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U.S. District Court for Wyoming

UW Says White, Straight, Christian Male’s Discrimination Lawsuit Has No Merit

in News/University of Wyoming
27758

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By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A white, straight, Christian male who is suing the University of Wyoming for alleged discrimination doesn’t have enough facts to support his case, the university claims.  

The University of Wyoming in a Monday filing urged Judge Nancy Freudenthal of the U.S. District Court for Wyoming to dismiss the lawsuit of former employee Jeffrey Lynn Wilkins, who claims the university discriminated against him for being a white, straight, Christian male.   

Wilkins in September filed a legal complaint against the university; its president; its interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; its vice president for research and economic development; and its director of the Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center.  

He alleges they and the college took part in denying him promotion, and that the college ultimately fired him because of his social class and because he opposed undergoing critical race theory training.   

University’s Argument  

In a counterargument filed in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming on Monday, the university disputes the claims, saying Wilkins’ lawsuit is without merit. The college asks Freudenthal to dismiss the case based on the following claims:  

Wilkins made duplicative claims against both the University and its employees. 

Wilkins can’t sue individuals under the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act.  

The university can’t be sued by a person living in another state, because the university as an entity of Wyoming is exempted from such action by the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (as Wilkins now lives in South Dakota). 

The University violating its own regulation is not grounds for a lawsuit. 

Wilkins should have pursued further “administrative remedies” before launching the lawsuit.   

Reverse Discrimination  

The University’s counter-argument also claims that for a person to claim “reverse-discrimination,” or discrimination despite not being part of a “historically disfavored group,” that person must have a stronger argument than would an ethnic or social minority alleging discrimination.   

“In reverse discrimination claims, where the plaintiff is not a member of a historically or socially disfavored group, the plaintiff must do more to establish a prima facie (obvious on the first impression) case,” the University’s argument reads. 

It continues, alleging that Wilkins didn’t provide factual evidence of discrimination, didn’t characterize the University as an “unusual employer” with a pattern of oppressing people in social-class majorities and didn’t adequately demonstrate that he would have been promoted and could have dodged being fired if he hadn’t been a white, straight, Christian male.   

Check A Box  

Wilkins traced his allegations of discrimination to when a superior encouraged him to use his degenerative eye condition to “find a way to check a box.” He took it to mean that he’d be treated better if he had a known disability.   

This statement by a female superior, Wilkins alleges, was proof that he could not succeed at the university because of his social status.   

The college in its counterargument says that statement wasn’t enough to prove discrimination, and was Wilkins’ “imaginative interpretation … (and) nothing more than speculation.”   

“At most the statement is circumstantial evidence,” added the university, noting that the woman who said those words to Wilkins is not among those who allegedly discriminated against him.   

Critical Race Theory  

Wilkins’ suit requests damages of $874,619, plus attorney and court fees.    

Wilkins said in his legal complaint that after graduating from the university’s law school, he started working part-time for the college’s research product center in 2017.   

He alleges that his initial superior was impressed with him and his abilities, but that for three of the next four years, he endured discrimination, cuts in his work schedule, was denied opportunities for promotion and ultimately was terminated. The college fired him in 2021.   

UW hired a chief diversity officer who required Wilkins in October 2019 to take a diversity training course “steeped in critical race theory,” the suit claims.   

By the end of the course Wilkins did not agree with critical race theory. He gave feedback stating that he opposes the theory because it is the “antithesis of Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s teachings” because it “overtly promotes the evaluation of skin color over the content of one’s character.”    

He told the college critical race theory is “blatantly racist, sexist and bigoted.” His feedback became part of his permanent employment record at the college, the suit says.  

Wilkins asserts that a female colleague was promoted over him despite their equal qualifications, and he was fired the day after she took the position “with no explanation.”

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After Wife Died In House Fire, Wyoming Man Sues Power Company, Tree Trimmer

in U.S. District Court for Wyoming/News
26905

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A Wyoming man is suing a power company and its tree-maintenance contractor in the death of his wife, who died after an electrical fire reached her home in Clark.   

William Jerome “Jerry” Ruth filed a wrongful death lawsuit for $75,000 or more, as determined by a jury, Monday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming.   

Beartooth Electric Cooperative of Montana and Asplundh Tree Expert of Pennsylvania are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Both have been operational in Park County.   

