A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a wrongful termination and retaliation case against the Southern University System Board of Supervisors, a board member and a former interim president of the system.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ruled that Joseph Cedric Shelton, Southern’s former alumni affairs administrator, did not prove his case during the three-day trial.
Brady granted the defendants’ motion for dismissal before they called their first witness. The judge also ruled there was no need for jurors to deliberate.
Shelton had alleged that he was fired in 2009 because he testified on behalf of former Southern President Ralph Slaughter in a retaliation suit Slaughter filed against the board.
But Winston G. Decuir Jr., attorney for both the board and former interim President Kassie Freeman, argued that Shelton’s dismissal and that of a dozen other Southern employees resulted from repeated budget cuts imposed by the Legislature.
“The judge recognized that the university had to make fundamental changes in the budget, which unfortunately caused layoffs,” Decuir said after Brady’s decision Wednesday.
Decuir added that Freeman “was placed in a very difficult position (in 2009). She is pleased that the court understood what she had to do and why.”
Shelton’s claims, however, remain alive, his attorney said later.
Carol Powell Lexing, the attorney, said she expects Shelton to ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Brady’s dismissal of the case.
“We are disappointed at how the case turned out,” Lexing said. “But we will continue to seek justice.”
Thomas M. Flanagan, attorney for Southern board member Tony Clayton, said Brady’s decision is “recognition that Mr. Clayton didn’t violate Mr. Shelton’s rights.”
Flanagan told Brady and jurors early in the trial that Clayton voted on three occasions against the Southern reorganization plan that resulted in Shelton’s loss of his job.
“Tony just loves Southern University so much,” Flanagan said after the case was dismissed. “He is really gratified that Southern’s name is cleared. That means a lot to him.”
Southern Board Chairman Darren Mire said in a statement: “While we are very happy with today’s ruling, we remain focused on rebuilding Southern University and making it stronger and viable for the future.”