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Federal Court Allows Former Fencing Coach's Lawsuit Against Penn State to Continue

by on January 07, 2015 10:50 AM

Former Penn State fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov's lawsuit against his former employer will continue despite Penn State's attempts to have it dismissed.

However, the lawsuit will proceed in a much smaller form.

Five of Kaidanov's seven allegations were dismissed, effectively removing former Penn State Athletic Director David Joyner and current Penn State Athletic Integrity Officer Julie Del Giorno as defendants. The remaining two claims -- alleged breech of contract and violation of Kaidanov's rights to due process -- will proceed against Penn State as the only defendant.

"Coach Kaidanov is extremely pleased that two important counts were not dismissed by the court," says Kaidanov's attorney Alvin de Levie. "The counts involve the claims that Penn State failed to provide due process both pre-termination and post-termination."

Penn State released an official statement on the matter, saying the university is "very pleased that the court has dismissed the vast majority of the claims brought by Coach Kaidanov, and also has dismissed the individual defendants entirely.”

Kaidanov first filed his lawsuit in federal court in June 2014, alleging that he was wrongly terminated from his longtime position as head coach of Penn State's men's and women's fencing teams. The lawsuit stems from an incident in Feb. 2013, in which one of Kaidanov's student-athletes was accused of possessing marijuana, according to court documents. After the accusations were proven false, the coach approached the university staffer who first made the report to learn why the report had been made and why he hadn't been involved in the process.

After meetings with Del Giorno and Joyner, Kaidanov was fired in August 2013 for perceived retaliation against the staff member who reported suspicions about the student-athlete possessing drugs. In his complaint, Kaidanov claims he was not involved in the termination decision, nor was he given any chance to explain that his conversation with the Penn State staffer did not constitute retaliation.

Penn State, Del Giorno and Joyner filed a motion in response to Kaidanov's lawsuit in August 2014, asking the court to dismiss each claim and prevent Kaidanov from filing a similar case again in the future. The defendants argued that Kaidanov was properly involved and informed throughout the termination process, and that his lawsuit failed to make specific claims against the defendants.

According to court documents, Penn State must file a formal response to the remaining claims by Jan. 16.

De Levie says he's unable to speculate on how long the lawsuit may take to work it's way through the courts, but expects the discovery phase of the lawsuit to begin shortly. That process will involve the parties exchanging materials related to the case and holding deposition hearings for relevant witness, which will likely still include Del Giorno and Joyner.

Prior to his termination, Kaidanov's career with Penn State was highly successful, winning twelve national championships, training ten future Olympians and being honored four times as the NCAA coach of the year.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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