Jury Rejects Conservative Law Professor’s Discrimination Claim

We have written several times–here, here and here–about the case of Teresa Wagner (now Teresa Manning), an “out” conservative law professor who sued the University of Iowa law school for discrimination based on her political beliefs. The facts of the case seemed powerful:

The underlying facts of the case are outrageous. They are what made the case important and newsworthy. Professor Wagner sought a full-time legal writing position at the University of Iowa College of Law after working there on a part-time basis. She was well known as a stalwart social conservative among the school’s faculty, which at the time numbered 49 Democrats and one Republican. The law school is overwhelmingly liberal. When she didn’t get the job and an inferior candidate did, she brought her lawsuit in federal court under section 1983, the statute that allows civil rights claims against state actors to be litigated in federal court.

An initial trial resulted in a hung jury. Ms. Wagner appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; Scott attended the oral argument and reported on it in this post. The appeals court decided the case in Ms. Wagner’s favor, on procedural issues, and remanded it for a new trial. That trial concluded today. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the law school:

The former dean of the University of Iowa law school didn’t commit illegal political discrimination when she passed over a conservative lawyer for teaching jobs, a jury ruled Monday.

After a six-day trial, a federal jury in Davenport rejected Teresa Manning’s assertion that then-Dean Carolyn Jones rejected her for the faculty because of Manning’s political beliefs and associations.

The verdict is a victory for the university in a long-running case that has been closely watched in higher education and by social conservatives. It came after about 90 minutes of deliberations in the second trial in the case, after the first in 2012 ended in an unusual mistrial.

So the jury didn’t buy Wagner/Manning’s case at all. Ninety minutes isn’t much longer than it often takes to elect a foreperson. The jury rejected what seems like provocative evidence in Manning’s favor:

Jones went along with those recommendations even though an associate dean had warned her in an email that he worried professors were blocking Manning “because they so despise her politics (and especially her activism about it).”

But unless you actually attend a trial and see all the evidence, it is hard to draw conclusions.

There are, perhaps, a couple of silver linings. Prof. Manning has a book contract with Encounter Books, and the publicity that accompanied the case may have prompted the University of Iowa to hire a Republican or two:

At the time, the 50-member faculty included 46 registered Democrats. Since then, the faculty has become at least slightly more politically diverse.

We should be grateful, I suppose, for small blessings.