Lawyer: Pat Summitt won't be called to testify, might not be able to anyway

Amy Smotherman Burgess/Knoxville News Sentinel 
 Debby Jennings, the former University of Tennessee Lady Vols Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations, at Stokely Athletic Center in June 2009. A lawyer for Jennings said the former longtime UT employee was offered the choice on May 15 to be fired, resign or retire by athletic director Dave Hart for "insubordination."

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Amy Smotherman Burgess/Knoxville News Sentinel Debby Jennings, the former University of Tennessee Lady Vols Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations, at Stokely Athletic Center in June 2009. A lawyer for Jennings said the former longtime UT employee was offered the choice on May 15 to be fired, resign or retire by athletic director Dave Hart for "insubordination."

KNOXVILLE — Former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt won’t be called to testify in her former spokeswoman’s federal job discrimination lawsuit and probably isn’t competent to testify anyway, an attorney said Thursday in U.S. District Court.

According to former Lady Vols spokeswoman Debby Jennings, she lost her job when she took up for Summitt when Summitt believed she was being forced to retire due to a diagnosis of early onset dementia.

Her attorney David Burkhalter told U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton at a hearing Thursday morning that only two people may really know the truth about Summitt’s retirement discussions before she stepped down: Summitt herself and UT athletic director Dave Hart, who met privately to discuss the topic.

“Are you going to seek the deposition of Pat Summitt?” Guyton said.

“We don’t know that she’s competent,” Burkhalter said. “We’re not going to put her through being forced to testify even if Debby Jennings loses this case. That’s why we want these records.”

The University of Tennessee is seeking to prohibit “extrajudicial use or disclosure” of documents and information developed as Jennings goes about collecting information and preparing his care for Jennings, who is suing UT and Hart. Burkhalter has argued information about Summitt and the circumstances of her retirement as head coach are important to his client’s case.

Guyton said he’d issue a ruling at an unspecified time.

Jennings claims Hart forced her out in 2012 after Summitt disclosed her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Jennings, who spent 35 years as Lady Vols media director, says she spoke up against “unlawful actions” against Summitt.

Summitt stepped down in April 2012 after 38 seasons to become head coach emeritus for the Lady Vols. She announced in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

Jennings’ suit contends her opposition to Hart’s treatment of Summitt was a factor in Hart’s decision to give Jennings the choice during a May 15, 2012, meeting to be fired for “insubordination,” resign or retire.

Hart says in court records he met with Summitt in March 2012 and gave her the option to continue coaching or retire. Jennings’ suit says when Pat Summitt told Jennings about the conversation with Hart that Summitt was “very upset and extremely hurt.”

Two days later, Summitt issued a statement intended to clarify “some misunderstandings.” Summitt said she wasn’t forced out as head coach and that it was “entirely my decision” to step down.

Summitt’s son, Tyler, has said she apparently “misunderstood” the conversation with Hart.

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Comments » 15

atnvol#283282 writes:

I wish the Sentinel would lose that dang picture of Jennings....everytime there is a peep in this ongoing litigation they post that picture....its a "Nightmare on Elm Street".

TNlogfire writes:

Not sure why she keeps calling Pat and Tyler liars. interesting...greedy, I guess..

IndianOutlaw writes:

I hope she gets exactly what she deserves. Nothing more nothing less.

slb#1351874 writes:

It never fails when these sleazy lawyers think they see a route to put blood money in their pockets they are all over it. These guy's representing the lady sound like they are associated with the famous Florida sleazy outfit famously known as Morgan and Morgan "For The People". Right? You bet as long as they can get their hand in your pocket up passed their elbows.

Snapshot writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

I wish the Sentinel would lose that dang picture of Jennings....everytime there is a peep in this ongoing litigation they post that picture....its a "Nightmare on Elm Street".

I agree, we have seen her picture on here WAY too many times.

I think it is disgraceful that she wants to drag Coach Summitt into her attempt to extort money from UT. What a piece of trash.

tony15230 writes:

35 years, nice job, nice surroundings, nice pension (more than most), the new American way, she wants more....

wjfisher#377164 writes:

William Shakespeare said it best -

"The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers

Amen.

Theo writes:

in response to TNlogfire:

Not sure why she keeps calling Pat and Tyler liars. interesting...greedy, I guess..

Ridiculous comment. There is no one in the athletic dept who looked out for Pat more than Jennings. Where do u get off making up things and attributing them to Jennings.
It seems pretty apparent that Hart was glad to put all the women in their place. Check the ratios of women retained and women's athletic dept employees retained versus men and men's department.
Jennings has a valid issue and I hope good old boy Hart gets hammered. How old is he and when will he retire? Not soon enough.

gogovols2002#222335 writes:

in response to tony15230:

35 years, nice job, nice surroundings, nice pension (more than most), the new American way, she wants more....

