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Mistrial Declared in Conservative Hiring Bias Suit Against University of Iowa Law School

Posted Oct 25, 2012 6:49 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A video of the Wagner v. Jones proceedings.

A federal magistrate judge has declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict on one of two claims in a conservative hiring bias suit against the University of Iowa law school.

Jurors ruled against Teresa Wagner on her First Amendment claim and deadlocked on her 14th Amendment claim, the Associated Press reports. Wagner was a part-time teacher in the school’s writing center when she was passed over for a job as a full-time writing instructor, the Des Moines Register reported earlier this week. She later lost her bid for a job as an adjunct professor.

Wagner had claimed she wasn’t hired because she had worked for conservative groups that opposed abortion rights. She alleged that law professor Randall Bezanson, a former law clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun, led the opposition to her hiring, the stories say. Blackmun wrote the Roe v. Wade decision. According to Wagner’s lawyers, only one member of the law school faculty was a registered Republican when Wagner sought employment.

The law school had claimed that Wagner wasn’t hired because she flubbed job interview questions about how she would teach legal analysis. Wagner said her focus would be on grammatical structure in the “Legal Analysis, Research and Writing” program, and dismissed the role of legal analysis, law professors testified.

The school erased a tape of the interview soon after she was rejected. Wagner says the video would have helped her case; the school disagrees.

At trial, Wagner introduced an email in which an associate dean expressed concerns about Wagner’s rejection. “Frankly, one thing that worries me is that some people may be opposed to Teresa serving in any role, in part at least because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it),” the associate dean wrote.

Updated Oct. 26 to include courtroom video.

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