UC Berkeley administrators, BAMN will meet to decide discovery period in Occupy Cal lawsuit

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OAKLAND — Attorneys representing members of both the UC Berkeley administration and BAMN met before a U.S. district judge in a case management conference Monday afternoon regarding the ongoing Occupy Cal lawsuit.

Filed by BAMN in November 2011, the lawsuit alleges former UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau and various UC Berkeley administrators conducted “a planned, coordinated and violent attack against … peaceful protesters” at the Nov. 9, 2011, Occupy Cal demonstrations. Although the defendants sought dismissal from the $15 million civil rights lawsuit, their request was denied by a federal judge last month.

The Monday conference focused on the length of a period for discovery, during which plaintiffs and defendants collect as much information and evidence as possible from the opposing party and others.

“Right now the focus of the discussions is around discovery — the exchange of documents and other information in advance of trial,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.

BAMN, a national civil rights organization that supports students’ rights and affirmative action, asked for Dec. 19 as the closing date for the discovery period, while UC Berkeley administrators’ attorneys called for an earlier date, according to an email from BAMN attorney Ronald Cruz.

Rather than granting both parties a closing date, District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered the parties to meet outside the courtroom in the next two weeks to come up with a discovery plan.

Under the judge’s new order, the plaintiffs and defendants must meet, preferably in person, to devise and agree on a plan for discovery and send the written document to the judge’s office by March 5.

If, once Gonzalez Rogers receives the plan, she decides it needs further clarification and discussion, both parties will return to court March 10.

In addition, the judge called for a magistrate judge, rather than an Early Neutral Evaluation, to facilitate future lawsuit proceedings.

“We prefer magistrate judges because they are good at trying to determine whether or not a settlement is possible, and they try to work with both sides,” said Shanta Driver, the national chair of BAMN and lead counsel for the lawsuit.

However, Janine Scancarelli, one of the lawyers for the UC Berkeley administrators, favors ENE, a process that requires a third-party attorney who has experience in a specific and related field to help narrow down the central issues in a lawsuit.

During the two weeks allotted to design a discovery plan, the plaintiffs and defendants must also decide on a magistrate judge, whose primary role is to assist U.S. district court judges in overseeing the case. If the parties cannot settle on a magistrate judge, Gonzalez Rogers will personally appoint one for the case.