Mock court teacher claims her law school job terminated following complaints to ABA


Faculties of Law

Mock court teacher claims her law school job terminated following complaints to ABA

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The former director of advocacy at Mississippi College School of Law says in a recent Federal Court filing that she was constructively fired, in part because of what she said about the safety of employment for non-tenured professors during an ABA site evaluation.

Victoria Lowery Leech, who is white, also claims law school was obligated to offer her an available position after her program ended, but a black candidate was recommended instead. She alleges that the ABA’s concern about the law school’s commitment to diversity was in the school’s decision.

Her complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on Oct. 8, alleges unfair dismissal, as well as discrimination based on sex and race.

Under ABA’s accreditation rules, law schools conduct full site visits every 10 years, and reports of visits are reviewed by the Council of the Legal Education and Bar Admissions Section. of ABA. Regarding the Mississippi College School of Law site visit, the board determined in August 2020 that the law school should provide information demonstrating that it promotes opportunities for faculty without discrimination based on race or sex, depending on the complaint.

The lawsuit also claims that the council’s decision said the law school would clarify the status and position of three full-time, non-permanent faculty members. Under Standard 405 (c) of the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, full-time clinical faculty members are entitled to a form of job security similar to tenure. , but the standard does not prohibit a limited number of short-term internships. term appointments in a clinical program.

Board decisions like this do not require public notice and are confidential, in accordance with Rule 47 of the Accreditation Standards.

Patricia Bennett is the Dean of the Faculty of Law. Lowery claims that Bennett, who is black, offered 405 (c) status positions to two non-white faculty members in 2020, one of whom had less experience in legal drafting than Lowery.

“Effectively, because Professor Lowery is white and does not meet ABA’s diversity goals, by firing Professor Lowery and promoting the African American clinical staff member to 405 (c) status, the school has been able to comply with ABA 405 (c) standard. ) concerns and was able to hire various teachers, all without increasing the school’s faculty budget, ”the complaint states.

The ABA site visit team visited the law school in 2020. The law school administration assumed that Lowery had complained to the group and retaliated against her by offering her a contract. ‘one year instead of the standard five-year contract, according to the complaint.

Lowery joined law school in 2005 and was responsible for the design and implementation of a legal writing program for the upper division, as well as an advanced writing skills course. Her post was not permanent and she was employed on a contract basis. She claims to have received several five-year contracts until 2020, when less than a week before the start of school, she was offered a one-year contract and was told it was her last year as advocacy director for the school.

The complaint alleges that Lowery was discriminated against on the basis of sex starting in 2014, after Jonathan Will was appointed associate dean of the law school for research and faculty development. According to the lawsuit, he repeatedly subjected Lowrey to retaliation and public reprimand if she expressed an opinion contrary to his at faculty meetings, but never did so to male professors. He also alleges that Will “would yell at female teachers while banging his fist on the table” during meetings.

Further, the complaint alleges that Will did not grant Lowrey academic freedom, as he did with other professors, and had him removed from the legal writing program, to be replaced with ” inexperienced, younger and cheaper teachers ”. Will told the ABA Journal in an email he couldn’t comment on pending litigation or personnel matters, as Bennett did.

Lowery determined that his position was eliminated when his name was not on the 2021 spring semester class schedule, according to his lawsuit. Bennett admitted that Lowrey had been taken off the teaching schedule and replaced by adjunct professors, but insisted Lowery was still on staff, as the school’s mock court council pedagogical adviser. , indicates the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that Lowery had the right to have her contract renewed indefinitely until she retired from teaching, under Standard 405 (c).

Lindsay Roberts, one of Lowery’s former students, is now his lawyer. Roberts says that since filing the complaint, students, as well as current and former faculty and staff, have spoken to him about alleged harassment and discriminatory conduct at law school.

“Unfortunately, I predict our claims are just the tip of a very deep iceberg, covered by an ocean of steps taken to try to protect the school from liability. I expect there will be a lot more to come as we continue to investigate some of these new allegations, ”Roberts wrote in an email to the ABA Journal.


Nancy I. Romero

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