The jury renders its verdict and both sides claim victory. What?!?!?!

Most of the cases I tell you about in the Daily Dawg are decided by the court prior to a full trial.  Most of the time the defendant (school district, usually) files a Motion to Dismiss the case based on some fatal flaw in the pleadings or the absence of any evidence to make a plausible case. Today, however, we have a case involving an assistant principal, Mr. Garcia, claiming that he was improperly “constructively discharged” by a school district (Spring ISD) that went to a jury trial.  The jury found that Mr. Garcia’s service in the Army Reserves was a motivating factor in the district’s treatment of him.  The jury also found that Mr. Garcia’s assertion of his rights under the USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) was a motivating factor.  Based on those findings, Mr. Garcia claimed victory in his suit alleging illegal retaliation.

However, the jury also concluded that the district would have constructively discharged Mr. Garcia anyway. There had been a history of parent complaints and questions about Mr. Garcia’s judgment. There had been meetings with him that “did not go well.”  The jury found that Spring ISD would have fired the guy anyway.  Based on those findings, the district claimed victory, and the judge declared the district the winner.

This happens sometimes. It’s not like they show it on TV.  On TV the jury renders a verdict and it’s all over. But that’s not our system. The verdict is just a verdict—it’s not the judgment of the court.  So after the jury’s verdict the lawyers will squabble over the jury’s verdict, arguing with the judge over the instructions the judge gave them, or the jury’s alleged inattention to the overwhelming evidence. 

In this case, the court concluded that the judge gave the right instructions and the jury got it right when it concluded that Mr. Garcia was discharged for a valid reason.  It’s Garcia-Ascanio v. Spring ISD, decided by the 5th Circuit on July 17, 2023. 


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Tomorrow: the Gold Standard in special ed cases….