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The class action lawsuit filed in Delaware's Court of Chancery seeks $3 million in damages

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(DelawareOnline.com) -- Former Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre, booted from the crown for being too old, sued the state and national scholarship pageant organizations on Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks $3 million in damages – $2.5 million for the class of contestants certified to compete then disqualified, and $500,000 for her – along with restoration of her titles as Miss Pike Creek and Miss Delaware. She also seeks the full year's reign in the state, restoration of her scholarships and an age waiver so she can compete for Miss America in September in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"This case has no merit and we will vigorously defend it," said the Miss America Organization in a brief statement,

Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization spokeswoman Carolyn Nelson said Wednesday night that the group would have no comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in Delaware Court of Chancery, reveals an awkward and formerly undisclosed moment just after Longacre was stripped of her crown in June, two weeks into her reign.

Previous Story: Miss Delaware too old; Miss Wilmington steps up

First, officials told her she was too old and said she had to return her crown, wouldn't get her scholarships and couldn't compete for Miss America.

Then, the previously unidentified state pageant official who axed her – executive director Debi Wilson was a named defendant in the filing – "offered to make it up to her by hosting a wine and cheese pajama party," the suit says.

The suit names other pageant winners disqualified after competing and contends pageant officials knowingly recruit ineligible contestants to boost dwindling participation, take advantage of them for fundraising and appearances, then disqualify them.

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The suit details more than 20 appearances Longacre made, cites her additional fundraising for the organization and the facts that she suspended work on her master's degree in social work at University of Pennsylvania for a year, cut her work to part-time and ended internship programs as required by the Miss Delaware organization to fulfill her duties.

Two days after Longacre was disqualified, first runner-up Brittany Lewis of Wilmington was crowned Miss Delaware in a brief ceremony at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, elevating her to the national contest that gives each contestant a $3,000 scholarship for participating and the chance to win a lot more.

PHOTOS: Runner-Up Brittany Lewis crowned Miss Delaware

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Longacre, whose only previous pageant experience was for the separate Miss USA competition, says Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization officials recruited her and certified her eligibility after she repeatedly submitted her birth certificate, driver's license and resume – all with her birth date of Oct. 22, 1989 – as she competed successfully first for Miss Pike Creek, then Miss Delaware.

Lewis also is 24, but she was born July 21, 1990.

Although state and national pageant websites say those 17-24 are eligible – as the lawsuit notes – state pageant officials said in their one public statement about Longacre's ouster that they discovered after Longacre was crowned that she was too old under Miss America rules.

Board member and legal counsel Elizabeth Soucek – who was Miss Delaware first runner up in 2007 – has said national contestants could not turn 24 before Dec. 31, meaning they could not have been born before 1990. She called that "a Miss America rule."

Soucek told The News Journal after Lewis was crowned that she directed Lewis and state pageant officials not to comment about the situation with Longacre "due to the possibility of pending litigation." She couldn't be reached Wednesday night.

Amanda Longacre was told she was too old to be Miss Delaware just two weeks after she won the title. She claims pageant officials knowingly recruit ineligible contestants to make money and boost dwindling participation.

It was only after Longacre went public with her highly emotional account, first in an interview with The News Journal and then on televised "Today" show, that Soucek said she would get the $9,000 scholarship she earned with the state title.

Until that time, according to the lawsuit, the only thing the organization had offered Longacre was the "wine and cheese pajama party."

But when Soucek told The News Journal that Longacre would get $9,000 scholarship from the state title, she was asked about her other scholarship funds for winning Miss Pike Creek andstate contest preliminary events and Miss Congeniality. Soucek then said Longacre would get all her scholarship funds.

The lawsuit said the Pike Creek title came with a $500 scholarship and her other wins totaled $1,250.

In detailing Longacre's damages, the suit also said she lost potential career enhancements such as television and guest appearances, also that she had to spend more than $4,500 on expenses such as a voice coach, clothing, hair and makeup.

Her suit also asks the court to require the pageants to make age requirements clear on their websites and to all potential contestants.

While her lawsuit does not seek an apology, Longacre told The News Journal she never got one from anyone with the Miss Delaware pageant.

Her attorney, Mark Billion of Wilmington, said before the suit was filed that they reached out repeatedly to organization officials.

"Not only did we not get the courtesy of a response," he said, "we haven't gotten anything from them saying she is disqualified."

Longacre recently said she feels lumped in with pageant winners dethroned for reasons from criminal activity to pornography. "I'm being treated as if I did something morally and ethically wrong," she said. "I'm just really heartbroken."

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