Supreme Court Rejects Ward Churchill Appeal Without Comment
By Carol Berry
The petition to the Supreme Court asked whether a “bad faith investigation” of a professor’s work undertaken “with the stated purpose of finding grounds for termination” violates the constitution and whether “absolute, quasi-judicial immunity” should prevail even when a jury determines protected officials fired a tenured professor in retaliation for constitutionally protected free speech and would not otherwise have fired him.
The justices’ decision not to hear Churchill’s petition allows to stand rulings by the Colorado Court of Appeals and state Supreme Court that Churchill’s termination and CU’s refusal to reinstate him do not stem from actions inconsistent with civil rights law. The high court’s determination upholds “quasi-judicial immunity” for the CU Regents who fired Churchill and lets stand the contention that CU’s detailed investigation of his scholarship, which led to his dismissal for “research misconduct,” was not inherently an adverse employment action.
For more on Ward Churchill, see Churchill Loses in Colorado Supreme Court and Peltier Calls Churchill a "Phony."
Churchill's probably caused more harm than good (and the Eichmann comment just meant the pop interpretation of Godwin's law*), but the hilarity is, most Indians in academia knew him for a fraud before all this. (I've always suspected the anthropology professor in Indian Killer was Sherman Alexie saying "Take that!" to Churchill.)
*Godwin's law is really just the idea that as a discussion increases in length, the probability of a Nazi comparison approaches 1. There's a tradition that saying something like "You're a vegetarian? So was Hitler!" (outside of jest) makes you immediately lose all credibility, but "They should be killed for the circumstances of their birth? Hitler thought the same way." is allowed. In pop culture, it becomes "mention Nazis and you lose". But you know who else used laws to end debate?
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