Capital Christian gets section’s playoff ban paused by judge

A judge has granted Capital Christian Center a temporary restraining order against the California Interscholastic Federation’s Sac-Joaquin Section over its fight to be included in football playoffs after the region’s governing body on high school sports banned them for playing last year during COVID-19 restrictions.

The restraining order, handed down last week by Judge Laurie M. Earl, prevents the section from carrying out its postseason ban on the Capital Christian High School football team. The two sides will meet in court at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 as the judge rules on a preliminary injunction. If the section’s lawyers are successful in persuading the judge against the injunction, the section could still bar Capital Christian from playing in the playoffs, which start Nov. 5.

The legal maneuverings are the latest in a months-long fight between the section and Capital Christian.

The private school filed a lawsuit Aug. 20 in Sacramento Superior Court accusing the Sac-Joaquin Section of violating its constitutional rights, including due process. The lawsuit stems from the section’s July 29 announcement that Capital Christian High’s football team would be barred from postseason play for two seasons because of its participation with an unsanctioned club football team during the spring at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school’s leaders argue in their lawsuit that the CIF section and its commissioner, Mike Garrison, “arbitrarily and discriminatorily” reached a decision without a hearing and without weighing evidence.

Capital Christian’s fight with the Sac-Joaquin Section dates back to February and March, when the school’s athletic facilities were leased to a club football team.

The club team played games seemingly in violation of state and county health orders relating to the pandemic. In the lawsuit, Capital Christian offers a defense of its involvement in the club games. The stadium, restrooms and locker rooms were leased on Jan. 25 to the CAPS League and the Cap City Cougars club football team. Cap City was a member of the 14-club CAPS League that played in seeming defiance of coronavirus regulations. The facilities were leased for $1,500 a month, according to the lawsuit. The league and team agreed to follow all state guidelines, according to Capital Christian.

As a result, the section placed the school on probation in addition to the postseason ban. In the temporary restraining order, the judge noted that sanctions related to the probation had not been lifted, with the word “not” bolded and italicized.

An appeals committee heard Capital Christian’s case in early October but has not issued a ruling. Garrison, who is named in the lawsuit, did not respond to requests for comment about whether Capital Christian would tentatively be included in the playoff brackets before the hearing or whether a settlement was being considered.

The temporary restraining order, issued Friday, denied a request from Capital Christian to expedite the discovery of evidence for its lawsuit. The school questioned the independence of an appeals committee put together by the section to hear Capital Christian’s case. The judge said the school didn’t find sufficient evidence to show the CIF “bent the ear” of the appeals committee and Capital Christian’s document request was too broad.

“The discovery they seek, however, goes far beyond the independence of the appeal panel,” Earl wrote. “Indeed, of the 14 categories of documents requested, only one (number 14) has anything to do with the appeal panel. Moreover, although petitioners may indeed be entitled to an independent appeal panel, they present no evidence that suggests the appeal panel in this case was not independent.”

Vacaville Christian, Ripon Christian and Stone Ridge Christian in Merced were also put on probation for violations related to playing outside of the COVID-19 restrictions, barring them for just one season.

Without the ban, Capital Christian is a likely playoff participant. The team is 6-2 overall and 5-0 in Capital Athletic League play. League winners are automatically included in the playoffs.

Capital principal Chris Orr told The Bee at a Capital game recently, “the playoffs are a reward for our student-athletes, the band, the cheerleaders – everyone. It’s not just the football team.”

This story was originally published October 19, 2021 9:58 AM.

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James Patrick has covered the beer scene from Maine to California. (OK, mostly just those two.) He’s worked at newspapers in six states as a sports reporter, sports editor, social media editor and newspaper carrier. He’s as comfortable drinking a High Life as a wild-fermented raspberry sour.

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