Ruling on former Kauai coach's case supported by facts, law
ON JUNE 7, the Star-Bulletin published an article headlined "No injunction granted for Kauai's Morgado."
Kelii Morgado was not rehired as the varsity football coach at Kauai High School. Instead, school officials elected to hire the school's junior varsity coach Derek Borrero for the position. In response, Morgado filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a lawsuit seeking to reverse the school's decision.
The article, concerning the hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction heard before Judge Kathleen Watanabe on June 5, includes a number of quotes from Eric Seitz, Morgado's attorney, but did not provide any view from the Attorney General's Office, which represented the school officials who prevailed at the hearing. I would like to provide a fuller perspective to this story.
The article includes the following quotes from Morgado's attorney: that the ruling "is an abuse of judicial authority"; that the judge apparently "just didn't read" what Morgado's attorney submitted to the court; that "the law supports" his client; and that Morgado "would've won in a federal court."
AS TO THE first two statements, Watanabe's ruling denying Morgado's request for a preliminary injunction was made after a full evidentiary hearing where six witnesses testified, five of whom were called by Seitz. Prior to the hearing, the parties fully briefed the issues for the court, were free to call any witnesses and produce any evidence that supported their respective positions and were provided ample opportunity to present their arguments before the court issued its decision. Moreover, the judge even questioned Seitz on the written submissions by the parties.
As to the third and fourth statements, the court specifically concluded that neither the facts nor the pertinent Hawaii and federal case law supported Morgado's position. Indeed, it is noteworthy that federal case law cited to the court at the hearing specifically establishes that the "Fourteenth Amendment due process clause does not guarantee a football or baseball coach a job at a public high school. ... The ultimate decision who is the best (person) to coach a high school athletic team rests with state school officials, not with the federal courts." Seitz's statements to the contrary, Watanabe's ruling is entirely consistent with this principle.
Moreover, Watanabe made specific findings and conclusions as to the credibility of the witnesses who testified. School officials informed Morgado that he would be rehired only if he first agreed to address certain serious concerns. The court concluded that, instead of either accepting or rejecting the conditions required by the school as a predicate to being rehired, Morgado simply proceeded to ask at least one other coach, "If I walk will you walk with me."
THE REAL facts are different from those presented in the article, and Judge Watanabe did precisely what the law requires -- she decided the case based upon the facts and the law.
Mark Bennett is attorney general for the state of Hawaii.