In the four months since former Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi filed a lawsuit against Riverside officials and several private citizens on the behalf of her daughters, the motions and paperwork have been flying, but real action has been absent.
That is expected to change in about three weeks when U.S. District Court Judge Elaine Bucklo is expected to rule on motions to dismiss that have been field by the defendants in the case.
“I’m anticipating that we’ll get a ruling on August 1,” said Paul Stack, the attorney for defendant Chris Robling.
The parties to the lawsuit had a status hearing in May to set a briefing schedule. At that time Bucklo indicated that she would rule on the motions on Aug. 1, which is the next court date for the case.
On March 1, Lieggi filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of her two daughters against the village of Riverside, Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera, Riverside Chief of Police Thomas Weitzel, Riverside police Lt. David Krull, Riverside Village Attorney Lance Malina, as well as private citizens Robling, Stephen Battersby, Mary Lescher and Susan Corrigan, claiming that the defendants violated the privacy rights of her children by distributing a police report into allegations of sexual abuse that were made in 2011.
The allegations of abuse were made against Battersby’s daughter, who was then a teacher at Ames School, where Lieggi was principal until last month, the Corrigan family and Lieggi’s former husband.
Police and other investigators found no evidence to support the allegations. Lieggi resigned her position as principal this spring under pressure from the school board.
All the defendants have filed motions to dismiss except for Robling, who filed a slightly different motion for a judgment on the pleadings and filed a countersuit against Lieggi.
In a motion to dismiss, the defendants claim that even if the facts alleged in the lawsuit are presumed to be true there is still no legal cause of action against them. In this case, the defendants simply claim they did nothing wrong. Since in a motion to dismiss the judge looks at the facts in the most favorable light to the plaintiff, a motion to dismiss must pass a high bar to succeed.
If the judge rejects the motions to dismiss, the lawsuit will move on to the discovery phase.
The motion filed on behalf of Malina was very aggressive. Malina is represented by lawyers from the firm of Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, Ltd., where Malina serves as head of the litigation department.
The motion to dismiss filed by Malina’s attorneys totaled 20 pages. After Lieggi’s attorney, Terrance Moran, filed a response to Malina’s motion, Malina’s lawyers countered with a 15-page reply dated June 28.
The defendants basically claim that they had the right to distribute a police report, which was lawfully obtained or released. Malina’s motion claims that no law prohibited Krull from releasing the police report. The motion accused Lieggi’s lawyers of misquoting several Illinois statutes involving sex abuse.
The defendants claim the police investigation was a matter of public interest because of Lieggi’s role as a principal. Malina’s reply claims that Lieggi “had no shame in making serious, unfounded accusations against employees of her school and members of the community.” It also claims that “she continues to use the ‘disclose the good and hide the bad’ technique.”
The village’s attorneys argued that the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, one statue Lieggi’s attorney relies on, grants police officers such as Krull qualified immunity when acting in good faith. This protects the village as well, the motion argues.
In her motion, Lescher admits that she received a redacted copy of a police report from Stephen Battersby. The motion argues that since Battersby lawfully obtained the report by filing a Freedom of Information Act request, he could distribute the report to anyone he wished.
Battersby’s motion argues that the police report did not contain private facts and claims that the report was lawfully given to Battersby “without any conditions or restrictions.”
In his response to Lescher’s motion to dismiss Lieggi’s lawyer claims that by giving the police report to community members, Lescher “gave publicity to highly confidential and private facts and that the publication of these facts was highly offensive.”