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Judge orders Oberlin to post $36 million bond since it refuses to pay defamed bakery

College has suggested it can’t pay judgment plus interest

Oberlin College refuses to take responsibility for its own administrators’ defaming and retaliating against a bakery whose race-neutral anti-shoplifting policy enraged Oberlin students.

Following a judgment of $25 million in damages and $6.5 million in attorney’s fees and expenses, the judge has agreed to stay the execution of his judgment – but it will cost Oberlin.

Judge John Miraldi ordered the Ohio liberal arts college to post a bond of more than $36 million to cover the judgment plus interest while Oberlin appeals. Without explaining his reasoning, he approved the exact amount the Gibson’s Bakery plaintiffs had asked Oberlin to pay in lieu of letting them collect on the judgment immediately.

The bond will remain in place until Aug. 19, though it will be extended until Sept. 9 if the college “timely” files its post-trial motions on or before Aug. 19, Miraldi wrote. He’ll rule on its motions by Sept. 9.

According to Legal Insurrection, which closely covered the trial and subsequent legal wrangling, the bond includes three years of interest.

MORE: Judge knocks down Oberlin’s attempt to stiff Gibson’s Bakery lawyers

Gibson’s had demanded a bond because Oberlin had raised doubts about whether it could pay “this sizeable judgment three years from now”:

At trial, and in its recent filing, the College represented that there was only $59.1 million of unrestricted endowment funds available to pay any dollar judgment and that $10 million of those funds had already been committed to pay down the College’s existing debt. [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 at 95:13-21] There remains $190 million of existing debt on the College’s books. [Id.] The College has also testified that it has a significant operating deficit and that its deficit situation is not sustainable…. [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 atpp. 86:1-6, 88:1-9]

Oberlin also highlighted its plunging enrollment at trial. Gibson’s warned that Oberlin could “attempt to continue using its available funds to pay down its other debts between now and the filing of a notice of appeal, thereby leaving less available to pay the judgment in this case.”

Legal Insurrection founder William Jacobson, a Cornell Law School professor, wrote that it was “pretty clear” Judge Miraldi agreed “there is at least some meaningful risk that the Gibsons will not be able to collect without security.”

As he deadpanned, Oberlin “obviously doesn’t want its bank accounts, computer equipment, and er, Dean of Students’ office furniture, seized just as the freshman class was arriving.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Oberlin tried to intimidate Legal Insurrection during its lawsuit coverage by going to court in New York to seek its communications with the Gibson’s lawyers.

Read the ruling and Legal Insurrection post.

MORE: Oberlin demands Legal Insurrection’s communications with sources

IMAGE: Oberlin College Archives

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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