Supreme Court Kingfisher
Lawyers and family members of Mason Mecklenburg, a former Kingfisher football player suing his former district and coaches for hazing, stand outside of the Oklahoma Judicial Center after a hearing before a Supreme Court referee on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Bennett Brinkman)

(Update: This article was updated on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 8:30 p.m. to add a section at the end on the hearing to strike all deadlines in the case. The rest of the article remains in its original form.)

Eight of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s nine justices declined Monday to consider Justin and Lyndy Mecklenburg’s request that the high court compel Kingfisher Public Schools to fire its controversial football coach who was recently charged with child neglect.

Justice Dana Kuehn recused herself from the decision, which refocuses questions of culpability on the state criminal and federal civil cases filed regarding abuse the Mecklenburgs’ son, Mason, allegedly endured while playing football for coach Jeff Myers.

Monday’s decision denies the Mecklenburgs’ request for a writ of mandamus Aug. 28, which asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction and either compel the Kingfisher Public Schools Board to terminate Myers or compel the State Board of Education to take over the district and install a new superintendent who would begin termination proceedings.

Lawyers for the Mecklenburgs as well as the named respondents — Myers, KPS board members, district Superintendent David Glover, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the State Board of Education and State Superintendent Ryan Walters — made arguments to a referee of the court Oct. 10 regarding the Mecklenburgs’ petition for the court to assume original jurisdiction.

Ultimately, the justices offered no explanation for their decision not to accept original jurisdiction, which would have afforded attorneys for the Mecklenburgs and the respondents to argue the merits of the request to fire Myers. Nonetheless, the Mecklenburgs’ attorney framed the decision in a positive light.

“We appreciate the Supreme Court taking a long hard look at this issue. The fact that the court had a two-hour hearing demonstrates the serious consideration the court gave to this difficult situation,” Cameron Spradling said in a statement. “Justin and Lyndy Mecklenburg were asking for a very specific thing: to force the KPS school board to simply begin the administrative process to determine whether coach Myers should be allowed to continue as a coach. After we argued our case — and while it was being considered — Jeff Myers was charged with felony child neglect.

“When that happened, KPS did more than just start the administrative process we asked for. Indeed, it placed Myers on indefinite leave and removed him from the classroom and the field. Once that happened, there wasn’t much left for the Supreme Court to do.”

Justin and Lyndy Mecklenburg are the parents of Mason Mecklenburg, a 2021 graduate of Kingfisher High School. Mason Mecklenburg’s federal lawsuit is set for trial in December. He has alleged that, during his four years on the Kingfisher football team, he was hazed at a level that rose to “torture” and that Myers was aware and supportive of the abuse.

On Oct. 17, Kingfisher County District Attorney Mike Fields referenced evidence gathered for Mason Mecklenburg’s lawsuit when he filed a felony child neglect charge against Myers, child abuse and perjury charges against former KPS assistant coach Micah Nall and failure to report child abuse charges against Justin Mecklenburg and KPS board member Dana Golbek.

During the Oct. 10 hearing before the Supreme Court referee, Myers’ attorney Joe White argued that the Mecklenburgs’ writ of mandamus was frivolous and a ploy for media coverage. When Myers was charged with child neglect six days later, White said his client looked forward to clearing his name in a court of law, a sentiment he echoed Tuesday after the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Our client has been tried and pilloried with false accusations that have been repeated as fact on social media and in the news media,” White said in a statement. “He believes his reputation can only be cleared if this case is tried in the only venue that matters- a court of law.”

Parties back in federal court on Wednesday

Kingfisher football lawsuit
Kingfisher Public Schools board member Brad Wittrock holds the door for Superintendent David Glover and board member Charles Walker as they walk out of the William J. Holloway United States Courthouse after a special board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (Tres Savage)

In each of his three offers to settle the federal lawsuit — which was originally filed anonymously — Mason Mecklenburg has asked KPS to fire Myers, who he says knew about and perpetuated the hazing culture in the football program along with other current and former coaches. The district has repeatedly declined to do so.

Mecklenburg’s federal lawsuit is scheduled for another hearing Wednesday in which Judge Charles Goodwin could rule on defendants’ motion to strike all remaining deadlines in the case. The defendants — Myers, Nall, current coaches Blake Eaton and Derek Patterson, and KPS — have all asked Goodwin to strike the remaining deadlines in the case until he rules on a motion claiming the defendants have qualified immunity, a legal term exempting government officials from liability when acting in their official capacity.

The defendants’ motions for summary judgment — which seek disposal of Mason Mecklenburg’s claims without a trial — are pending before Goodwin and rely heavily the qualified immunity argument.

Spradling and other lawyers representing Mason Mecklenburg called the motion to strike deadlines “desperate” and “dilatory” in their response.

For Goodwin to grant a defense motion for summary judgment, he would need to conclude there is no genuine dispute regarding material facts and that a trial is unnecessary because Mecklenburg’s claims fail as a matter of law.

Judge denies request to strike deadlines

In a short hearing Wednesday afternoon, Goodwin denied a joint motion from the defendants asking him to strike all remaining deadlines in the case — including the trial date — until their qualified immunity argument is resolved.

The lawyers for the defendants insisted that the action was necessary because they plan to appeal their qualified immunity stance to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals if Goodwin rules against them.

Mecklenburg’s team argued that it would be pointless to delay the trial and other deadlines yet again over a matter that has not yet happened. His lawyers also said that they are eager for the trial to happen on its scheduled Dec. 5 date.

“We are prepared to do whatever we need to do to get this case to trial, and that includes dropping names and dropping defendants,” Nathan Hall, a lawyer with the Nix Patterson law firm, said during the hearing.

While deliberating, Goodwin asked both legal teams about the recent criminal charges filed against defendants Myers and Nall and whether they would affect the lawsuit.

“I don’t think it does,” Hall said. “The civil proceeding is years down the road.”

No motions have been filed in the case regarding the criminal charges. Joe White, Myers’ attorney, suggested that the criminal cases might affect the lawsuit.

“There is a basis in law and fact to get a continuance until the criminal proceedings are concluded,” White told Goodwin.

White also said the criminal charges against Justin Mecklenburg and Dana Golbek might affect the lawsuit because both are witnesses in the case.

Goodwin said he expects to rule on the defendants’ motions for summary judgement — in which they make their qualified immunity arguments — by the middle of November.