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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Former SUNY-Buffalo Law Prof Sues Dean for Wrongful Termination

MalkanThe Spectrum, Law School Dean Mutua Faces Civil Suit:

On March 23, former UB Law Professor Jeffrey Malkan filed a civil rights lawsuit against Law School Dean Makau W. Mutua in the federal District Court of Buffalo. The suit alleges that two months after Mutua became dean in 2008, he illegally fired Malkan by violating Malkan’s right to due process under the 14th Amendment and barring Malkan access to a mandatory faculty review procedure.

Malkan, former director of the law school’s Legal Research and Writing program (LRW), alleges that Mutua failed to follow non-discretionary faculty review procedures required under Malkan’s contract with the school. The lawsuit also names the current vice dean for legal skills, Charles P. Ewing, who allegedly worked in conspiracy with Mutua to block Malkan’s access to a mandatory faculty grievance process, thus allowing Ewing to become director of the LRW soon after Malkan was fired.

Malkan was fired from the law school because Mutua planned on eliminating the LRW program from the school’s curriculum, a position Malkan had maintained since 2000, the lawsuit alleges. In a letter to Malkan informing him of his termination, Mutua said the new Skills Program (created after the LRW’s termination and awarded Ewing) was an appropriate and legal substitution. ...

UB Law Professor Martha T. McCluskey said Malkan’s dismissal and the administration’s unwillingness to settle his case have contributed mistrust among the faculty. “I understand that in part the administration argued that the program for which [Malkan] worked was terminated, but this argument seems dubious,” McCluskey said in an email. “The legal writing program in which he worked was replaced with a program with a different title, but without that much substantive difference.”

Soon after he left UB three years ago, Malkan was in line for a position at the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina. Because of rules set by the Association of American Law Schools, the school was obligated to ask for UB’s permission to recruit Malkan. Mutua blocked Malkan from the job by denying the school’s request.

Malkan, who currently lives on Long Island, has been unemployed since leaving UB in 2008. “Many faculty have concerns that the administration gave short shrift to contractual rights, as well as basic decent treatment of [Malkan] and to the process by which his contract was terminated…this firing contributed to fear and low morale among other faculty,” McCluskey said. ...

Malkan says both Mutua and the school have failed to make any indication that they will settle out of court for any of the lawsuits. Malkan is suing for approximately $1.3 million in breach of contract damages.

Upon arriving at UB, Mutua sought specific faculty changes that Malkan referred to as a “hit list.” Along with Malkan, Mutua fired the director of the Baldy Center, Lynn Mather; the director of the law school information technology department, Alexander Dzadur; and, according to Malkan, forced the resignation of the director of the law library, Jim Millis.

Malkan also said the law school faculty called a meeting to vote “no-confidence” in Mutua being the dean back in November 2010. The faculty was apparently upset, believing that Mutua had been forced on them as the new dean of the Law School.

“They never wanted [Mutua] to be the dean…[UB President and former Provost Satish K.] Tripathi and [former UB President John B.] Simpson came over and told the faculty that they better get in line and shut up,” Malkan said. “There’s a lot of unhappiness with the way Mutua was chosen and basically imposed on the faculty. The faculty have voiced their disapproval, but Tripathi and Simpson were very firm that they better learn to live with him.”

(Hat Tip: Dan Filler.)

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Given the lack of serious due process at many or most law schools, I suspect there will be more cases like this.

Posted by: michael livingston | Apr 23, 2012 3:08:47 AM