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Jurors say they saw political bias in U Iowa law school case

November 22, 2012

DAVENPORT - Members of a federal jury say they believed the University of Iowa law school denied a promotion to a conservative because of her politics, but did not rule in the woman's favor because they were split on whether the former dean could be held responsible.

Jurors said in interviews after last month's trial that they agreed the law school unfairly passed over Teresa Wagner for jobs on the faculty. But they said they wanted to hold the school, not former dean Carolyn Jones, responsible for the discrimination and thus reached an unusual mixed verdict in the case, the Des Moines Register reported Wednesday.

"I will say that everyone in that jury room believed that she had been discriminated against," said Davenport resident Carol Tracy, the jury forewoman.

Jurors found that Jones did not violate Wagner's free speech rights by using her political views and associations as a motivating factor to deny her jobs, but could not reach agreement on whether Jones violated Wagner's equal-protection rights by treating her differently than other job candidates. A judge declared a mistrial on the second count, and both sides are arguing over whether there should be a retrial in the case.

Wagner, a part-time employee of the law school's writing center, appeared on track to get a full-time position teaching legal writing and analysis to first-year law students in 2007 when she was a finalist for two open positions. But the faculty voted to hire a less-qualified candidate who had to resign within a year for poor performance, did not fill the other job, and then refused to consider Wagner for similar jobs that came open later.

Wagner filed the lawsuit contending the 50-member faculty - which included 46 Democrats - blocked her appointment because they knew she was a Republican who had worked for two anti-abortion groups, the National Right to Life Committee and the Family Research Council. She claims a professor who helped draft the Roe v. Wade decision as a law clerk in 1973 led the opposition, and noted that one associate dean sent an email to Jones saying he feared it was because "they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it)."



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