+1

rogatl2002#222395 writes:

Most of the posts on here are such trash. If you actually READ the article and bothered to try and research the facts about this case....hell it still woudn't make a difference because you are going to just keep on believing whatever you want. Jennings has ALWAYS been the #1 protector of pat Summit and if the facts support her account of what actually took place she deserves every last penny that she gets from UT. This administration is rotten to the core and it starts with Jimmy Cheek at the top.

gogovols2002#222335 writes:

in response to rogatl2002#222395:

Most of the posts on here are such trash. If you actually READ the article and bothered to try and research the facts about this case....hell it still woudn't make a difference because you are going to just keep on believing whatever you want. Jennings has ALWAYS been the #1 protector of pat Summit and if the facts support her account of what actually took place she deserves every last penny that she gets from UT. This administration is rotten to the core and it starts with Jimmy Cheek at the top.

This is not about Pat Summit. Follow the paper trail. The fact is there are far more important things going on this world than Jennings's ego and quest for revenge/money. Its not like she is at risk for becoming homeless or left without a pension. As another poster pointed out she had 35 good years with UT and wonderful memories. Why can't she leave it at that? How many people do you know that can honestly say they had 35 good years as an employee with same employer? And what's this phooey about being Pat Summits #1 protector??? Pat Summit is a LEGEND in sports. As if she needed a protector?? It's a tragedy Summit has been victimized by Alzheimer's. As in every situation like this watch for the vultures to come out and take advantage of her incapacity. I do believe she has family members that love her and will hopefully see to her best interest.

Theo writes:

in response to gogovols2002#222335:

This is not about Pat Summit. Follow the paper trail. The fact is there are far more important things going on this world than Jennings's ego and quest for revenge/money. Its not like she is at risk for becoming homeless or left without a pension. As another poster pointed out she had 35 good years with UT and wonderful memories. Why can't she leave it at that? How many people do you know that can honestly say they had 35 good years as an employee with same employer? And what's this phooey about being Pat Summits #1 protector??? Pat Summit is a LEGEND in sports. As if she needed a protector?? It's a tragedy Summit has been victimized by Alzheimer's. As in every situation like this watch for the vultures to come out and take advantage of her incapacity. I do believe she has family members that love her and will hopefully see to her best interest.

Well she obviously did need someone watching her back once Hart took over didn't she?
Jennings was screwed because she was a woman working in the women's athletic department. She had an unbelievable reputation around the country for the work she did in promoting the Lady Vols. She lost her job because she was an older woman. It doesn't matter how many good years she had, that is no way to leave a position. Go ahead. Check out the ratio of men to women in the current athletic department and then tell me all the men retained/hired were better than all the women let go. Hart is a disaster for the university. He and Cheek both need to go.

underthehill writes:

in response to gogovols2002#222335:

This is not about Pat Summit. Follow the paper trail. The fact is there are far more important things going on this world than Jennings's ego and quest for revenge/money. Its not like she is at risk for becoming homeless or left without a pension. As another poster pointed out she had 35 good years with UT and wonderful memories. Why can't she leave it at that? How many people do you know that can honestly say they had 35 good years as an employee with same employer? And what's this phooey about being Pat Summits #1 protector??? Pat Summit is a LEGEND in sports. As if she needed a protector?? It's a tragedy Summit has been victimized by Alzheimer's. As in every situation like this watch for the vultures to come out and take advantage of her incapacity. I do believe she has family members that love her and will hopefully see to her best interest.

Follow your own advice..Follow the paper trail..you apparently have no idea what you are commenting about..the paper trail is that Pat went to Jennings and was upset because she was let go by Hart..Pat signed a statement to that affect..the document is a part of the court records in this case..the question became who lied Hart or Pat..Where are you getting the junk about Jennings..evidence is apparently something fail to comprehend..and now the question for me becomes how in the world does UT think they can sell the story to a jury that Tyler has suddenly remembered he met with Hart before Pat met with Hart..the coverup is getting worse than the lie Hart appears to have told..

underthehill writes:

in response to rogatl2002#222395:

Most of the posts on here are such trash. If you actually READ the article and bothered to try and research the facts about this case....hell it still woudn't make a difference because you are going to just keep on believing whatever you want. Jennings has ALWAYS been the #1 protector of pat Summit and if the facts support her account of what actually took place she deserves every last penny that she gets from UT. This administration is rotten to the core and it starts with Jimmy Cheek at the top.

I did read the court documents that were available on line and the evidence is clearly as you state..and the evidence clearly indicates Hart lied about what happened at the meeting with Pat.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Hopefully Jennings wins and Bama Dave is subsequently fired for being a liar and an incompetent AD.
Time to hire a VFL as the next AD when the carpetbagger is run out of town. Also, please fire Cheek on the same day.

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