Trapped  

The suit states that Ruth’s wife of 38 years, Cindy Ruth, succumbed to injuries in a house fire Nov. 16, 2021, after a tree made contact with a power line and caught fire. The fire spread along Louis Lamour Lane in Clark, and soon reached the couple’s home.   

“As the Clark Fire approached the Ruths’ home, Cindy, in her effort to flee its advancing flames, was trapped,” the lawsuit says. “She was overcome by the fire and died from her injuries.”   

Duty To Inspect  

Ruth’s suit says that Beartooth Electric Cooperative owns and maintains easements and rights of way for its power lines in Wyoming. The power company contracted Asplundh Tree Expert to trim trees away from its power lines.   

The contract between the two businesses, which is included in Ruth’s complaint, states that Beartooth could withhold payment from the tree-trimming company if any of the work was deficient.   

Ruth alleges that Beartooth had a duty to inspect the work. He also alleges that one or both companies failed to maintain the trees according to the National Electrical Safety Code.   

Wyoming law requires power companies to maintain power lines according to National Electrical Safety Code’s standards.   

The Claims  

The suit makes four major claims:   

• The power company and tree-trimming company caused Cindy Ruth’s wrongful death through negligence regarding “ultrahazardous activity.”  

• The companies inflicted emotional distress on Jerry Ruth, especially as he was required to confirm his wife’s identity at the scene where her body was discovered.  

• Both companies were a “nuisance,” or creators of hazardous conditions.  

• The power company’s hiring and supervision with respect to its tree-trimming duties was negligent.   

Ruth is requesting a civil jury trial and more than $75,000 in damages, with the exact amount to be determined by a jury. He also is asking for one or both companies to cover his legal costs and attorneys’ fees, and for any other relief that “may be just and equitable under the circumstances. 

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Trinity Teen Solutions, Wyoming Facility For Troubled Teens, Shuts Doors Despite Courtroom Win

in U.S. District Court for Wyoming/News/Crime
26477

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Leo@Cowboystatedaily.com

A northwest Wyoming ranch for troubled teens accused of employing cruel punishments and subjecting residents to forced labor has won a significant court ruling, and also has abruptly closed its doors. 

Trinity Teen Solutions, based in the small northwest Wyoming community of Clark, was accused in a lawsuit filed in late 2020 of subjecting its female residents to forced labor and humiliating punishments. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled that the civil lawsuit filed by a number of former residents of Trinity Teens is not eligible for class action status.

Skavdahl found that although the case met certain standards for class certification, it did not meet all the requirements needed because of the plaintiffs’ wide breadth of allegations and circumstances. 

Lawsuit Not Over

Skavdahl’s decision does not throw out the case altogether or rule against the plaintiffs. But it does force them to either appeal or represent themselves as individual plaintiffs in a traditional civil lawsuit if they would like to keep the case alive.

On Oct. 19, the plaintiffs filed an appeal of Skavdahl’s decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.


Trinity Teen Solutions has closed, according to the Wyoming Department of Family Services.

‘Permanently Closed’

Trinity Teens informed the Wyoming Department of Family Services that it stopped providing services and enrolling new teens on Sept. 28, NBC News reports. The business is listed as “permanently closed” on its Google business page.

In all, 25 girls were plaintiffs in the lawsuit initially claiming mental and physical abuse while at the facility. 

Some allegations the girls have made include being tied to goats as a form of punishment, being deprived of sleep, medical attention and withheld from using the bathroom for inordinate amounts of time.

The plaintiffs sued Trinity Teens and a number of associated defendants for allegedly knowingly providing or obtaining forced labor, knowingly benefiting from forced labor and human trafficking.

Ranch owner Angela Woodward has denied the allegations made in the lawsuit.

Judge Cites Individual Damages

According to court documents, the plaintiffs say they were contacted by more than 100 people with claims against Trinity Teens that fall within the statute of limitations, and 80 have expressed a desire to participate in the litigation.

Skavdahl said it would be too difficult to determine each potential class member’s right to an award for “agricultural labor” or “manual labor” at a fixed rate, which would depend on each parent’s or guardian’s prior knowledge of the work and their scope of consent.

