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Portz v. St. Cloud State University

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 11, 2019

ALEXIE PORTZ, JILL KEDROWSKI, ABIGAIL KANTOR, MARILIA ROQUE DIVERSI, FERNANDA QUINTINO DOS SANTOS, MARIA HAUER, HALEY BOCK, KAITLYN BABICH, ANNA LINDELL, and KIERSTEN ROHDE, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY and MINNESOTA STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, Defendants.

          SHARON L. VAN DYCK, VAN DYCK LAW FIRM, PLLC, AND DONALD C. MARK, JR., AND TYLER P. BRIMMER, FAFINSKI MARK & JOHNSON, FOR PLAINTIFFS.

          KEVIN A. FINNERTY AND IAN M. WELSH, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is the motion of Defendants St. Cloud State University (“SCSU”) and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (“MNSCU”) to modify the Permanent Injunction while the Court's August 2019 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Judgment is on review at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court will deny the motion because Defendants are unlikely to succeed on the merits, because Defendants need not face irreparable injury, because Plaintiffs will be irreparably injured absent the Permanent Injunction, and because the public interest favors immediate enforcement of the Permanent Injunction.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are female student-athletes who attend or recently attended SCSU and were members of SCSU's varsity intercollegiate women's tennis or women's Nordic skiing teams. (Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order for Judgment (“Order”) at 3-4, Aug. 1, 2019, Docket No. 380.) Plaintiffs represent a class certified as “all present, prospective, and future female students at [SCSU] who are harmed by and want to end [SCSU's] sex discrimination in: (1) the allocation of athletic participation opportunities … and (3) the allocation of benefits provided to varsity athletes.” (Id. at 4.) SCSU is a university in the MNSCU system. (Id. at 3.)

         In August 2019, after a seven-day bench trial, the Court found that SCSU did not comply with Title IX in its allocation of athletic participation opportunities and treatment and benefits and had not since at least 2014. (Id. at 63.) The Court entered a Permanent Injunction requiring that SCSU take immediate steps to provide its female students with an equitable opportunity to participate in varsity intercollegiate athletics and with equitable athletic-related treatment and benefits at every tier of its athletic department. (Id. at 63- 64; see also 2d. Am. Judgment, Aug. 5, 2019, Docket No. 383.) Specifically, the Permanent Injunction requires that:

a) SCSU must take immediate steps to provide its female students with an equitable opportunity to participate in varsity intercollegiate athletics. SCSU must:
i) Maintain the women's tennis and Nordic skiing teams at a level of support comparable to other SCSU teams within the same tier of support, as long as there is sufficient interest and ability to maintain the women's tennis and Nordic skiing teams, and take other immediate steps to narrow the participation gap; or
ii) Otherwise take other steps to narrow the participation gap if the women's tennis and/or Nordic skiing teams are no longer viable varsity teams.
b) SCSU must take immediate steps to provide its female athletes with equitable athletic-related treatment and benefits at every tier of its athletic department. SCSU must:
i) Take immediate steps to permanently improve the practice and competitive facilities of its women's sports teams to create equity between SCSU's women's and men's teams, specifically, by promptly completing renovations on Selke Field and the women's Nordic ski team room, among other improvements to the women's facilities;
ii) Take immediate steps toward eliminating the inequity stemming from the unequal distribution of women and men's participation opportunities among the tiers of support; and
iii) Take immediate steps toward eliminating other inequities between the male and female teams' locker rooms.
c) SCSU's actions must be reasonably calculated to achieve full compliance with Title IX in a reasonable period of time.
d) This Court shall maintain jurisdiction over this action to monitor Defendants' compliance with the Court's orders. Defendants shall make reports to the Court every six months to monitor compliance with the Court's orders and with Title IX. The Court will consider appointment of an independent monitor if sufficient progress is not made within a reasonable period of time.

(2d. Am. Judgment.)

         SCSU and MNSCU filed a notice of appeal to the Eighth Circuit on September 3, 2019. (Notice of Appeal, Sept. 3, 2019, Docket No. 391.) SCSU and MNSCU now bring a motion requesting that the Court stay enforcement of the Permanent Injunction. (Mot. to Stay Judgment, Sept. 9, 2019, Docket No. 394.) Specifically, the Court understands SCSU and MNSCU to request a modification of the Permanent Injunction. Rather than a complete stay of enforcement, SCSU and MNSCU request that the terms of the Permanent Injunction be reduced, pending appeal, to the terms of the preliminary injunctions entered on July 25, 2016, and August 23, 2016.[1] (See Order (“July 2016 Injunction”), July 25, 2016, Docket No. 38; Am. Order (“August 2016 Injunction”), August 23, 2019, Docket No. 43.) The July 2016 preliminary injunction enjoined SCSU and MNSCU from:

(1) Eliminating SCSU's interscholastic women's tennis team;
(2) Involuntarily terminating the employment of the coaches of SCSU's interscholastic ...

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