Friday, January 13, 2006

Stanley v. Trustees of the California State University (9th Cir. - Jan. 11, 2006)

Just to be clear: When I ask you to help me play my guitar, I really want you to play my guitar, and don't want you to instead "play my guitar."

This is apparently (or at least allegedly) something that Richard Savino didn't entirely understand. Savino is a Professor of Music at CSU Sacramento. Trista Stanley was a student of his at CSUS. Stanley alleges that Savino -- her classical guitar professor and faculty advisor -- sexually harassed her during various semesters, and he allegedly made unwanted advances, undesired physical conduct, and sexually-charged comments towards her. So Stanley complained and, ultimately, sued.

Judge Wallace mentions in his opinion that the University found that Savino "violated University policy" and would be subjected to some sort of discipline. Though apparently not too severely, since various web pages reflect that, to this day, Sevino is still a Professor of Music at CSUS. Judge Wallace's opinion also does not mention that it is undisputed that Stanley and Sevino at one point had a consensual sexual relationship, a fact that is, of course, irrelevant to her post-relationship-termination harassment claims, but is interesting nonetheless (and perhaps at least partially explains why Sevino is still at CSUS).

Anyway, Judge Wallace ultimately concludes that Stanley's only cognizable harassment claims (i.e., the ones to which the State isn't immune) are time-barred, and I have to agree. You have to file within the relevant time period, and Stanley didn't. Which is too bad for Stanley; indeed, it's possible that she has a malpractice claim against her attorney in this regard, though I express no substantive opinion on the point.

On a totally unrelated note, take a gander at Sevino's picture. Particularly how he's holding his guitar and his "come-hither" look attendant thereto. Yikes! (Here's a less interesting picture of Trista, who a little research reveals continues to give guitar lessons at the Learning Exchange in Sacramento. She's also a contributor to various music-related online sites, though I wish her input was a bit more sophisticated. Still, music is music. You like what you like.)

POSTSCRIPT - Some time after I wrote this post, I received a very intelligent -- and polite -- phone call from an attorney who represented Richard Savino in his disciplinary proceedings at CSUS. Savino's counsel was very, very good, at least in our phone call; he pushed all the right buttons (at least for me), and made all of the most persuasive claims and none of the absurd ones. He was polite and articulate, and argued (among other things) that Savino had been punished enough, and didn't need to have a post like this which could be googled or seen by outsiders who (like me) might not understand the whole context. In the end, I decided to follow what my uniform policy has been -- not to delete anything, regardless of content -- but to add this postscript instead. Obviously Savino has his own point of view (as, for that matter, does Trista, I'm sure), and my comments are clearly merely my own, necessarily incomplete, take on the subject. As with any human drama, there is always much more to it than even a lengthy judicial opinion -- or a post about that opinion -- can reveal. Worth remembering.