Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Politically-based faculty discrimination, a test case
Powerline ^ | 2/13/2014 | Paul Mirengoff

Posted on 02/14/2014 7:01:29 PM PST by iowamark

Today, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the case of Wagner v. Jones. Our friend Peter Berkowitz discussed the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (it’s behind a pay wall).

Teresa Wagner accuses the University of Iowa College of Law of violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by refusing to hire her for its legal analysis, writing, and research program due to her strong pro-life views and activism. Her accusation is strongly supported by a comparison of her qualifications for the position and those of the two individuals selected by the law school.

Wagner was already the associate director of the law school’s writing center. Moreover, she had taught legal writing at George Mason University Law School, edited three books, practiced as a trial attorney in Iowa, and written several legal briefs, including one in a U.S. Supreme Court case. In addition, the faculty-appointments committee at the University of Iowa College of Law recommended her appointment as a full-time instructor.

By contrast, one of those selected for the position, a self-described “off the charts liberal,” had one semester of law-school teaching experience, no legal publications, and no experience practicing law. He quit the job within a year.

The second position was filled by a former research assistant originally hired straight out of law school. He had been the research assistant for a professor who clerked for Justice Blackmun at the time Blackmun wrote the decision in Roe v. Wade. This professor led the opposition to Wagner’s appointment.

The inference of discrimination arising from this comparison of credentials is bolstered by the fact that, at the time of the hiring decision, the law school had only one Republican on its 50-member faculty, and he had joined the faculty 25 years earlier. (Since the suit was filed, the law school has hired four Republicans. But one of them is Jim Leach left-leaning windbag and former Obama appointee. In the unlikely event that “Chairman Jim” is involved in teaching law students to write, the student body should sue the law school). The inference of discrimination against Wagner is also bolstered by a memo written the day after her rejection by an associate dean of the law school.

The law school’s stated reason for not hiring Wagner was that she “flunked” her interview by refusing to teach the “analysis” portion of the course. But, as Peter explains, faculty emails contradict this account. The law school conveniently destroyed its tape of the interview.

Wagner tried her case before a jury. The jury foreman told the Des Moines Register that “everyone in that jury room believed she had been discriminated against.” However, the jury could not agree as to whether the law school dean was exclusively responsible. The jury was thus declared “hung,” which should have meant a new trial. However, through manipulation described by Peter, the court contrived to convert this into a ruling in favor of the dean on the First Amendment count. It later dismissed the Fourteenth Amendment claim.

Let’s hope that the Eighth Circuit reverses and grants Wagner’s request for another trial. As Peter concludes:

[S]tate boards of regents and state legislatures have a responsibility to ensure that their law-school faculties do not discriminate on the basis of political persuasion. . . .If the Eighth Circuit protects Teresa Wagner’s constitutional rights, the court will also bolster legal education in America by promoting its depoliticization.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Iowa; US: Minnesota
KEYWORDS: abortion; academicbias; academicblacklist; blacklist; indoctrination; lawschool; lawyers; teresawagner; thoughtcrime; wagnervjones
Previous thread on WSJ article on this case
1 posted on 02/14/2014 7:01:29 PM PST by iowamark
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: iowamark

"Posted on by Scott Johnson in Higher education

The Wagner case oral argument

Paul writes about the case of Teresa Wagner v. Carolyn Jones, Dean of the University of Iowa College of Law in the adjacent post. I too had read Peter Berkowitz’s Wall Street Journal column over the weekend and noted that the oral argument in Ms. Wagner’s appeal was scheduled before the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul on Thursday morning. TaxProf Paul Caron picked up on Berkowitz’s column in this post.

I live across the river from the federal courthouse in St. Paul and thought I would attend the oral argument if my work schedule permitted, as it did. I attended the oral argument yesterday morning and spoke briefly with Ms. Wagner and her attorney on their way out of the courtroom afterwards. Here is my brief report.

The underlying facts of the case are outrageous. They are what made the case important and newsworthy. Professor Wagner sought a full-time position legal writing position at the University of Iowa College of Law after working there on a part-time basis. She was well known as a stalwart social conservative among the school’s faculty, which at the time numbered 49 Democrats and one Republican. The law school, as Peter Berkowitz notes, is overwhelmingly liberal. When she didn’t get the job and an inferior candidate did, she brought her lawsuit in federal court under section 1983.

