Friday, May 22, 2009

University of Colorado Says Not to Reinstate or Compensate Ward Churchill

Peter Schmidt at The Chronicle of Higher Education and John Aguilar of The Daily Camera (5-21-09) report that the University of Colorado has filed a strongly-worded 131-page Brief in Opposition to Motion for Reinstatement in Denver District Court on May 20, 2009, that argues that the dishonest scholar Ward Churchill should not be reinstated as a professor or given financial compensation.

At the end of the brief is the Affidavit of Rhonda Lynne Kelly, the big sister of Ward Churchill's late wife Leah Kelly, who was the topic of my second post. To me, Rhonda's testimony is the best part of the brief.

Aguilar reports:

Former ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill not only shouldn't get his job back but doesn't deserves any financial compensation as a result of his termination by the school two years ago, the University of Colorado contends in a legal brief filed in Denver District Court.

In the 31-page document opposing Churchill's motion for reinstatement, which was made available Thursday, CU attorney Patrick O'Rourke argued that a Denver jury's decision last month to award the former professor $1 was a clear indication it felt Churchill had not suffered damages despite its ruling he was removed unlawfully from his teaching post.

"The jury determined that Professor Churchill's constitutional injury was nominal, and a nominal injury should not serve as a basis for reinstatement or any other equitable relief," O'Rourke wrote. "The Court should not contravene the jury's implied finding that Professor Churchill suffered no actual damages."

...A jury of six decided on April 2 that Churchill was wrongly fired for exercising his First Amendment rights but awarded him only $1 in damages.

Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves will decide whether Churchill gets his job back at CU, receives a monetary settlement, or gets nothing at all.

A date for a reinstatement hearing will likely be announced next week.

...Churchill has 10 days to reply to CU's filing.

In the university's brief, O'Rourke wrote that the jury's verdict in no way absolved Churchill of academic fraud charges.

If it believed that Churchill had not engaged in misconduct, the attorney wrote, the jury would have compensated him for damage to his reputation.

"Instead, the jury did not award Professor Churchill a single penny for reputational injury or emotional distress, which can only be read as the jurors' unanimous conclusion that Professor Churchill destroyed his own reputation through his academic misconduct," O'Rourke said in the brief.

And Churchill's claim that he never asked for money is belied by the fact that his attorney, David Lane, repeatedly told the jury during closing arguments that the best way to send CU a message and provide justice was to award his client monetary damages, O'Rourke wrote.

He warned the court that reinstating Churchill on the Boulder campus would invite future litigation and ill will between both parties, especially given the fact that many of Churchill's former colleagues believe he engaged in academic fraud.

He also wrote that allowing Churchill back into a CU classroom would mean he could operate without fear of being held accountable for his behavior and scholarship.

"Reinstatement under these circumstances places the university in the no-win position of either facing another lawsuit or effectively immunizing Professor Churchill from complying with the standards of professional scholarship," he stated. [See full text.]

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