Saturday, November 24, 2012
Jurors Agree: University of Iowa Law School Discriminated Against Faculty Applicant Due to Her Conservative Views
Following up on my previous posts (links below) about Teresa Wagner's federal lawsuit: Des Monies Register, Jurors Say They Saw Hiring Bias at University of Iowa; But University, Not Former Law Dean, Wronged Conservative Job Applicant:
A federal jury believed the University of Iowa’s law school illegally denied a promotion to a conservative Republican because of her politics, former jurors told The Des Moines Register.
However, jurors said they felt conflicted about holding a former dean personally responsible for the bias. They wanted to hold the school itself accountable, but federal law does not recognize political discrimination by institutions. “I will say that everyone in that jury room believed that she had been discriminated against,” said Davenport resident Carol Tracy, the jury forewoman.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Teresa Wagner on Tuesday filed a motion for a new trial in the case that scholars agree could have national implications in what some argue is the liberally slanted world of academia.
The University of Iowa College of Law dodged a potential employment discrimination verdict in a case tried in Davenport last week. But the case could still come back to haunt the university.
Regardless of the outcome, this case raises questions about the hiring policies at the University of Iowa College of Law, and perhaps in the university as a whole. The U of I respects the goal of diversity for race, religion and gender, but it should show the same respect for diversity of political thought.
This case involves a lawsuit filed by Teresa Wagner against the law school after she was turned down for a faculty position in the legal analysis, writing and research program. Wagner is a Republican who has worked for anti-abortion organizations. She alleged that she was passed over the position not because she lacked the qualifications but because she was blackballed by liberal members of the law school faculty.
The law school denied politics were involved in the decision not to hire her. The university claimed Wagner was turned down because she had performed poorly in an interview. ...
Some testimony in this case was troubling. Wagner was turned down despite enthusiastic praise for her interview performance by members of the faculty appointments committee and members of the law school administration. Not all on the faculty were supportive, however. Carolyn Jones, the law school dean at the time, said she rejected Wagner for a faculty position because of opposition within the faculty. According to testimony, Jones said “she always adopts the faculty’s recommendations.”
Faculty members testified that they opposed hiring Wagner because she had performed poorly in the job interview. But an associate dean expressed concern in an email that Wagner might be opposed by professors who “so despise her politics.”
Whether a new trial is justified for this case, it raises important questions that should ultimately be resolved by Iowa courts.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Unsuccessful Iowa Legal Writing Faculty Candidate Sues, Claiming Discrimination Due to Her Conservative Views (Jan. 29, 2009)
- Judge Dismisses Claim by Unsuccessful Iowa Legal Writing Faculty Candidate Alleging Discrimination Due to Her Conservative Views (Apr. 2, 2010)
- Unsuccessful Iowa Legal Writing Faculty Candidate Appeals Dismissal of Suit Claiming Discrimination Due to Her Conservative Views (July 13, 2010)
- 8th Circuit Re-institutes Discrimination Lawsuit by Unsuccessful Republican Faculty Candidate Against Iowa Law School Dean (Dec. 29, 2011)
- NY Times on Unsuccessful Republican Law Faculty Candidate's Discrimination Lawsuit Against Iowa (Jan. 10, 2012)
- Federal Trial Begins Today in Unsuccessful Republican Faculty Candidate's Discrimination Complaint Against Iowa Law School (Oct. 15, 2012)
- Iowa Law Prof: School Retaliated Against Me for Testifying That Liberal Bias 'Corrupts Everything School Touches' (Oct. 19, 2012)
- Jury Splits in Conservative Faculty Candidate's Hiring Bias Suit Against Iowa Law School (Oct. 25, 2012)