The University of Cincinnati has filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit of former men's basketball coach John Brannen for damages from his firing.
Brannen, who was let go April 9 after two seasons, filed the federal lawsuit May 21, seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and a more than $5 million buyout he says he's due. He also is asking for a jury trial in the case, which names Director of Athletics John Cunningham and UC President Neville G. Pinto individually as well UC.
In a two-page motion and a 21-page supporting memorandum filed on Friday, lawyers for UC say the Eleventh Amendment and another federal law make Brannen's suit "legally defective" even if each allegation made in his suit was true.
Billy Martin, David DeVillers and C. David Paragas of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg also say Pinto and Cunningham are entitled to qualified immunity from the suit. The motion singles out a request in Brannen's suit for "a name-clearing hearing against UC," calling it "both procedurally defective and similarly precluded by the Eleventh Amendment immunity UC enjoys."
Martin, described in a 2015 Washington Post profile as a "go-to lawyer when you're in trouble," has represented sports stars such as Allen Iverson. He lives and works in Washington, D.C., but he started his career as a state and federal prosecutor in Cincinnati – after he went to law school at UC. He received an honorary doctorate from UC in 2014.
The other lawyer representing UC is no stranger to Cincinnati. He's DeVillers, who as the U.S. Attorney for Southern Ohio brought a series of corruption charges against Cincinnati City Council members. He joined Barnes & Thornburg in March.
Brannen's suit claims "during the course of purportedly investigating, suspending, and terminating Brannen 'for cause,' Defendants deprived him of his constitutionally protected procedural and substantive due process rights."
The 66-page suit says Brannen's suspension with pay, which began April 3, and his subsequent termination were the "result of a sham 'investigation' that was unfair, unreliable and inherently flawed and nothing more than a smokescreen to avoid triggering a contractual buyout clause that would have cost the University millions of dollars."