Judge Vacates Ward Churchill Jury Verdict, Gives Him Nothing
Naves ruled the Board of Regents had acted in a quasi-judicial role and had absolute immunity. I'm no expert in civil procedure, but wouldn't you expect him to rule on that before the trial, like at the summary judgment phase, to spare everyone (including us taxpayers) the expense of a trial?
As a result of the jury's verdict, Naves had the option of reinstating Churchill's job or ordering "forward pay" for him. The verdict should also have resulted in an award of legal fees for Churchill's lawyer. (The legal fees were about $1 million.) In addition to vacating the verdict, Judge Naves refused to order Churchill reinstated and refused to give him any "forward pay." And I guess because the verdict was vacated, no legal fees were awarded. So a jury finds Churchill was improperly terminated for his political views and he gets nothing. Nice going. (/sarcasm.)[More...]
The ruling surprised one legal expert, who said jurors made their feelings about Churchill clear by awarding him only $1 but left no doubt he was wrongfully dismissed. "The jury said, 'Look, we didn't like Churchill, but we liked what you did less,' " said trial lawyer Michael Canges.
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, says he will appeal, but he doesn't sound confident.
I doubt anyone who doesn't know Ward Churchill has a favorable impression of him. But this isn't a popularity contest. It's about granting immunity to officials at a state university for whatever decisions they make...and a judge ruling in such a way that he nullifies and disregards the factual findings of the jury.
I do like Judge Naves, and I don't know much about civil litigation, so I can't say he's wrong. I can say his decision seems unfair and has the potential to chill the right to redress of others who are improperly terminated or treated unfairly by universities.
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