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W.Va. education board appeals judge's refusal to dismiss ousted superintendent's lawsuit

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CHARLESTON, West Virginia — A legal battle over the firing of West Virginia's school superintendent is heading to the state's highest court.

A Kanawha County circuit judge last month refused to dismiss former superintendent Jorea Marple's lawsuit. The West Virginia Board of Education is appealing that ruling to the state Supreme Court, according to the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ApZ48s ).

Marple sued the board and one of its members, Wade Linger, in April. She alleges defamation and violation of her due process rights in her November 2012 ouster.

In a notice of appeal, the defendants argue that Circuit Judge James Stucky wrongly rejected their claim that they are entitled to immunity because the firing was a proper exercise of governmental authority.

Victor Flanagan, the defendants' attorney, said normally a circuit judge or jury must make a final ruling before a case can be appealed to the Supreme Court. But he said immunity issues are an exception because the high court wants to save state agencies the cost of discovery —the back-and-forth requests and exchanges of evidence between attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants — and other preparations for a trial.

"They don't want state entities going through the costs of litigating cases and then learning they're immune from suit," Flanagan said.

Marple, who said her dismissal has harmed lifelong reputation and limited her ability to ever get such a high-ranking education position again, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in her lawsuit as well as a full hearing on why the board wanted to fire her with an opportunity to defend herself.

Marple said she did not know that she was being fired until Linger distributed pieces of paper with the intention at a board meeting and instructed members to vote on the matter.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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