Judge says stadium lawsuit will go to trial

BY ARIKIA MILLIKAN
Daily News Editor
Published August 12, 2007

The Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America will go ahead with their plans to take the University to court with a lawsuit alleging that the University is violating the American Disabilities Act by proceeding with the stadium plans.

After four months of legal negotiation, Judge Sean Cox - a University alum - declared at a private status conference in Detroit's Federal Courthouse on Wednesday that the period in which the University could have settled out of court was over.

"In terms of negotiation, settlement or discussion, that is out of the question," said Richard Bernstein, who represents the plaintiff group. "This matter is going to trial without question."

Now the case has entered the discovery period, which Cox has set for seven months. During this time, both plaintiff and defendant will request records, seek testimony from key figures involved with the case and gather as much information as possible to build their cases.

Bernstein said the essential matter in the case concerns whether the changes being made to Michigan Stadium are considered alterations or repairs, and that he plans to obtain every document about stadium regarding these classifications.

During the discovery period, Bernstein said he will depose various University officials, which requires collecting written testimonies and examining the officials under oath.

Bernstein said a key figure in his case is Martin, who has sent letters to University alumni and made public comments in which he referred to the end product of the stadium renovation project as a "new stadium" that would require a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"Bill Martin is telling the alumni one thing and the court another. He's going to have to explain everything he's said," Bernstein said.

Bernstein said University President Mary Sue Coleman, various figures in the Athletic Department and members of the University Board of Regents would also be forced to testify.

"Because the regents have taken such an active roll in this . their depositions are going to be called for, too," Bernstein said.

The University declined to discuss its plans for the discovery period.

Bernstein said the case is on the September 2008 docket and Cox would probably hear it then, although the specific trial date has not been set.