Pontiac- An attorney representing the families of four students killed and others injured in the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School said Wednesday he plans to add the school district to his lawsuit as a defendant.
Attorney Ven Johnson, whose firm has several related lawsuits pending in Oakland Circuit Court and Federal Court, said he wants to argue the unconstitutionality of the Oxford public school district — or any government agency – “to hide behind government immunity”.
“It’s huge,” Johnson said. “The public should be outraged that the government has established super-secret rules to protect themselves that are not provided to ordinary citizens.
“I’m sure the school’s attorney will argue that they shouldn’t be charged in this case, but it will allow us to explore the matter,” Johnson said.
Timothy Mullins, the lawyer representing six Oxford school defendants named in the complaint, said Wednesday that he had filed legal briefs months ago that said government immunity protection was appropriate, but that he was ready to discuss the matter further if necessary.
“There were about 25 or more people who tried to stop government immunity and failed,” Mullins said. “I suspect that will be the case here. It depends on the judge of course, but it is possible that we will have oral arguments on this in October. »
Oakland County Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot previously ordered attorneys to help mediate the issues, but after saying they were unable to resolve the issues, she told the attorneys that they had 60 days to comply with the depositions of six school employees named as defendants: Pam Parker Fine and Shawn Hopkins, both school trustees; , Nicholas Ejak, Dean of Students; and professors Jacquelyn Kubina, Becky Morgan and Allison Karpinski.
Johnson wants to ask the six about what they did and didn’t know about the risk posed by Ethan Crumbley, the 16-year-old charged in the shooting, and why nothing has been done about the disturbing behavior he has manifested at school. Crumbley was caught scribbling violent drawings on his math homework and looking for ammunition on his phone.
Johnson said his requests were unusual, but defense attorneys and the prosecutor’s office objected. After Chabot recently told attorneys they had 60 days to comply with the depositions of the six defendants, Johnson was granted permission to view videos at the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday.
“I don’t have the words for what they (the videos) showed,” Johnson said Wednesday. “But after viewing the video, I have identified two new people – both government employees – who I plan to add as defendants to my amended complaint.”
Last week, Mullins said there were “several legal arguments and motions still pending in multiple courtrooms, including in federal court where Judge Mark Goldsmith is seeking to have all lawsuits consolidated.
A dozen lawsuits have been filed in federal court relating to the shooting.
The civil lawsuit against school employees was filed in Oakland Circuit Court on behalf of the families of two slain students, Tate Myer and Justin Schilling and three other students who survived the shooting but remain traumatized, according to court documents.
In a released statement, the prosecutor’s office said it was concerned about any impact on ongoing criminal trials and giving Ethan Crumbley the notoriety he would have sought in the Nov. 30 shooting.
“Our goal is to achieve justice in criminal cases, and we don’t want evidence to be released prematurely that could affect those cases,” Oakland County Assistant District Attorney Marc Keast said. “Civil cases are also an important part of bringing justice to victims, but we ask that criminal cases be allowed to proceed before more evidence is released. Additionally, there is plenty of research and data showing that school shooters seek notoriety, as was the case with the Oxford shooter. We want to avoid any public release of video or other evidence that may inadvertently encourage future shooters.