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Diocese, Mater Dei agree to settle lawsuit against Southern Section

The Diocese of Orange and the high school reach agreement in principle to settle a 2-year-old suit against the CIF Southern Section that alleged unfair treatment and discrimination against Mater Dei athletes.

November 02, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

The Diocese of Orange and Santa Ana Mater Dei High have reached agreement in principle to settle a 2-year-old lawsuit against the CIF Southern Section that alleged unfair treatment and discrimination against Mater Dei athletes, attorney Jerome Jackson said Thursday.

A notice of settlement is expected to be filed Friday.

Jackson said his clients are satisfied that a change in attitude has occurred at the Southern Section office, citing the retirement of former commissioner Jim Staunton and the hiring of new Commissioner Rob Wigod.

"This was never about money," Jackson said. "It was about fairness."

Jackson said Wigod's decision to create an advisory panel of private school administrators, including Mater Dei President Patrick Murphy, was an important sign of the Southern Section's change under Wigod.

"Wigod is someone who views private schools in general and Mater Dei in particular as assets, not threats," Jackson said.

Eleven assistant commissioners, coaches and administrators were deposed during the legal skirmishes in preparation for a trial that now won't happen. More than $109,000 in attorney fees was spent by the California Interscholastic Federation defending the Southern Section. Neither Staunton nor former CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida ended up being deposed.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 after two transfer students, football player Todd Hunt and water polo player Jon Walters, were denied athletic eligibility at Mater Dei.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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