[Ppnews] Followup - Churchill wins CU suit but awarded just $1
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 3 10:34:16 EDT 2009
Churchill wins CU suit but awarded just $1
<mailto:fcardona at denverpost.com?subject=The%20Denver%20Post:%20Churchill%20wins%20CU%20suit%20but%20awarded%20just%20$1>By
<mailto:fcardona at denverpost.com?subject=The%20Denver%20Post:%20Churchill%20wins%20CU%20suit%20but%20awarded%20just%20$1>The
Posted: 04/02/2009 11:24:46 AM MDT
Ward Churchill won his case against the
University of Colorado today as a Denver jury
unanimously decided he was fired in retaliation
for his controversial essay about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The jury gave Churchill $1 for past losses,
finding he was fired over protected free speech.
Denver Chief District Judge Larry Naves will
decide in a separate hearing whether the former
Boulder professor can return to his job or
receive pay for years he could have worked at CU.
Churchill hugged his legal team after the verdict was read.
CU attorney Patrick O'Rourke shook hands with
Churchill and his attorneys before leaving the
courtroom without making a statement.
Churchill briefly spoke outside the courtroom and
said, "it took four years. It took a while. And it was quick, it was justice."
CU "has been exposed for what it is," Churchill said.
"It was found by a jury that I was wrongly
fired," he said. "They not only violated my
rights, but my student's rights and the community's rights."
Churchill said he was satisfied with a $1
judgment and said his case was not about money.
"Reinstatement, of course," he said. "I did not
ask for money. I asked for justice."
Churchill thanked his family and his supporters
and his lawyers. He also blasted his detractors
including Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman and
former Rocky Mountain News Editorial Page Editor,
now Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll, who
Churchill said, "tried to shape public consciousness in a false fashion."
Churchill excused himself from the crush of news
cameras and said he wanted to "get some silence and repose."
Earlier this afternoon, Naves summoned the
attorneys from both sides back to court because the jurors had a question.
The jurors asked: "Judge, we are feeling
uncomfortable about the damages portion. Would
you be able to meet with us to talk about what is
required and other things regarding money? And is $0 an option?"
Naves replied: "I cannot meet with you. Please
re-read the instructions concerning damages. If
you find for the plaintiff but find no damages,
(you will have to) find in the sum of $1."
The jurors then had another question: "If all but
one jury member can agree on a dollar amount for
Question 4, can that person be replaced by another juror?"
Naves told them that wasn't possible,
Question No. 4 on the jury form deals with
compensating Churchill. It reads: "Please
describe the dollar amount of compensation, in
each category, that you will provide to plaintiff
Churchill for prevailing on his claim for
retaliation based on defendant University's
decision to terminate his employment. In making
such awards, you should deduct any sums that were
proven by a preponderance of the evidence to have
occurred because of plaintiff Churchill's failure to mitigate his damages.
Past noneconomic damages $__________ .
Past economic loss $ _____________ ."
The four women and two men listened to the case
for four weeks and heard 45 witnesses testify in
the courtroom. Two male alternates were sent home
after closing arguments Tuesday.
A day after the Sept. 11 attacks, Churchill wrote
his essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice
of Roosting Chickens" to criticize America's
economic and foreign policies. In the essay, he
compared some of the victims in the World Trade
Center attack to "little Eichmanns" after Nazi
Adolf Eichmann, who engineered the destruction of the Jews in World War II.
CU launched an investigation to determine whether
that essay was protected speech. Eventually,
allegations surfaced that Churchill had committed
plagiarism or academic misconduct in other
writings, and another series of investigations
was launched. A review of his work led to a vote
by CU regents in 2007 that the tenured professor be fired.
CU counsel Patrick O'Rourke argued that the
university fired Churchill solely because three
committees investigated the professor over a
two-year period and found he had engaged in
fabrication, falsification and plagiarism in some
of his writings on American Indians. O'Rourke
told the jury that Churchill's termination had
nothing to do with the Sept. 11 essay.
"The University of Colorado must diligently
prevent misconduct," O'Rourke said during his
closing argument. "That applies to every student
and every faculty member to everybody who does
anything in the university's name.
"You cannot plagiarize, you cannot falsify, you cannot fabricate."
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, told the jury
there is no way his client would have lost his
job from CU had it not been for the "howling mob"
at the university gates who wanted him gone
because of the Sept. 11 essay including three
regents who voted for his termination and the former governor.
"The regents, the lying liars and almost all of
them got on the stand you heard them lie about
what was on the table," Lane said in his closing
arguments. "So they go through this charade of fairness."
O'Rourke tried to erase Lane's witch-hunt
argument and told jurors that CU gave Churchill
adequate due process, especially by the Privilege
and Tenure Committee, which was made up of fellow faculty.
But Lane told jurors that they needed to find in
favor of Churchill if they believed the Sept. 11
essay he wrote was the motivating factor for his 2007 termination.
Felisa Cardona: 303-954-1219 or
<mailto:fcardona at denverpost.com>fcardona at denverpost.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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