Jon Campisi Nov. 22, 2013, 9:23am


A federal judge in Harrisburg has denied a bid by the Pennsylvania

Wrestling Club to intervene in a civil case brought by a central Pennsylvania middle-school girl challenging her school’s decision to prohibit her from participating on the wrestling team.

On Nov. 20, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann denied the bid by the athletic organization to join in the lawsuit brought by Brian and Angie Beattie on behalf of their 12-year-old daughter, identified only as “A.B.” in court papers.

As previously reported by the Pennsylvania Record, the couple, who reside in Herndon, Pa., filed suit earlier this month against the Line Mountain School District claiming that their daughter is being unfairly denied the opportunity to wrestle on the middle school team because she is female.

The parents, who filed their suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, claim that the school district’s policy prohibiting girls from joining boys’ sports teams violates their daughter’s federal civil rights.

A.B., who is in seventh grade, began wrestling while in third grade.

The family resided in Iowa before relocating to Pennsylvania.

In Brann’s recent memorandum, the judge wrote that both the school district and the plaintiffs were surprised by the Pennsylvania Wrestling Club’s decision to file a motion to intervene in the case.

The club had asserted that it has an indispensable interest in the litigation.

Its attorneys wrote that the organization has an interest in both protecting A.B. from injury resulting from wrestling with boys that may “derail her potential future Olympic career,” and a statutory duty given the structure of the club to “protect the opportunity of any amateur athlete, coach, trainer, manager, administrator, or official to participate in amateur athletic competition.”

The club also sought to join the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association as a necessary party to the litigation.

The wrestling club essentially wanted to join PIAA to the case in order to persuade the court to compel Pennsylvania to establish a statewide women’s wrestling program, according to the judicial memorandum.

In denying the bid, Brann wrote that the club’s “interest” in the litigation is not “sufficiently specific, definite, or direct to warrant intervention as of right in this case.”

The wrestling club, the judge noted, had based its request partly on the notion that it has an interest in A.B.’s wrestling skills and potential future career in the sport.

“The Movant hopes A.B. will be an Olympian in the year 2024, when she will be twenty-three (23) years old,” Brann wrote. “This interest is substantially more remote than direct, and is not ‘a significantly protectable interest.’ Consequently, it is not sufficient grounds to intervene.”

The judge went on to write that the club is attempting to use the underlying dispute between the parties as a “cause célébre to acquire relief that is substantially more expansive and significantly different than that which the Plaintiff seeks.”

Brann wrote that neither the school district nor the plaintiffs support the club’s entry into the case.

“The Plaintiff seeks only to wrestle on the existing wrestling team at Line Mountain – a result the Court can effectuate among the current parties if the merits of the case implore that resolution,” the judge wrote.

Brann also denied a motion by the wrestling club to stay a preliminary injunction hearing that had been scheduled for this week.

The motion had been filed prior to the judge’s denying the club’s motion to intervene in the case.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that would allow the middle-schooler to participate on the wrestling team while the merits of the civil rights case play out in court.

Earlier this month, Brann granted the plaintiffs’ request, allowing A.B. to participate on the wrestling team until he issues a full decision on the injunction filing.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported that the 12-year-old, during testimony in open court Wednesday, said that if the school district offered a girls’ team, she would participate.

Court records show that the judge gave the plaintiffs until Dec. 9 to file a findings of fact and conclusions of law.

He gave the defense until a week after that to file their own findings of fact and conclusions of law.

That means the case may not be ripe for a decision until late December, when Brann will take up the full injunction request.

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