Jury Splits on Claims in Case Alleging Liberal Bias at Iowa Law School
In a case in which the University of Iowa College of Law stood accused of political bias for refusing to hire an instructor known for her conservative views, a jury found that the plaintiff, Teresa R. Wagner, did not suffer infringement of her First Amendment rights. The jury deadlocked, however, over a second claim, that Ms. Wagner was denied her equal-protection rights under the 14th Amendment.
Reports by the Associated Press initially said the entire case had ended in mistrial, but the news agency issued a correction on Wednesday night after it received clarification on the outcome from Judge Robert W. Pratt, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Southern Iowa. Judge Pratt presided over the trial, held in Davenport, Iowa, but after the case went to the jury, he returned to Des Moines, and a U.S. magistrate judge, Thomas J. Shields, oversaw final details of the proceedings.
The AP initially reported that Judge Shields had declared a mistrial in court on Wednesday afternoon. The judge later determined that the initial information he gave in court was incorrect and that the jury had reached a verdict on one of the claims.
Ms. Wagner, a part-time associate director of the law school’s writing center, brought the case against Carolyn Jones, an Iowa law professor who was the school’s dean when it rejected Ms. Wagner’s applications for open positions for tenure-track law professors and adjunct instructors.
The mixed conclusions in the case followed a weeklong trial and about two and a half days of jury deliberation.
Ms. Wagner’s lawyer, Stephen T. Fieweger, declined on Wednesday to comment on the day’s developments or his client’s legal plans.
A spokesman for the University of Iowa, which has declined to comment on the case while the lawsuit is pending, did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
In the lawsuit, which she first filed in 2009, Ms. Wagner accused Ms. Jones of discriminating against her because of her conservative beliefs and her affiliation with conservative organizations, in violation of her First Amendment rights of political belief and association.