating Huffman.

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