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Judge grants motion in Tennessee-Jennings suit

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 8, 2014 at 6:16 pm •  Published: August 8, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A judge denied one of Tennessee's motions for protective order and granted another in former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings' lawsuit against the university and athletic director Dave Hart.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton denied a motion that would have forbidden discovery of information related to former Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt's early onset Alzheimer's disease and the circumstances surrounding her departure in April 2012. Summitt stepped down after a 38-year tenure at Tennessee that included eight national championships.

Jennings is suing Tennessee, alleging age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement after 35 years at the school.

The judge granted a motion prohibiting "extrajudicial use or disclosure of documents and information, including transcripts of deposition testimony" produced during discovery.

The trial is scheduled for April 27.

The suit also argues that Hart retaliated against Jennings when she protested that Summitt's illness protected her from losing her job under the Americans With Disabilities Act. It indicated Jennings was forced out for opposing what she perceived as discriminatory actions taken by Hart against Summitt.

In an oral argument supporting its motions, the university argued that Jennings' lawyer, David Burkhalter, is trying to "plumb the depths" of Summitt's illness to support the case that Hart forced her to step down. The university also argued discovery requests by Jennings were "peripheral" to her disability retaliation claim and expressed concern that her lawyers would attempt to try the case through the media. Burkhalter responded that the Summitt-related discovery was vital to the disability retaliation claim.

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