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It took San Francisco jurors only about 30 minutes Monday to rule against a longtime employee of the California Supreme Court’s library who claimed she had been fired in retaliation for taking medical leave. In rejecting Karen Toran’s claim, jurors gutted the heart of her case by finding that the 17-year law librarian didn’t suffer from a serious medical condition that would have qualified her for paid leave under the California Family Rights Act. Although the focal point of the case was the actions of Frances Jones, director of the California Judicial Center Library who fired Toran, the actual suit was against the state of California. Whether Jones will face future court proceedings, however, remains unclear because of an appeal court’s decision last month to reinstate claims of unlawful retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress Toran filed against Jones in a separate suit. Speaking through a Supreme Court spokeswoman, Jones declined comment about the verdict late Monday. Her attorney, Littler Mendelson partner Nancy Pritikin, couldn’t be reached. Neither could Toran’s lawyers, Qualls & Workman partners Daniel Qualls and Robin Workman. In Toran v. State of California, 401624, Toran claimed that Jones had retaliated against her by cutting her pay, then firing her in 2000 because of several absences, many of which, Toran claimed, were for treatment of chronic asthma. The state responded by arguing in court that Toran was a “histrionic” woman who was trying to get back at the state for choosing Jones, instead of her, to head the Supreme Court library. During closing arguments Monday, Pritikin told jurors that Toran was fired because she refused to comply with office policy requiring her to provide reasonable notice for medical leave and to verify her medical visits with proof when she returned to work. “It was her way of acting out because she was angry that she didn’t get the director’s position,” Pritikin said. “Her overriding anger led to the termination of [her] employment.” Qualls, meanwhile, tried to portray Jones as a deceitful manager who used Toran’s approved absences to fire her and whose policies on notice and verification allegedly applied to no other employee than Toran. Qualls also argued that Jones “flat out denied” knowing that Toran had asthma. “It can trigger the employers’ obligation to provide medical leave,” he told jurors. “And that’s why Ms. Jones would not admit she knew [Toran] had asthma.” Pritikin questioned Toran’s veracity in claiming to be virtually incapacitated by asthma, noting that at one point during the 14 months in question Toran went on a weeklong hiking trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains. “It’s not enough to have a condition,” Pritikin said. “It has to be a condition a doctor is treating you for. If Ms. Toran had said asthma, Ms. Jones would have written it down.” The six-day trial has been a hot topic in the Supreme Court, considering that several high-ranking officials, including court Administrator and Clerk Frederick “Fritz” Ohlrich, testified. At one point on Friday, it appeared that Supreme Court Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar would testify, but that never came about. In a prepared statement, the Administrative Office of the Courts’ Office of the General Counsel expressed pleasure at the verdict. “Our goal is to treat all employees and members of the public fairly and with respect,” the statement said. “We felt all along that Fran Jones and the California Judicial Center Library did that in these circumstances, and that they acted properly in this matter.” The library, which has 300,000 volumes in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles, serves the justices and staffs of the Supreme Court, the First District Court of Appeal and the AOC.

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