“Additionally, if liability is proven, determining an appropriate award of restitution damages, emotional-distress damages will have to be done on an individual basis,” Skavdahl wrote.

He also cited the lack of consistent allegations. 

“As each potential class member’s evidence would be unique and particular to their time and experience at Trinity Teens, the claims of forced agriculture labor and other forced manual labor are not susceptible to generalized, class-wide proof,” Skavdahl wrote.

Another Lawsuit

Although originally filed together, there also is another ongoing lawsuit against Triangle Cross Ranch, a separate facility located nearby and also owned by the Woodward family.

In that case, a tentative settlement agreement was arranged Sept. 20 between plaintiff Andrew Scavuzzo and co-defendant the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, according to court documents.

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London Woman Claims Jackson Bank Helped Multi-Millionaire Husband Move Money Without Consent

in U.S. District Court for Wyoming/News
26054

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A wealthy London woman is suing the Bank of Jackson Hole, claiming the bank allowed her soon-to-be ex-husband to move money around without her consent.   

Nadia Zahmoul, wife of London financier Karim Zahmoul, filed a lawsuit Friday asking the U.S. District Court for Wyoming to stop the bank from allowing any changes or transfers in the couple’s accounts. She also asked the court to enforce a United Kingdom court order disabling the spouses from transferring money without each other’s consent – and for the bank to pay her back $700,000 her husband allegedly transferred, plus other damages, interest and legal fees. 

Wyoming Ties 

Nadia Zahmoul and her husband together own three limited liability companies in Jackson, which in turn hold the real estate of two condominiums in Teton Village worth at least $12 million plus rental income, according to the filing.   

The three businesses are registered in Wyoming to a Jackson-based registered agent.   

According to the lawsuit, Nadia Zahmoul told the bank that she is divorcing her husband and provided the bank with a copy of the United Kingdom court order forbidding the spouses from moving money without the other’s consent.   

Nadia’s lawsuit says she met with bank representatives in August to let them know the couple was going to approve a $700,000 withdrawal to cover their divorce legal fees. 

The divorce court is due to settle most of the couple’s money disputes by Nov. 17. Some of the disputed funds include “hundreds of cryptocurrency transactions” in the Cayman Islands, St. Vincent, Grenadines, “and jurisdictions of similar ilk,” the suit says.    

Transparency.org calls those jurisdictions “tax havens.”   

Bank Knew Of Order 

Karim stopped by the bank Sept, 15, the suit alleges, to discuss paying down mortgages on the properties.   

“Of course, the value of real estate in Jackson has not declined in such matter over the past 90 days to warrant a pay-down of the mortgages,” the suit says. 

The lawsuit alleges the bank asked Karim to move $675,000 from two checking accounts to pay down the mortgages.   

Nadia’s suit claims that the bank knew the foreign divorce order prohibited the transfer without her consent.   

The bank then opened a new account for Karim Zahmoul, the suit continues, through which the man funneled the $675,000 before paying it to the bank.   

“(The bank knew) it had virtually no exposure on the mortgages since the properties were worth over $14 million and … the transferred funds were earmarked” for divorce costs, according to the lawsuit.   

Nadia asked the bank to close the new account, and it did, but not until after transferring the money out of it, the suit claims.   

The wife also says she asked the bank to reverse the transaction, but it “has not meaningfully responded.”   

Effort To Move Money Beyond Wife’s Reach 

The bank reportedly received more than $3.8 million from Karim, the suit claims, “derived from the unlawful liquidations of his securities holdings in the United States,” plus helped him pay $17,000 in premiums on personal insurance policies.  

Karim has reportedly told his wife he’s hoping to transfer some or all of his assets to Malta, beyond her reach and the divorce court’s reach, the suit alleges.   

Nadia Zahmoul told the court in her filing that, as a result of these incidents, she no longer has enough money to pay legal fees in the divorce.   

“The safe haven that (the bank) has provided to Karim to engage in financial shenanigans to (Nadia’s) detriment must be shuttered by this court immediately,” the suit reads.   

The bank faces five allegations of misconduct, one of which is a request for the bank to pause its dealings with Karim and another is a request for the court to enforce the foreign divorce court’s order. 

The other three include breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligence.   

Karim Zahmoul did not respond to an email to his business Monday morning. The Bank of Jackson Hole did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.   

The case is ongoing.

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