Law Professors

Activist law prof files suit claiming he was wrongly barred from campus because of PTSD

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An activist law professor who spent three weeks in a Rwandan jail has filed a lawsuit claiming he was wrongly barred from campus because of his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Peter Erlinder’s suit against William Mitchell College of Law was removed to federal court in Minnesota on Friday, according to Pacer documents. Erlinder’s group, International Humanitarian Institute, linked to the state court lawsuit (PDF). The Minneapolis Star Tribune and MPR have stories.

According to the suit, William Mitchell law dean Eric Janus barred Erlinder from campus in January 2012 and then ordered armed security personnel and a personal armed bodyguard to sit in the dean’s suite, creating the implication that Janus had reason to fear for his safety. Erlinder was placed on paid leave.

Erlinder says he is under the care of a psychologist and psychiatrist and he is able to perform the essential duties of a law professor. His suit accuses the school of imposing “numerous, ever-changing conditions” for his return. Among the claims in his suit are breach of contract, defamation, and violations of the federal Family Medical Leave Act. He has pending charges of disability discrimination with the state and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the complaint says.

Erlinder’s attorney, Peter Nickitas, told the Star Tribune that Erlinder “brought certifications from two health care providers, his psychologist and psychiatrist that he’s capable of being a professor and he is not dangerous to anybody and never was.”

The law school’s answer to the complaint says Erlinder’s behavior was disruptive, and the bad behavior continued during the leave. Erlinder “vilified and threatened retaliation against faculty colleagues and college officials who, in the exercise of their collegial governance responsibilities, did not acquiesce to his unreasonable demands,” the answer says.

The law school said Erlinder could resume teaching with the sufficient medical certification of fitness for duty but “he has not identified a reasonable accommodation that would allow him to return to work, without undue hardship.”

Erlinder had represented a Rwandan opposition leader charged with promoting genocidal ideology. Erlinder was himself jailed in 2010 and accused of violating Rwandan law barring anyone from denying or minimizing genocide that took place in the country in 1994. He was guarded by child soldiers armed with AK47s and threatened daily with execution, the suit says.

Hat tip to Rick Kupchella’s Bring Me the News.

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