AoA moves to end its lawsuit officially
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 27, 2008
The Association of Alumni officially moved to end its lawsuit against the Dartmouth Board of Trustees early this week, joining with the College to file a "stipulation of dismissal" with the Grafton County Superior Court. It has become increasingly clear, however, that alumni are actively considering the possibility of continuing the legal effort, according to interviews with leaders in the alumni community.
Frank Gado '58, a former member of the Association's executive committee who helped to coordinate the lawsuit, said over half a dozen alumni have contacted him to ask if there is "some way" to continue the suit.
"My response has been that I don't know," Gado said. "I have not said that there is absolutely no way that it can be done."
Gado said he would support the continuation of legal action if such an option were financially and legally viable, but noted that any further legal effort would be contingent upon gaining access to funding.
John MacGovern '80, whose non-profit organization The Hanover Institute solicited donations from alumni to support the Association's suit, said in a previous interview with The Dartmouth that some of the roughly $200,000 the Institute collected remains available to support other legal efforts.
"That door certainly is not shut," said MacGovern, who did not return requests for further comment by press time.
Bob Donin, Dartmouth's general counsel, said he did not believe individual alumni have the standing to sue. To possess "standing," the party bringing suit must show that it is connected to and harmed by the action being challenged.
"There is no basis for further litigation, and given the results of the recent election, new litigation would certainly fly in the face of alumni sentiment," Donin said, referring to the recent Association election in which candidates critical of the suit swept all 11 of the executive committee seats.
Individual alumni have brought suit against the College in the past. In March 1995, William Tell '56 and six other alumni filed suit in Merrimack County Superior Court, attempting to block the implementation of a Board decision to allow the re-appointment of alumni-elected trustees for a second term without an electoral process, among other governance changes.
The court found that Tell did not demonstrate how he was damaged by the College's action and that the Association "was a necessary party" to the suit, meaning that Tell and his co-plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit on their own.
Gado said the question surrounding any attempt to bring suit is "whether it will be heard."
"There are possible actions, but how fruitful they might be I don't know," Gado said, referring to the feasibility of future suits. "There is interest in the case, and if there is interest, there is a possible next step."
The Association originally filed suit on Oct. 3 in response to the Board of Trustees' decision to add eight members not elected by alumni to its membership. This decision ended over a century of parity between the number of alumni-elected and Board-selected trustees.
The Association has lost the upper hand in pressing the Board on the parity issue, Gado said, in immediately agreeing to withdraw the lawsuit.
"In giving away the lawsuit, [the new executive committee has] thrown away a trump card without using it," Gado said.