By Tim Eberly
The stream of paperwork has not slowed in the case between Montana State University-Northern women's basketball coach Kevin Emerick and his employer.
Attorneys for MSU have filed a request with the Montana Supreme Court in Helena, seeking a reversal of the Jan. 3 decision of District Judge Marc Buyske to give Emerick his job back. MSU lawyers asked for Emerick's immediate removal from his position and requested the Supreme Court assume jurisdiction in the case.
Montana's Board of Regents of Higher Education stepped in and filed the request on behalf of MSU-N.
In the document filed Friday with the Supreme Court, MSU lawyers argue that the practice of buying out coachs' contracts relieving coaches of their duties but continuing to pay their salary is a common procedure among coaches at any level. If the college is "forced to accept his services," said the document, the Supreme Court would be endorsing a new brand of law.
"Almost every day the sports pages contain a story about some coach at a public university whose specific term contract was bought out' with so many months or years remaining on it," said the document, which was written by MSU lawyers LeRoy Schramm and Leslie Taylor. If Emerick is allowed to keep coaching, "it will be, to the best of this legal council's knowledge, the first time that a court anywhere will have entered an injunction to keep a bought out' coach on the job."
The Supreme Court has several options in response to MSU's request. The court could accept or deny the request without a court hearing, or it could ask Emerick's lawyers to file a response to the document. So far, the Supreme Court has not decided on a course of action.
"They made a good case in the brief they sent to the court," Emerick said. "It'll be interesting with what the court does with it. Obviously I feel confident our ruling will be affirmed but we'll just have to wait and see."
Meanwhile, Emerick and his attorneys, Bob Peterson and Dan Boucher, have sent a letter to MSU president Geoff Gamble informing him that Emerick intends to appeal his suspension through the school's administrative review process. The letter to Gamble also requested an extension of time for Emerick, according to court documents filed with the Supreme Court.
As part of Buyske's order in Hill County District Court, MSU attorneys last week sent Emerick's lawyers the highly anticipated report about the relationship between the coach and a former player who is now his girlfriend. Boucher and Peterson did not hand the report over to Emerick, but rather told their client of the information included in it.
"I trust their judgment," Emerick said Monday. "I've talked to them about it. I'm just following their advice. They don't want me to see it."
When asked what was in the report, Emerick said, "I'm not going to comment on that."
Peterson refused to release the report to the Havre Daily News "because it's a subject in litigation and I'm going to need to take a look at it and make a decision about it for my client," he said Friday. "And I don't want to do that through the papers. I also have my client's rights to protect. And this is how I have to do it."
Emerick sued MSU for an injunction to be reinstated after MSU-N Chancellor Alex Capdeville suspended him with pay on Dec. 12 and told Emerick his contract, which expires June 18, would not be renewed.
In his ruling, Buyske also ordered MSU to let Emerick proceed with an appeal of the decision. He also told MSU-N to disclose to Emerick the reasons for its decision to suspend him and not renew his contract.
Capdeville suspended Emerick after reviewing the results of the investigation conducted by Corky Bush, MSU-Bozeman's human resources director for affirmative action. The investigation was actually prompted by Emerick, who made accusations against a former Skylights recruiter, Jerry Wier, about past sexual misconduct between him and Emerick's girlfriend, Anna Fabatz. Fabatz played under Emerick during her final season in 2000-2001.
Wier denied Emerick's accusations fully, but his Big Sandy lawyer, Tom Sheehy, later admitted that Wier kissed Fabatz on one occasion.
Emerick made the accusation to Capdeville on Oct. 3, at a meeting with the chancellor and athletic director Ted Spatkowski, during which Capdeville prohibited Fabatz from acting as a student assistant coach with the Skylights. More than a week later, Emerick sent a mass e-mail to more than a 100 MSU-N staff and faculty members accusing Wier of sexual misconduct with Fabatz while he recruited her and during her freshman season.
Emerick said he sued MSU-N because he felt Capdeville did not provide him with a specific reason for his dismissal.
On Dec. 19, Capdeville sent Emerick a letter saying he was dismissed because he was having a relationship with a student in violation of a school policy.
Emerick also said he felt Bush's investigation was not conducted properly because the individuals that were interviewed were not sworn in beforehand.
Since his reinstatement, Emerick has coached in three games, winning two and losing one. The Skylights record is 15-3.