Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mistrial of Christian Prof. Shunned by Iowa Univ.

Teresa Wagner sued the University of Iowa for not hiring her in the Iowa College of Law because she's a pro-life Christian and believes in Biblical marriage, but the jury was deadlocked on one of two charges.  Wagner will seek a retrial based on the mishandling of the jury and the verdict by the judge.

Jon Carlson, an associate dean of the law school wrote in an E-mail that Wagner wouldn't be hired "because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it)."

For background, read University Suspends Christian for Defending Marriage and also read University Won't Hire Christians as Scientists as well as Reject Christ, Says University to Grad Student

-- From "Lawyer in U. Iowa Bias Case Objects to Verdict" by The Associated Press 10/26/12

Attorney Stephen Fieweger on Thursday asked a federal court to reinstate Teresa Wagner's claim of discrimination under the 1st Amendment and vacate the verdict throwing it out. He says that claim should be retried with the claim that her equal-protection rights were violated, which deadlocked jurors.

Fieweger says Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields accepted the verdict Wednesday on count 1 without allowing him to be present to poll jurors to ensure they were unanimous and hadn't been coerced.

Shields initially declared a mistrial on both claims. He later called jurors back and accepted their verdict on count 1.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge calls mistrial on 1 claim in bias trial" by Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press 10/24/12

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. She argued that the opposition to her appointment was led by Professor Randall Bezanson who, as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, helped draft the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

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.

Others in higher education warned that, if Wagner was successful, it would give the courts a bigger role in second-guessing decisions best left to the judgment of universities and likely lead to more litigation. Some also raised the prospect that universities could face government-mandated quotas requiring them to hire a certain percentage of professors of differing political beliefs.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Woman seeks retrial in U of I job case" by Jason Clayworth, Des Moines Register 10/26/12

A 12-person federal jury provided a mixed outcome late Wednesday after almost three days of deliberations. Jurors decided that the law school was not guilty of political discrimination, which was the highest-profile allegation in the case. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict as to whether the school had violated Wagner’s equal protection rights, leading to a mistrial on that count. A third count alleging a violation of Wagner’s due process rights was dismissed prior to being considered by the jury.

Wagner’s objection filed Thursday stated the jury was reconvened by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Shields without notifying Wagner’s attorney when he accepted a verdict on the first count. Shields, along with U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt, presided over the case.

Wagner said the action denied her a right to poll the jury, a process that allows lawyers to help determine if jurors were unduly pressured to render a verdict after lengthy deliberations.

“What happened is exactly what I feared: The jury that is coming down to the deadline got, in my opinion, a coerced order for a verdict, and it happened after a time that I had been informed that there would be a mistrial on both counts,” said Stephen Fieweger, Wagner’s attorney.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Confused outcome for conservative who accused Iowa Law of discrimination" by Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal 10/25/12

. . . [the jury] failed to reach a verdict on the second count, which alleges that the school's hiring process was not impartial and denied Wagner due process and equal protection of the law. U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Shields declared a mistrial on that count.

As the matter stands, the case may be retried only on the second count, but Wagner's attorney, Stephen Fieweger, has asked Shields to vacate the verdict in favor of Jones on the First Amendment [-- the first] count. He argued that Shields asked jurors whether they had reached agreement only after announcing that he was declaring a mistrial.

"It's very bizarre," Fieweger said. "How can you accept a verdict after you declared a mistrial?"

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "University of Iowa Denies Attorney Job Because She’s Pro-Life" by Heidi Miller, 10/24/12

Ms. Wagner believes that she was discriminated against due to her conservative viewpoint. She has known views against abortion and euthanasia, while “several voting faculty members at the Iowa College of Law oppose conservative views and have advocated for legal abortion, legal euthanasia, gay marriages and other liberal causes.”

Wagner’s lawsuit centers on two claims for relief: 1) First Amendment and 2) Violation of Due Process and Equal Protection. According to her complaint:

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees individuals the right to associate and express themselves on matters of public concern without fear of reprisal from their government.

This guarantee prohibits the government, when acting as employer, from firing, refusing to promote and/or refusing to hire citizens because of their political views or affiliations.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.