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Pima County court to hear Simon's case

By Eric Swedlund
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 30, 1999
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A UA professor yesterday predicted the university and a Kansas City newspaper may have to pay former Wildcat basketball star Miles Simon more punitive damages now that his defamation lawsuit has moved to Pima County.

Jim Calle, a local attorney and University of Arizona journalism professor, said the suit's removal from federal court may work in Simon's favor and against the University of Arizona.

While a case's outcome would not be affected by the venue change, the amount of punitive damages the UA would pay if found liable could increase, he said.

"Some jurors might want to favor Simon, while some might want to favor the university - it can go either way," he said.

Calle added, however, that "federal courts are notorious for rewarding smaller settlements."

Simon, now with the Orlando Magic, filed a $1 million defamation and invasion of privacy suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in Oct., 1998 after an article appeared in the Kansas City Star.

The Oct. 10, 1997 Kansas City Star article "MVP made grade only on the court" alleged Simon received preferential treatment at the UA because he was a star athlete.

The basketball player last Monday re-filled the lawsuit in Pima County Superior Court after a California judge said the case was not under federal jurisdiction.

But the venue change could benefit the University of Arizona, while possibly harming the Kansas City Star and its parent company, Knight Ridder Corp., said Doug Metcalf, an attorney with the Brown and Bain law firm.

Metcalf said Simon can bring the same complaints into the Pima County Superior Court that he filed during the federal case.

"I would assume the general preference for the newspaper would be to have the case in federal court," he said. "The UA would probably have a better chance in Pima County."

The lawsuit was probably transferred because a state can only be sued by a private individual in that state, he said.

Simon's court document said he was "held up to public ridicule and his privacy was invaded and he was humiliated and made to suffer embarrassment" after the UA released his grades to the Kansas City Star.

Simon also alleges the university violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, when officials released his grades to the Kansas City Star. Arizona state law has adapted FERPA.

Simon's suit names the Arizona Board of Regents, Michael Gottfredson, the UA's vice president for undergraduate education and Laura Anderson, the university's transcript supervisor as defendants.

Also named in the suit are the Cypress Media Corp., the Kansas City Star and its publisher Arthur Brisbane and reporter Mike McGraw.

Calle added that he thought the university could defend itself by claiming that Simon didn't make a timely claim in state court.

Simon's attorney, Milton Grimes, and UA attorney Mike Proctor were both unavailable for comment yesterday.