Gibson Bros., Inc., David R. Gibson, and Allyn W. Gibson; Oberlin College and Conservatory and Meredith Raimondo
November 9, 2016-December 2022
The dispute began on November 9, 2016, when an Oberlin student tried to shoplift two bottles of wine from the bakery. The student also had a fake ID. A Gibson’s employee (son and grandson of the owners) tried to stop the student-shoplifter. With the aid of two friends, the student assaulted the employee, Allyn Gibson, when the latter tried to stop him from leaving the store with the shoplifted items. The three students, all of whom are African-American, were arrested. All three eventually pleaded guilty, admitted that Gibson’s was not racist, paid restitution, and received no prison time.
Meanwhile, Oberlin students, faculty, and staff protested against Gibson’s for allegedly having racially-profiled the students. In this effort, they were spurred on by college administrative staff, in particular by Oberlin’s former Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo. The Oberlin College community, including the college itself, started to boycott Gibson’s. Oberlin continued the boycott and refused to concede that the students rather than Gibson’s were at fault. Because of this persecution, Gibson’s came perilously close to going out of business.
On November 7, 2017, Gibson’s sued Oberlin and former Dean Raimondo. Oberlin lost the case and Gibson’s was awarded hefty damages, including punitive damages. Oberlin launched a lengthy appeals process, which finally ended on August 30, 2022, when the Supreme Court of Ohio refused to hear the case. In December 2022, Oberlin finally paid the $36.59 million it owed. It never apologized to Gibson’s.
Legal Insurrection reported more extensively on events at Oberlin College over the past several years than almost any other website. At a time when mainstream media generally ignored stories that didn’t fit their narrative of systemic racism, or slanted stories to fit that narrative, LIF’s early and thorough coverage accurately informed the public about the consequences Gibson’s sustained for stopping a shoplifter who happened to be African-American. That factual coverage generated popular support for Gibson’s that helped it survive and fight back, in what Gibson’s counsel Lee Plakas called a “David and Goliath battle” against a “billion dollar bully.”
LIF was also briefly involved in litigation connected with this dispute. Oberlin served a subpoena demanding any communications LIF had with Gibson’s lawyers. LIF challenged the subpoena, and Oberlin ultimately withdrew it.
Subpoena Duces Tecum To WAJ Media LLC, d/b/a Legal Insurrection,
Gibson Brothers, Inc. v. Oberlin College, Case No. 17-CV-193761, Supreme Court of Ohio, Lorain County, domesticated as Index No. EF2018-0409, Supreme Court of New York, Tompkins County (July 3, 2018).
Affirmation of William J. Troy, III,
In the Matter of the Application of WAJ Media LLC v. For a Protective Order and to Quash a Subpoena for Journalist Records Served in a Foreign Action by Oberlin College, Index No. EF2018-0409, Supreme Court of New York, Tompkins County (July 3, 2018).
Memorandum of Law in Support of Application for Protective Order and to Quash Subpoena Seeking Journalist Records,
In the Matter of the Application of WAJ Media LLC v. For a Protective Order and to Quash a Subpoena for Journalist Records Served in a Foreign Action by Oberlin College, Index No. EF2018-0409, Supreme Court of New York, Tompkins County (July 5, 2018).
Letter from Charles C. Swanekamp, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, to William J. Troy, III, Esq., Barney, Grossman, Dubow & Troy, LLP (July 18, 2018).
LIF devoted a great deal of coverage to this dispute. A listing of articles may be found here. Some of the highlights are listed below. LIF’s coverage began with:
William A. Jacobson, Bakery targeted by Oberlin College #BlackLivesMatter fights back, LEGAL INSURRECTION (November 13, 2016).
Here’s LIF’s report of the beginning of the lawsuit:
William A. Jacobson, Oberlin College lashes out at Gibson’s Bakery, portrays itself as victim, LEGAL INSURRECTION (December 13, 2017).
This article details Oberlin’s efforts to subpoena records from LIF:
William A. Jacobson, After legal challenge, Oberlin College withdraws subpoena seeking our journalist communications, LEGAL INSURRECTION (July 19, 2018).
This is about a lecture Professor Jacobson delivered on November 1, 2019, for the James Wilson Institute, titled “Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin: Identity Politics on Trial.” The lecture, which was held at the Hillsdale College center in D.C., may be seen online using the link embedded at:
William A. Jacobson, VIDEO — Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College: Identity Politics on Trial, LEGAL INSURRECTION (November 11, 2019).
LIF also conducted an online event on September 15, 2022:
William A. Jacobson, VIDEO: The Inside Story of The Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College Case, LEGAL INSURRECTION (September 21, 2022). Video from the September 15 program is embedded within the article.
LIF’s coverage ended with:
William A. Jacobson, Finally, The Gibson’s Bakery Family Has Been Paid By Oberlin College, LEGAL INSURRECTION (December 11, 2022).