Attorneys representing students in multiple bullying lawsuits centered on St. Pius Catholic School in Mobile asked Judge Sarah Stewart to hold Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon in contempt of court last week after Dixon allegedly missed a suspended deposition.However, in an interview with Lagniappe today, Dixon said the plaintiff’s attorneys, Christine Hernandez and David Kennedy, didn’t follow proper rules for civil procedure before filing a motion requesting she be held in contempt.
According to court records filed by plaintiffs, Dixon was served with a subpoena on Feb. 26 directing her to appear for deposition by Hernandez and Kennedy on March 6. In their motion for contempt, Hernandez said Dixon made no noted attempts to delay the process until almost an hour after the 11 a.m. deposition was scheduled to have taken place.
Other media reported on the request for contempt charges Monday afternoon citing those facts, but Dixon said not even the service of her subpoena was done in proper order.
“According to the civil rules of procedure, if a request for discovery deposition from a nonparty is objected to, the party shall not provide discovery until there has been a court order,” Dixon said. “When we were served, I objected to it like we do in every case. Once we file an objection, there can’t be any discovery until the court rules on that motion.”
Dixon also rejected allegations that she or her attorneys made no attempt to contact attorneys for the plaintiffs prior to the deposition. She also said her office typically objects to depositions in all civil cases for many reasons.
“In all cases like this, especially when it’s a work product issue, we object based on the discovery process and our investigative process,” she said. “Obviously, you wouldn’t want lawyers, especially the DA, being called in to talk about internal processes. Using criminal action to get leverage in a (civil) lawsuit is not encouraged for either party.”
Court records show Dixon asked Stewart to block the subpoena prior to the deposition in a motion saying state law “protects the disclosure of investigative records and material of law enforcement authorities.”
As usual, it seems a judge will have to be the final arbiter of who has interpreted the law correctly, as Kennedy has already said Dixon’s interpretation of the rules of civil procedure are “inaccurate.”
“Ms. Dixon is incorrect in her interpretation of the rules, and we will address that in court,” Kennedy said. “We will also work to secure an alternate date for her deposition.”
Kennedy and Hernandez have said in previous court documents they wished to speak with members of the Baldwin and Mobile County District Attorneys offices in relation to an alleged case of sexual misconduct involving one of the staff members at St. Pius.
In February, one of the four St. Pius lawsuits unearthed allegations of a sexual relationship involving Rev. Johnny Savoie and an unnamed 16-year-old male from several years ago during Savoie’s time in Fairhope. Savoie told the members of his congregation about the allegations during a church service last year and also submitted to a polygraph test regarding the incident, to the satisfaction of diocese officials.
Previously, attorneys sought to question the way Mobile’s Archdiocese handled the allegations — first received in 2013 — by speaking to members of the Archdiocese and local law enforcement.
Originally, Kennedy and Hernandez sought to depose Mobile and Baldwin county district attorneys related to the incident. The Archdiocese then filed several motions attempting to block those subpoena, calling them “unrelated to the St. Pius X case.”
Following media coverage of legal case, the office of Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said they were never contacted by the school or its attorneys, but the Baldwin County office issued a statement Feb. 19 confirming attorneys representing the Archdiocese had contacted Dixon’s office about the allegations against Savoie as early as December 2013.
However, based upon the nature of the allegations and the ages of the individuals involved, a representative of the Baldwin County DA’s office said “the alleged conduct did not violate any criminal statutes,” and action was not pursued. Today, Dixon said that was because no allegations of criminal conduct were ever presented to her office.
“There’s never been a crime alleged. We don’t investigate things because we’re curious, we only investigate crimes,” Dixon said. “We didn’t investigate and determine whether or not it was true, and I want to be very clear about that. A consensual relationship between people of the age to consent, is not criminal. Whether it’s wrong or appropriate, that’s not for me to say. It’s not criminal.”
Dixon went on to again say neither her office, nor any law enforcement agency she’s aware of received any contact related to anything other than a consensual relationship.
It’s not known if Kennedy and Hernandez intended to question Dixon about her office’s investigation at Friday’s deposition. Since Friday, Dixon’s attorney, Chief ADA Rushing Payne, have not yet filed a response to motion for contempt, several days ahead of the March 18th deadline.
A subsequent hearing is also scheduled in Stewart’s courtroom for March 20, where all pending motions — including those requesting contempt of court — should be discussed and reviewed.