Paul L. Caron

Monday, October 15, 2012

Federal Trial Begins Today in Unsuccessful Republican Faculty Candidate's Discrimination Complaint Against Iowa Law School

Wagner 2Following up on my prior posts (links below):  NPR, A Public Law School Faces Trial Over Liberal Bias:

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.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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Perhaps she was not hired because she was an alumnus. Schools generally do not want to "hire their own."

Posted by: interesting | Oct 15, 2012 9:36:43 PM

The law school is spending a lot of money to cover up its obvious discrimination rather than simply embracing someone with moral values. Apparently, its "diversity" doesn't include diversity of thought.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 15, 2012 7:46:55 AM

As I note at Overlawyered, the quoted sentence misses the mark a bit in conveying my views. Of course Roe as a decision, and its reasoning, are by no means sacrosanct among younger (or older) faculty. What I was trying to say when I talked to AP is that it's not at all common for younger academics seeking tenure at nonreligious law schools to take an outspoken stand against legalized abortion in itself, as had Ms. Wagner.

Posted by: Walter Olson | Oct 15, 2012 6:57:01 AM