HED:Judge denies request to move NEMCC case
By Marty Russell
ABERDEEN – In an unusual twist, attorneys for a community college who never sought a change of venue have been denied in their effort to return the lawsuit to its original Oxford site.
The case in which a former Northeast Mississippi Community College professor claims she was fired for not changing a grade will remain in Corinth.
Plaintiff Peggy Wroten claims she lost her job for refusing the change a grade for basketball standout Dontae Jones. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers.
Move to Corinth
In an order dated Aug. 13, Biggers apparently moved the trial to Corinth, one of two designated courthouses in the area for use in federal cases. The other is in Ackerman.
Attempts to reach Biggers for comment on why the trial was moved have been unsuccessful and Biggers was not in his office Friday.
Attorneys for the defendants in the case, NEMCC President Joe Childers and deans Johnny Allen and Connie Drown, filed a motion for a change of venue on Aug. 26, asking that the trial be moved back to Oxford.
That motion was denied in a ruling dated Sept. 11.
The attorneys argued the case has received too much pretrial publicity in Alcorn County that could prejudice potential jurors and that moving the trial to Corinth would put an undue burden on all parties involved.
“None of the parties or defendants involved reside in Alcorn County,” the motion to move the case back to Oxford states. “Because of the enormous pretrial publicity, the publicity that a trial in Corinth, Mississippi, will elicit and the inconvenience of a trial in Corinth, Mississippi, defendants respectfully request this Honorable Court to change the venue of this trial back from the Alcorn County Courthouse to the Federal Courthouse in Oxford, Mississippi.”
Jim Waide, attorney for plaintiff Peggy Wroten, has said he did not request the move to Corinth and did not know the reason for it.
Nov. 30 trial date
The trial is set for Nov. 30.
The case involves a civil suit by Wroten seeking reinstatement to her job and unspecified damages.
The suit was filed in April 1997 after Wroten said NEMCC administrators retaliated against her for refusing to change Jones’ grade.
She claims she was asked to change the grade in her psychology class from “F” to “withdrawn.”
She was eventually successful in keeping the grade she assigned Jones, according to the suit. When administrators learned of her lawsuit over the matter, the suit states, she was fired.
NEMCC officials have denied the charges.
Jones went on to graduate from NEMCC and help lead Mississippi State University to a Final Four appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament. He was drafted by the New York Knicks, who traded him earlier this year to the Boston Celtics.