Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Neighbor, University Discuss Settlement

Lawyers for Georgetown University and local resident Tom Schneidermann began a discussion concerning a possible settlement in a lawsuit filed against the university and its president. In the suit filed in September, Schneidermann and his wife, Julia Falconer, seek $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages as well as numerous injunctions based on allegations of noise violations against the university.

Susan Rosenau, the attorney retained by Schneidermann, confirmed that the university and Schneidermann have met to discuss possible settlements. According to Roseneau, the discussions are proceeding on a positive note.

“Communication, as long as people are behaving like adults, is a good thing,” Rosenau said.

No specific commitments have yet been made, she said.

The university had originally been required to file a response to the complaint by Oct. 8, but failed to notify the D.C. Superior Court of an agreement to extend the response period. Rosenau said that she decided to allow the university extra time to respond to the suit because of ongoing discussions regarding an out-of-court settlement.

Because of the university’s failure to respond by the statutory date, the court clerk originally filed a default judgement on behalf of Schneidermann. Rosenau and Matthew J. Herrington, the attorney for the university, filed a joint emergency motion to invalidate the judgement and extend the university’s response period.

The university filed its response two weeks ago on Nov. 24.

In their response, the university categorically denies the allegations made by Schneidermann in his complaint.

Among the assertions in the complaint, Schneidermann and Falconer said that they have been “subjected to persistent, excessive and unlawful noise from the students” living in and around the area just off campus, across from the Healy Gates. The couple also said that they were harmed by many activities on Healy and Copley Lawns including the use of amplifiers and lawn equipment.

In its response, Georgetown submited nine “affirmative defenses” which admit that while the defendants complaint is, in part, factually true, the university is not responsible for any damage to the defendants, or if they are responsible, the defendants cannot receive compensation for the damage. Among these defenses, lawyers for the university contend that Schneidermann and Falconer’s claims were unforeseeable and too speculative for them to receive a court-ordered solution.

Rosenau said that both the complaint and response were typical of the initial filings and are just the beginning of the lawsuit. “Because they are so formalistic they are really just jumping off points,” she said.

Schneidermann said he had written numerous complaint letters to the university but said that the situation “has gotten considerably worse,” and that is why he sought legal action against the university. Schneidermann asserted that Department of Public Safety officers are ineffective in dealing with the noise problem, claiming he would make numerous complaints before the noise would stop, if it would stop at all.

In their lawsuit, Schneidermann and Falconer seek compensatory and punitive damages against the university and aim to keep noise on campus inaudible beyond university property between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. They also want the court to compel DPS to keep complete records of all noise complaints, institute an increase in penalties for violations of noise policy, amend policy to keep the noise policy in line with District of Columbia law and disallow events on Copley and Healy Lawns involving amplified sound or involving more than 24 people. The complaint calls for the university to place limits on party registrations and cease all amplified sound on Copley and Healy Lawns unless the university obtains specific permission.

“We want to be able to go to sleep at night, when we want to,” Schneidermann said.

Rosenau said the money they seek in the lawsuit is not the main thing her clients want.

“Truthfully [the injunctions] are the heart of it,” she said. “It’s not an all or nothing sort of deal,” she added, indicating that this is why they are discussing settling out of court.

Rosenau said, barring any abnormalities, she hopes the lawsuit would be resolved within a year but that many things could develop.

She also said the lawsuit process is a learning experience for both sides. “By the time you get to the point of a trial you find that the definitions of the issues have been quite different.”

“I think [the lawsuit] is definitely a `watch this space’ type of thing,” Rosenau said.

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