Wooster Blade settlement


Case No. 5:03CV0062Cleveland, OhioWednesday, November 12,200311:00 A.MDarcie Draudt, etal.,Plaintiffs.vs.Wooster City School District Board ofEducation, et al.,Defendants.


APPEARANCES:For the Plaintiffs: Kenneth D. Myers, Esq.850 Euclid Avenue, Ste. 701 Cleveland,Ohio 44114 (216) 241-3900For the Defendant: DavidKane Smith, Esq.Krista K. Keim, Esq. Britton Smith Peters & Kalail Suite540, Summit One4700 Rockside Road Cleveland, Ohio 44131(216)642-0323Court Reporter: Heidi Blueskye Geizer,RMR-CRR801 West Superior Avenue 7-178U.S. Court HouseCleveland, Ohio 44113 (216) 357-7092Proceedings recorded by mechanical stenography,transcript produced by computer-aided transcription. MORNINGSESSION, NOVEMBER 12, 2003 11:00 A.M.THE COURT: Let me indicate thiscase came before the Court for a final pretrial. After discussion with theparties, the parties have settled their disputes. Under the terms of thatsettlement, the parties have agreed upon a certain statement. Inaddition, it has been agreed that the insurance company representing thedefendant Board of Education has agreed to the following payments: Theywould pay $5,000 to a 501(c) charity designated by the plaintiffs. In addition,they would pay $30,000 to Mr. Myers, representing attorney’s fees on thiscase.In consideration for these payments and for the agreement on thislanguage, the plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss this case with prejudice, andwould execute releases of all claims as running against thedefendants.In further discussions with the parties, and as part of thisagreement, there had been certain statements in the subject article that dealtwith a student at Wooster High School. That student’s parents have agreed toexecute releases of any claims on behalf of themselves and on behalf their minordaughter, and release any claims of any type as running against theplaintiffs.Mr. Myers, is that the settlement that’s been reached? Do youbelieve there’s any additional terms that should be placed upon the Court’srecord?MR. MYERS: That recitation, Your Honor, accurately reflects theterms as you mentioned.There were a couple of additional terms. The lastsentence in the agreed-upon statement, I believe it was agreed that thesuperintendent would execute an administrative guideline to reflect how thatparticular aspect would operate.In addition, the parties have agreed tonot make any public comment on the resolution of the case or the underlyingfacts or allegations or defenses of the case.THE COURT: Okay. Superintendent, is that the settlement you’ve reached?DAVID ESTROP: Yes.THE COURT: Do you have anything you want to add?MR. SMITH: No, Your Honor, I think that covers everything, in general terms.THECOURT: The parties have agreed, as well, I should relate, to mutually agreeupon language that would be something of a public announcement of thissettlement.One final thing that should be laid on the Court’s record isthat the Board of Education is not expending any of their own moneys for thepayment of these fees and/or contribution, and it’s been agreed that the insurerwould pay these. Is that right?LISA OWEN: Yes.MR. MYERS: Judge, one other thing. The statement we’re talking about, I think it would behelpful, just because there have been so many drafts back and forth, it might behelpful to have that statement actually read into the record so we’re clear onexactly what the final version is.THE COURT: I’ll try to do that, and Ithink this reflects it. I’ll ask for these back.The statement would read,”The superintendent, not the board, prohibited the distribution of the December20th, 2002 issue of The Blade because the superintendent –MR. SMITH: Your Honor, we have made not substantive changes, but changes to this document,in that we will refer to the newspaper as The Wooster Blade at all points, andwe will also remove a phrase a little later on –THE COURT: I think Iremoved it.MR. SMITH: You did. So as long as we understand it will beThe Wooster Blade, and that’s only because The Toledo Blade takes some issuewith that term.THE COURT: Let me try again.”The superintendent,not the board, prohibited the distribution of the December 20th, 2002 issue ofThe Wooster Blade because the superintendent learned on the evening of December19th, 2002, that it contained false information about a student, MeredithDrushal. Specifically, the article in question stated that Meredith Drushal wasconvicted and punished for drinking. This statement was not true.”Thenature and the seriousness of the false claims led the superintendent to contactcounsel and make a swift decision to halt distribution of The Wooster Bladenewspaper. The board learned of the superintendent’s decision on December 20th,2002. The superintendent and the board acknowledge that the prior restraint ofThe Blade should always be used as a last resort. The superintendent and theboard regret this action.”The editors acknowledge that Meredith Drushalwas not convicted and was not punished by the district for drinking. Theeditors regret and apologize that the information was in the article. They alsoregret any harm that the article may have caused Meredith Drushal.”Theeditors acknowledge that while their actions were taken under deadline pressure,they made mistakes in assembling and writing the article and should haveobtained additional verification of their facts.”The parties haveagreed that the superintendent will endeavor to meet with the editor and theadviser before any future decision not to distribute The Wooster Blade.”Isthat the agreement that’s been reached?MR. SMITH: Your Honor, I’m notsure that we didn’t understand that the word “apologize” would go in thesentence after where it is placed in your draft.JUDY THOMAS: Iunderstood that, but — because I asked.MR. SMITH: That they alsoregret and apologize for any harm the article may have caused MeredithDrushal.THE COURT: Do you have any issue with that change?MR.MYERS: So we’re taking it out of the “editors regret and apologize,” and we’reputting it in –THE COURT: “Also regret and apologize” –JUDYTHOMAS: Into the next –MR. MYERS: “Apologize and regret” — okay.”Regret and apologize for any harm.”THE COURT: Yes. Okay.MR.MYERS: That’s fine.THE COURT: Okay. All right. Thankseverybody.And the Court will retain jurisdiction over this to enforcethe settlement if any issues arise.MR. MYERS: Thank you, YourHonor.MR. SMITH: Thank you, Your Honor.- – -C E R T IF I C A T EI certify that the foregoing is a correct transcript from therecord of proceedings in the above-entitled matter.Heidi BlueskyeGeizer, RMR-CRR