Court finds for Temple in suit by Marcavage
A federal court jury last week ruled in Temple’s favor and rejected claims by former student Michael Marcavage that the University violated his constitutional rights and engaged in other improper conduct when University officials transported him to Temple University Hospital for an emergency psychiatric evaluation.
“The jury came back with a complete and total verdict vindicating Temple University,” Temple’s trial attorney, Joe H. Tucker Jr., told the Delaware County Daily Times.
In November 1999, Marcavage met with Vice President William Bergman and Carl Bittenbender, director of Campus Safety Services, to complain about a fellow student’s staging of a play on campus, called Corpus Christi, that depicts Jesus Christ as homosexual.
During a series of meetings, Marcavage asked the two administrators to prevent the staging of Corpus Christi. The administrators refused to do so but attempted to assist Marcavage in organizing his protest to the play. However, they informed Marcavage that the University could not meet his demands for a full stage setting, including electricity and 1,000 chairs, at the Bell Tower in front of Paley Library for the protest.
Upon hearing this, Marcavage became extremely distraught, left the meeting and locked himself in a restroom, according to Bergman and Bittenbender. Marcavage’s agitated conduct earlier that day had also prompted another Temple employee to call for emergency assistance from campus police.
Concerned about Marcavage’s safety, the administrators called a psychologist from Tuttleman Counseling Services, who, after meeting with Marcavage, agreed that Marcavage should be taken to Temple University Hospital for a psychiatric examination for his own safety. After the examination, Marcavage was released.
Marcavage sued in 2000, claiming his rights were violated because he was wrongly detained and forced to submit to a psychiatric examination in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. He also asserted claims under the Fourth Amendment, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, and state law claims for assault, battery and false imprisonment.
“During an eight-day trial, the federal court jury heard testimony and examined documents about Temple’s treatment of Michael Marcavage when he was a student at Temple, and rejected all of his claims that Temple mistreated him and violated his rights,” said Tucker, Temple’s trial attorney.
“The jury confirmed the University’s position that Temple representatives, including Vice President William Bergman and Director of Campus Safety Services Carl Bittenbender, acted with compassion and appropriate restraint at all times,” University Counsel George Moore added. “While Mr. Marcavage may have questioned the motives of Temple officials, Temple University takes pride in the jury’s concurrence that in this case the University lived up to its guiding principle of treating all its students with respect and with genuine concern for their well-being.”
Lawyers for Marcavage have been quoted in the local press as saying that they plan to appeal the verdict.