Praised by colleagues as smart, friendly and passionate about the
law, Teresa Wagner was a leading candidate when two jobs came open to
teach writing at the University of Iowa law school. An alumnus, she was
already working part-time at its writing center and received positive
reviews from students and a key committee.
But after she
interviewed with the faculty in 2007, one job went to someone without
teaching experience and the other wasn’t filled. She was passed over for
other jobs in the coming years. She now says she was blackballed
because of her legal work against abortion rights and will take her
complaint to a jury this week. The case is being closely watched in
higher education because of longstanding allegations of political bias
at left-leaning law schools. Conservatives have maintained for years
that they are passed over for jobs and promotions at law schools because
of their views, but formal challenges have been rare, in part because
of the difficulty of proving discrimination. Wagner’s case is considered
the first of its kind. ...
At a federal trial that starts Monday in Davenport, Wagner will argue
that the law school faculty blocked her appointment because she had
opposed abortion rights, gay marriage and euthanasia while working as a
lawyer for the Family Research Council and the National Right to Life
Committee in Washington.
Wagner says the opposition to her was led
by professor Randall Bezanson, a law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun
when he wrote the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion
in 1973 — an opinion Wagner spent her earlier career opposing. She says
46 of 50 faculty members who considered her appointment were Democrats,
while one was Republican. Wagner will offer as evidence an e-mail from a
school official who backed her candidacy warning the dean that some
opposed her “because they so despise her politics (and especially her
activism about it).” ...
Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think
tank, said business conservatives with expertise in regulatory and
antitrust law are well-represented on faculties. But he said he would be
hard-pressed to name any professor at a non-religious school who
opposed the Roe decision before winning tenure.