Law Professors

6th Circuit Rules Tenure Didn't Protect Fired Cooley Law Prof, Cites One-Year Contract Term

A federal appeals court has ruled against a tenured law professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School who claimed she was improperly fired.

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the former professor, Lynn Branham, on Monday, report the National Law Journal and TaxProf Blog. Even though Branham had tenure, her job contract guaranteed employment for only a year, the appeals court said.

“While Branham may have had ‘tenure’ in the sense that she had academic freedom, and that she and Cooley generally expected that they would enter into a new employment contact in subsequent years, nothing in her employment contract, or the documents incorporated by reference therein, provides for a term of employment greater than one year,” the appeals court said in its opinion (PDF).

Cooley has claimed Branham was dismissed because she refused to teach constitutional law, while Branham has said she was fired in retaliation for opposing the school’s hiring of the husband of a board member.

Branham’s firing was affirmed in a faculty conference held in response to a federal judge’s order. The appeals court said the hearing satisfied the school’s obligations under its contract with Branham, as well as federal and Michigan law.

Branham told the National Law Journal she is considering her options. “I do believe the decision is legally erroneous,” she said.

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