Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College Opening Statements: Claims of War and Peace

Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion | 5/9/2019 | Daniel McGraw
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In ways that are both irritating and interesting, the opening statements by the attorneys in Gibson Bros. v. Oberlin College shows how jurors may have a hard time defining the event in question accurately.

The question is whether a fairly elite, liberal arts college (Oberlin College) defamed and libeled a small family run business (Gibson’s Bakery & Market) with racial overtones. All this in a time when the different political and cultural tribes were picking sides on just about everything, the day after Donald Trump’s election.

Lead - Attorneys - Jury - Today - Elyria

But listen to what the lead attorneys told the jury today in Elyria, Ohio.

“When Oberlin College had the opportunity to calm things down, the administrators as a group, chose to fan the flames,” said Lee Plakas, attorney for Gibson’s and the individual plaintiffs.

Attorney - Ronald - Holman - II - Attorney

Here is what attorney Ronald Holman II, the lead attorney for Oberlin College, the defendant, said to the jury: “[Dean of Students] Meredith Raimondo and Oberlin College were that calming influence … They were there to lower the temperature between students, businesses, onlookers and others. They kept the peace.”

For those who study civil tort law, or for anyone who has been in arguments with friends or family members, perception becomes the key. In recent years, it has become not what is the truth, but what side people are on. How this plays out in the courtroom is very new, and in this case, how the social media played into things will be front and center for the next three weeks.

Today - Side - Evidence - Advocacy - Logjam

It was quite clear today, however, what each side was going to put forward into evidence to break any advocacy logjam.

In the opening statement, Plakas emphasized how Gibson’s was caught in the middle of racial histrionics that the Oberlin College found itself in. Instead of tamping down on a student protest that seemed to have...
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