Drexel University can’t keep a professor’s husband from representing her in a hostile work environment and retaliation lawsuit, a Pennsylvania federal court ruled.
Marilyn Gaye Piety Foley, a professor of philosophy, alleged she was intentionally discriminated against which resulted in harassment, retaliation, unequal pay, and breach of contract. The university moved to disqualify Brian Foley as counsel for his wife under the Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct, arguing that he would be a necessary and critical witness.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the motion Tuesday, saying Drexel failed to show that Foley is likely to be a necessary witness.
- An attorney isn’t a necessary witness under state law if the evidence they’d provide can be obtained elsewhere, the court said. The university and department head Roger Kurtz said Foley and Piety Foley live together with no one else so he is the only one who can attest to her “daily state of mind and the alleged impact” of Kurtz and Drexel’s conduct
- Judge Gene E.K. Pratter denied the motion without prejudice, saying it isn’t inconceivable that circumstances will change, but that the defendants failed to show Foley is a necessary witness
- “Drexel and Kurtz seemingly allude to a potential conflict of interest,” because of the couple’s finances and personal history with the university, the court said. “While these entanglements certainly cause the present circumstances to fall short of a professional Platonic ideal, it is not up to either the defendants or the Court to decide for the plaintiff whether her preference in counsel is a good, bad, or awkward one,” Pratter said
McKinley & Ryan LLC also represents Piety Foley. Tucker Law Group LLC represents Drexel and Kurtz.
The case is Piety Foley v. Drexel Univ., E.D. Pa., No. 22-cv-01777, 5/23/23.
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