Appeals court tosses Mirka suit
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:05 PM
"An anti-discrimination lawsuit filed three years ago against the city of Langley may give neither satisfaction nor a financial settlement to a woman fired from her volunteer city position in 1998.On July 30, the Ninth United States Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge's 1999 decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the city by Langley resident Julane Mirka.Last week, Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman received the decision from the city's attorney in the case, Eileen Lawrence. Furman said he believes the suit has finally come to an end.We are happy and feel completely vindicated, Furman said in written statement last Tuesday.Mirka filed suit against the city in October 1998, seven months after Mayor Furman told her not to return to her volunteer position at the front desk in City Hall. A volunteer since 1994, she had been away from City Hall for several months prior to her dismissal while she was treated for cancer.In a 1999 interview, Mirka's attorney, Todd Nichols, said he and his client decided to file suit because they believed Furman used Mirka's illness as a reason to fire her. Furman did reference Mirka's illness in a 1998 memo to city staff regarding her dismissal.Claiming Furman violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Nichols filed Mirka's suit in U.S. District Court. In the suit, Mirka sought a minimum of $350,000 in damages.District Court Judge David Wilson ruled against Mirka in December 1999, noting that volunteers are not explicitly covered under the ADA. The Court of Appeals agreed with that decision.On Monday, Nichols said the ruling may not be the stopping point for him and his client. He said a federal judge has yet to decide the case on its merits - the decisions up to now have been based on an interpretation of the ADA. Other circuit courts, Nichols said, have ruled in favor of government volunteers who sued after being dismissed for reasons related to a physical disability.Taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court is not out of the question. Mirka has yet to decide whether to take that route.There's a bigger issue than just Julane Mirka in her mind, Nichols said.To this point, the suit has not cost Langley in terms of dollars and cents. Court costs are covered by the city's insurance carrier, the Association of Washington Cities. Furman said he and City Attorney Eric Lucas have spent some time working the case, but not enough for him to consider it significant.Nichols had little comment on the cost of the litigation from his end.She's a client I'm happy to serve, he said of Mirka.Throughout the suit, Furman and the city have claimed that Mirka was dismissed for poor performance. That claim was part of the city's defense in the district court trial. "