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August 9, 2011
More Law School Unhappiness
The saga of Widener School of Law faculty member Lawrence J. Connell has taken another turn, prompting the age old question, “What is truth?” Professor Connell has been suspended by the University for a year without pay for allegedly retaliating against students who claim he made sexist, racist, and violent statements. He is required to issue a formal apology and to undergo psychiatric treatment. This comes on the heels of an administrative hearing in June that found that the accusations against Connell were not proven.
Then there is the lawsuit Connell filed against Dean Linda L. Ammons for defamation for making, what else, racists and sexist remarks. Connell, who is white, is reported to have used Ammons, who is black, in criminal law classroom hypotheticals where attempts were made on her life. Connell reportedly accuses Ammons of trying to remove him from the faculty because of his conservative views. The suit continues. More on the latest developments at Widener is in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Connell’s lawyers say he is looking for work at other institutions. Good luck with that. A lack of success may prompt another series of lawsuits if the case of Nicholas Spaeth gets any traction. Spaeth is the former attorney general for the state of North Dakota. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Missouri School of Law and filed an age discrimination case against Michigan State University for not hiring him as a faculty member.
Spaeth is 61 years old and has an accomplished resume. He claims that MSU hired younger and less accomplished individuals for faculty jobs. MSU stated that Spaeth’s areas of teaching interest did not match the school’s needs. And, for what it’s worth, Spaeth filed claims with the EEOC against more than 100 law schools that did not interview him. At least 30 of those claims have been dismissed according to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
Both suits have the potential to affect what it means to be in the privileged class of law faculty. Or it can turn out that the courts will treat these cases as crank suits. I’m not sure which. The equities in both of these cases are pretty ugly. Then again, I’ve never really heard of a friendly little lawsuit. Gentlemen, start your legal filings. If you really want to know what the truth is, just ask twelve people who weren’t there and have no connection to the incidents otherwise. They will be happy to tell you. [MG]