Judge Stout rules on co-education at Deep Springs


Main building at Deep Springs College.

Inyo Superior Court Judge Dean Stout has issued a preliminary ruling that the Deep Springs College Trust can not be interpreted to admit female students to the long-time, all-male college.

The Deep Springs Trustees went to Inyo Court last year to ask that the Trust created by college founder L.L. Nunn be interpreted to admit women. The Trust says the college was established for “the education of promising young men.” The Trustees reasoned that since 1917, times have changed and women play a much more significant role in society. So, they argue, it’s time for women to be admitted to Deep Springs.

Two of the Trustees, represented by attorney Joe Liburt, disagree and went to court to oppose the majority of the Board. Liburt had said that it is a matter of trust law and what the trust says. Judge Stout has issued an order which says that the Deep Springs Trust “can not be construed as giving the Trustees discretion to admit female students.”

Judge Stout also ruled that the Deep Springs Corporation is bound by the trust, and he granted a preliminary injunction to stop admission of women for now. The majority of trustees had reasoned that the corporation essentially holds all the assets and operates the college aside from the trust. The Judge disagreed.

There is still an issue pending – whether or not the court will agree to modify the Trust to allow female students. A status conference and setting of further hearing on that matter is set for January 22nd in Inyo Court.

The Deep Springs Trustees had already opened the door to female applicants before this court decision. On the college website, a letter written by college President David Neidorf apologizes to female applicants for the inconvenience. The website says the college is “disappointed that we cannot move ahead with coeducation this year, but remain confident about the final outcome of the ongoing litigation.”

The website also says that once Judge Stout has issued his full ruling, the Trustees will “develop the next phase of its legal efforts.”


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21 Responses to Judge Stout rules on co-education at Deep Springs

  1. Numbers January 11, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    What I have always found troublesome about this story is that Deep Springs College uses federal land to run their cattle operation. Their whole gimmick is that they operate this exclusive liberal arts school on a working ranch. So yes, they are a private school and likely don’t except government money, except for the fact that their whole existence is based on profitting from public land that is owned by all of us. Unless they want to operate their ranch completely upon their private lands, they should let women in, regardless of the trust.

  2. Philip Anaya January 11, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Wish I could have gone to school at Deep Springs. This link is available at their web site. http://www.deepsprings.edu/news%20and%20events/coeducation. It has all the information and more,that anyone could possibly need with regards to this story Thanks to this story I have been able to learn some more about this amazing place.
    It seems that there is no limit to how the focus of comments can range. When I post a comment, I hope that I am adding to the discussion. I am always challenged by written and verbal expression, something like “better to be thought a whatever, than open your mouth and remove all doubt”.
    I guess that being a viejo does not qualify me for Deep Springs. I think that LL Nunn had it correct on that score. What the majority of the Trustees have chosen to do with respect to the coeducation inititive is appropriate. The issues that they and the college are facing at best is now part of the challenges and education of the students. They and the college and the community will be better for the experience with this and every other thing that they do at Deep Springs. I am hopeful that they will prevail.
    Not to stray from the subject too far, Thoughts of Cerro Coso College and the support of another visionary family ,the McCoys, come to mind. There is no better place for an investment in all our futures than the education of our young people . Thanks again BK for providing news, knowledge and a place for a viejo like me to continue with my own education

  3. RLS January 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I was very pleased to see the ruling of the Court as set out in the article. Granted, this is a difficult area of the law to understand, but I think it is consistent with California trust law. Giving effect to the intent of LL Nunn as stated in the founding documents of Deep Springs College makes sense. A common reaction is that this approves unlawful discrimination. I believe that the comment about excluding black men is off point: same sex education is legal in the US as evidenced by statute and by dozens of women only schools and colleges in America, but racial limits are not (although racial preferences for some groups arguably are legal). By the way, for those who might think that Mr. Nunn was anit-women’s education, I understand that he also established a school for women in New York that eventually failed. As for the comments by the author of the article, I am glad to see them. It makes the discussion a little more balanced and gives more depth to the article.

  4. sierragrl January 10, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Interesting….what if it had said ‘young white men’…extrapolating Judge Stouts decision, it seems to indicate that it would be OK to exclude black men if the trust was written that way.

    I’m no attorney, but somehow I don’t think that would fly. So why does it fly for women?

    • allen berrey January 10, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Benett: Why are you not again defending Hishonor’s decision, or pointing out to sierragrl why her opinion is ill-informed? And if the law is so clear on this issue, why did the lawsuit get filed in the first place? I guess you know trust law better than plaintiffs’ attorney. Thanks.

      • Benett Kessler January 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

        Wow, for thinking I should not comment here you sure are dragging me into this! I am not defending Judge Stout’s
        decision. Just suggesting there are legal considerations.

        • allen berrey January 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

          OK I’m wrong; I just look forward to the time when Benett scolds someone for making an unfounded criticism of DWP.

          • Benett Kessler January 10, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

            It might surprise you, Allen, that I would stand up for DWP if a criticism were clearly unfounded. It’s a hard slog, but work to
            look for what is true is what we’ve got. BK

  5. allen berrey January 10, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    But a better speller than me; I forgot the r in journalist!

  6. Honest Freedom of Speech January 10, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Right on, Benett.
    Assumptions flow all over the place on blogs like this.
    If not checked, this format will resemble Conservative Talk-Radio shows.

  7. Trouble January 10, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    Only in Inyo. This just shows the judge belongs in that old … court house.

    • Benett Kessler January 10, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      You might want to read up on trust law before making assumptions.
      Benett Kessler

      • allen berrey January 10, 2013 at 10:06 am #

        Benett: I have always admired you and your efforts in the Owens Valley. And admittedly this is your website. But I don’t think it is appropriate for you to chastise those who make comments. This should be an open forum for people to state their views without fear of being criticized by the editor. Mr. Trouble just offered his opinion. If you open the door of this forum to the him, you shouldn’t scold him for entering it. You are a better jounalist than that! Thanks.

        • Benett Kessler January 10, 2013 at 10:41 am #

          I respectfully disagree and will continue, from time to time, to comment. It’s easy to take shots at Judge Stout, but in covering the story
          I have found that trust law is pretty specific and something to be considered. Chastise is perhaps the wrong word to describe my response.
          Benett Kessler

          • allen berrey January 10, 2013 at 11:21 am #

            OK; but please direct me to another news-related website that sees fit to respond to and critique the opinion of its readers. I’ve not seen one. You’ve become one of the good ol boys, Benett. Thanks.

          • Benett Kessler January 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

            Allen, I am a mysterious woman, not to be defined.

        • elsinoreracer January 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

          I believe Bennett has every right to comment here whether she owns this site or not. She is also a citizen in this country and has a right to voice her own opinion. I thank her for allow all to participate here right or wrong.

        • Trouble January 10, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

          Allen-I appreciate your comments here, but I don’t mind hearing Benett’s opinions. I have to admit that after seeing Benett’s response that my comment was a little bit of a cheap shot at Judge Stout. But my main point was I don’t agree with the out come of this case so far, or think we need a 32 million court house.

          I like the fact that we all can say what we want here and would be bored if that changed. This site is a great example of all of our right to freedom of speech.

      • Trouble January 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

        So you think it’s o.k. to exclude girls ?

        • Benett Kessler January 11, 2013 at 8:16 am #

          This is a legal question for the courts. There are private, all-female schools and all-male schools.
          In this case, it’s a legal question – can someone change or re-interpret a trust after nearly 100 years?
          It’s a very interesting question. BK

          • Trouble January 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

            Good points Benett, I’ve been wrong before. They got themselves in a fine mess now.


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