Judge Declares Mistrial in “Liberal Bias” Lawsuit

A lawsuit against the University of Iowa law school alleging ideological discrimination in faculty hiring has ended in a mistrial. The jury sided for the University on one charge, but deadlocked on the other. The AP reports:

During a weeklong trial watched closely in higher education, Wagner claimed that the overwhelmingly liberal faculty refused to hire her because she is a Republican who had worked for social conservative groups that oppose abortion rights. . . .

Professors testified that while they were aware of Wagner’s political beliefs, they passed her over for jobs teaching legal analysis and writing because she flunked a job interview in January 2007. A string of professors testified that she botched questions about how she would teach legal analysis, a key component of the job.

But Wagner said that claim was fabricated to excuse the political motivations of the 50-member faculty, which included 46 registered Democrats. She said the faculty did not want an outspoken female opponent of abortion rights to join their ranks. . . .

The trial exposed tension among the Iowa faculty and questionable hiring practices, including the law school’s decision to erase a videotape of Wagner’s job interview shortly after she was turned down. The university also could not produce any written documents showing criticism of her interview at the time; the only documents made public were from professors praising her.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has more.

I agree with Professor Bainbridge that courts should not second-guess faculty hiring decisions, but that cases like this show some faculties are not genuinely interested in having a diversity of viewpoints or perspectives.

[Note: Typo fixed – post should have said I do not think courts should be second-guessing faculty hiring decisions.]

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