Detroit teacher sickout case to resume July 8

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools’ legal battle against teacher sickouts is expected to resume in July.

Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims on Monday scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. July 8 in Cadillac Place in the district’s lawsuit against two DPS teachers, Steve Conn and Nicole Conaway.

Stephens also ordered the lawyers for Conn and Conaway to pay the DPS legal team, represented by George Butler of Dickinson Wright, who was in the courtroom, for three hours of the firm’s time because they did not respond to an initial default filing.

Stephens asked Butler, “How much do you charge an hour?”

Butler responded, “$475,” to which Stephens said, “Your discounted rate.”

Shanta Driver, who has represented Conn and Conaway since the case began in January, said she is working pro bono.

“We did not answer the complaint because of overstretching our resources,” said Driver.

DPS seeks a preliminary injunction against Conn, the former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and Conaway, both of whom have publicly urged teachers to stage sickouts to protest conditions in the district.

In January, the district sued Conn, Conaway, more than 20 other teachers, the DFT and its interim president, Ivy Bailey, and organized sickout supporters such as DPS Teachers Fight Back and By Any Means Necessary.

DPS filed the complaint after periodic sickouts starting in November closed dozens of schools in the state’s largest district. DPS argued that the teacher actions amounted to illegal strikes under state law. All of the defendants except Conn and Conaway have been dismissed.

At a hearing Jan. 25, Stephens refused to issue a temporary restraining order against any of the defendants.

Conn and Conaway were not at Monday’s hearing.

“It was not necessary for either the plaintiffs or defendants to appear today,” said Driver.

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