SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys have reached an out-of-court settlement on a punitive damages claim between a former Weber County justice court judge and the court administrator he sexually harassed.
Craig Storey’s lawyers served notice in U.S. District Court on Friday the claim has been settled and a dismissal motion ending the 9-year-old case would be submitted.
Terms of the settlement were not available because of a confidentiality agreement, said Storey’s attorney, Susan Black Dunn.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals of Denver in July 2018 ordered a new trial on whether Storey, who was the county’s justice court judge when the events occurred in 2007-08, should pay punitive damages to Marcia Eisenhour.
“Judge Storey and his family needed to get this behind them,” Dunn said Monday. “They decided to settle the claim rather than go forward.”
She said she was confident he could have prevailed but the prospect of a third trial in the long-running case “was just a little more than he and his family could handle. I also think Marcia Eisenhour was ready for it to be over. This has been difficult for everybody.”
Dunn said Story already has paid Eisenhour all the damages awarded earlier in the main part of the case. Court records show Storey paid Eisenhour $184,444. He also paid Eisenhour’s attorney, April Hollingsworth, $242,744 for attorney fees and court costs.
The settlement ends a multi-phase legal battle that also embroiled the Weber County Commission, which was accused of neglecting Eisenhour when she came forward and then retaliating against her.
“This has not been a shining example of how our legal system should go,” Eisenhour’s attorney, April Hollingsworth, said Monday, referring to the two trials, two circuit court appeal rulings and more than eight years of litigation.
“People protecting Judge Storey for doing really dumb things,” she said when asked to explain.
“He had a lot of people protecting him,” Hollingsworth said. “This should never have gone through to litigation, even. But we’re all relieved that it’s almost done.”
The circuit court last year also denied Storey’s bid to have the central allegations against him, including a salacious poem, thrown out. Eisenhour found in Storey’s office a poem he had written about her body and his desire to have an affair with her.
“I always believed I would be exonerated,” Storey said in a court declaration filed Dec. 5, 2018, but after he lost his appeal in 2018 on the main elements of the case, he obtained a loan to pay the damages.
“I understand my obligation to Ms. Eisenhour,” he said.
Eisenhour sued Storey, Weber County and the three county commissioners who were in office at the time. She accused Storey of harassment and said the commission retaliated against her after she went to the press. The county closed the justice court, knocking Eisenhour out of a job.
Her civil rights lawsuit, filed in 2010, went to the appeals court after a series of U.S. District Court actions in Salt Lake City in 2015 and 2016 cleared Weber County and the commissioners of liability but imposed the $184,000 judgment against Storey for causing Eisenhour emotional distress.
The circuit court said the question of punitive damages was legitimate because there was evidence from which a jury could infer Storey “knew that his conduct toward Eisenhour constituted prohibited sexual discrimination.”
The court said Storey was not only a lawyer but a judge, and he had received special, repeated training about sexual harassment.
And the poem was relevant to Eisenhour’s harassment claim, the circuit court ruled.
Storey, in court papers, argued there was no evidence that the poem was intended to harass or discriminate against Eisenhour.
“But it reveals Storey’s strong sexual feelings toward her, which could provide a motive for his conduct, making it more likely that the improper touching was intentional rather than accidental,” the circuit court said.
Eisenhour testified Storey rubbed his groin against the back of her head while she sat at her desk and against her thighs as she stood at the court’s front counter. He also told her of a dream he had of her naked from the waist up.
After the 2018 circuit court decision denying his appeal, the county’s civil suit defense pool would no longer defend Storey, so he hired Dunn with his own funds to defend him in the punitive-damages phase, according to court records.