Following trial the jury deliberated for a few days. The jury finally declared itself hung and was discharged by the federal magistrate judge (not the trial judge) who had been assigned to receive the verdict. Two minutes later he retrieved the jury and quizzed them on the verdict, asking if they had hung on both counts. Having ascertained that they found against Ms. Wagner on the first count, he had them sign off on a verdict adverse to Ms. Wagner on that count. (I believe that Ms. Wagner has since dismissed the second count.) The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the outcome of the case at trial here.

If you want to understand the case before the Eighth Circuit, you have to read two opinions. Both opinions are available online. These opinions are: 1) the Eighth Circuit’s 2011 decision in the Wagner case, resulting in the trial (it is posted here), and 2) the 44-page district court opinion following the trial (William Jacobson has posted it here). Having sat through the oral argument yesterday, I have the following stray observations.

The issue before the Court at this point is almost entirely procedural (with a Sixth Amendment overlay). The substantive issue that Peter Berkowitz writes about was vindicated by the Eighth Circuit in its 2011 decision reversing the dismissal of Ms. Wagner’s case on summary judgment.

Ms. Wagner’s counsel argued that whether the jury had been discharged for two minutes or two days, the magistrate judge’s actions following discharge were improper. He seeks reinstatement of the mistrial declaration and a new trial against the Dean (now the successor to Carolyn Jones, the original defendant). Ms. Wagner’s counsel has also raised an issue regarding the jury instructions, but it didn’t draw a single question and I don’t think it will play in the outcome of the appeal.

The university’s counsel is out of the Iowa Attorney General’s office. His argument was essentially a minute by minute account of the events leading up to the verdict that Ms. Wagner seeks to set aside. One of the judges wryly asked counsel during the argument if he was offering his testimony on the events.

My favorite question during the oral argument was more of a statement, by Judge Beam. It came during the argument on behalf of the law school and was something like: “So, 49 Democrats and one Republican?”

Judge Beam is a personal hero of mine. He wrote the 1997 opinion for the Court sitting en banc in Burnham v. Ianni, a section 1983 free speech case in the university setting. John and I represented the plaintiffs in the case. We had lost 2-1 before a somewhat screwy panel. (The oral argument was certainly screwy.) I think the 1 was Judge Beam, whose dissent persuaded the entire Court to hear the case. When they did, we won 10-2, and Judge Beam’s opinion is, I think, actually an important case. It certainly represented the best day I ever had in court when I was in private practice.

The other two judges on the panel in Ms. Wagner’s appeal (Smith and Benton) are similarly good for Ms. Wagner. All three are Republicans. Judge Smith was on the panel that decided the first appeal in favor of Ms. Wagner. Judge Benton was incredibly thoughtful and well prepared. The panel on this appeal presents a sort of mirror image of the University of Iowa law school faculty.

My impression is that the best Ms. Wagner will come away with from the Court this time around is an order remanding the case to the district court for additional findings. I think it is less likely that the Court will reverse the district court decision outright and order a new trial than that it will affirm the district court. Of the three possibilities, my guess is that remand is the most likely.

When I spoke with her yesterday, Ms. Wagner seemed happy and optimistic. Whatever the outcome, she personally will prevail. All I can say is that I wish her the best, as I did when we parted.

UPDATE: I should have noted that via this page on the Eighth Circuit site, you can find audio of the oral argument in the Wagner appeal posted here. If you have any interest in the case, you may want to listen to it yourself."

2 posted on 02/14/2014 7:04:58 PM PST by iowamark (I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: iowamark

I’m sure our lovely judicial system will say she would have a case if only she was a liberal trying to get a job among conservatives.....

3 posted on 02/14/2014 7:09:46 PM PST by jeffc (The U.S. media are our enemy)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: iowamark

“By contrast, one of those selected for the position, a self-described “off the charts liberal,” had one semester of law-school teaching experience, no legal publications, and no experience practicing law. He quit the job within a year.” Wanta bet he was of color too? And possibly gay?

4 posted on 02/14/2014 10:17:53 PM PST by yldstrk (My heroes have always been cowboys)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: iowamark

Gotta love it.....lawyers suing lawyers.

5 posted on 02/15/2014 4:27:43 AM PST by bjorn14 (Woe to those who call good evil and evil good. Isaiah 5:20)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson