TIBBOTT v. NORTHERN CAMBRIA SCHOOL DISTRICT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 37 Motion to Disqualify Counsel, and as more fully stated in said Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Kim R. Gibson on 6/13/2017. (dlg)
IN THE UNITED STA TES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-5
) JUDGE KIM R. GIBSON
This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Disqualify Counsel (ECF No. 37) filed
by Defendant Northern Cambria School District seeking to disqualify the law firm of Steele
Schneider and its attorneys, Kelli J. Vandergrift and Marcus B. Schneider, from continuing to
represent Plaintiff Joy Tibbott in this case. Plaintiff opposes the motion. (ECF No. 38). For the
following reasons, the Court will DENY the motion.
Jurisdiction and Venue
The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. Venue is proper under 28
u.s.c. § 1391(b).
Plaintiff was formerly the principal of Northern Cambria High School. After leaving that
role (for reasons that will be explained in greater detail below), she transitioned to a position in
the School District's Central Administrative Office. She was furloughed from that position in
May 2014. Thereafter, she applied for several positions with the School District, for which she
was not selected. Instead, she was placed in an Eighth-grade teaching position, which has
resulted in a lower salary and less seniority.
On January 6, 2016, she initiated this action, alleging that the decision to furlough her
and the refusal to place her in the positions for which she applied constituted retaliation under
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA. The School District
filed an Answer on January 26, 2016. Pursuant to this Court's most recent Scheduling Order,
fact discovery was to have ended on May 17, 2017. (ECF No. 30). Meanwhile, on February 3,
2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (ECF No. 26), in which she
seeks to add a procedural due process claim. More specifically, she claims that she learned
during discovery that her "furlough" was actually a "termination" and, in tum, that she should
have been afforded "due process under the Fourth Amendment, in addition to a panoply of
state-created rights supplied by the Pennsylvania School Code." (ECF No. 26 'II 20).
On March 24, 2017, the School District filed this motion (ECF No. 37), seeking to
disqualify Steele Schneider from further representing Plaintiff in this matter. According to the
motion, Charles Steele, 1 who is affiliated with the law firm of Steele Schneider, represented
Donna Frontino and her children, Adriana and Joseph, in a matter against the School District
and Plaintiff in early 2013. Donna Frontino, through Mr. Steele, claimed that Plaintiff and the
School District violated her children's rights under Title IX and the equal protection clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment. The matter was settled during mediation in February 2013 before a
Mr. Steele is currently suspended from the practice of law both in this District and the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania. See ECF No. 12 filed at Misc. No. 97-142.
complaint was filed. As part of the settlement, the parties agreed, among other things, that
Plaintiff would transition from her position as high school principal to a position in the School
District's Administrative Office, where she would continue to work throughout the 2013-2014
and 2014-2015 school years. The parties further agreed that Plaintiff would not have any contact
with the Frontino children.
The effect of the settlement agreement is critical to the School District's defense of
Plaintiff's claims in this case. In the School District's view, hiring Plaintiff for any of the
positions for which she would have applied "would have been in direct violation" of the
settlement agreement. (ECF No. 37
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