Former office of Nighthorse Campbell faces age-discrimination case

A Colorado judge has ordered an age-discrimination case to go forward against the office of former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) even as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a similar case.

U.S. District Judge Phillip Figa ruled last week that the case of former Campbell employee Rita Bastien should be set for trial in October, and ordered the fact-finding phase of the case to begin. Figa said the case, filed in 2001, has dragged on for too long already.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on April 23 on whether former Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) is exempt under the Constitution from discrimination lawsuits filed by former employees, and whether his Senate office can be sued after he leaves Congress.

Bastien sued Campbell’s office in 2001, saying she was wrongly fired after working in Campbell's Front Range offices for six years. She alleged age discrimination and retaliation for having filed a complaint.

Through the Senate chief counsel for employment, Jean Manning, Campbell had urged Figa to delay the case until the Dayton case decided whether senators are subject to discrimination suits and whether cases against senators die when the lawmakers leave office.

But Figa said the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver has already ruled against Campbell on those points and the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal.

“In our case, the train has run its course,” said Bastien’s lawyer, John Evangelisti of Denver.

Manning, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the case.

Figa’s one concession is that Campbell will not have to submit to a deposition until the Dayton case is settled. But his former chief of staff, Dave Devendorf, who followed Campbell to his lobbying practice in the Washington office of Holland & Knight, is to be deposed on June 11.

Ginnie Kontnik, who was Campbell’s chief of staff when Bastien was terminated in 2001, will be deposed on June 13. Bastien will be deposed on June 20.