Texas Law School says fired dean not tenured in bid to end bias lawsuit

  • Bullock sued the university, claiming it violated land protections
  • The university said it faced backlash from students and lost faculty support

(Reuters) – The former dean of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law was not tenured and therefore not entitled to certain job protections, state officials said in a petition seeking to dismiss her lawsuit for gender bias and retaliation.

Joan Bullock sued the university’s board of trustees in federal court in Houston in September, claiming she was ousted in June without cause and stripped of her full professorship thereafter, even though male deans in the past were allowed to remain in the faculty after the end of their deanships.

But Bullock was out of tenure when she was hired to lead Houston Law School in 2019, according to the university’s motion Wednesday.

The school is championed by the Texas Attorney General’s office since Texas Southern is a public university.

Only the university’s board of trustees can approve tenure — a decision it did not make in Bullock’s case, the school argued.

“Any tenure status Bullock claims to have received outside of TSU policies is generally considered invalid,” the motion reads.

Reached on Monday, Bullock’s attorney, Todd Slobin, called the university’s filing “baseless” and an attempt to delay a response on the merits of the case.

“[Texas Southern’s] the governing body and civil servants are accountable for their actions, and they cannot abuse tenure protections or fire a tenured professor in the absence of gross misconduct – which does not exist in this case,” Slobin said. .

The American Bar Association’s Law School Accreditation Standards require deans to have tenured status “except in extraordinary circumstances.”

The university says Bullock lacks standing to sue and most of its claims are barred by sovereign immunity.

Bullock was hired as dean during a tumultuous time for the school. It failed to meet several ABA standards, including one requiring schools to maintain “good admissions policies.” And he was embroiled in an admissions scandal involving allegations of bribery.

Bullock’s lawsuit claims she brought stability to the school by reforming its admissions office with new hiring and procedures and increasing the academic credentials of classes introduced during her tenure. He also returned to ABA compliance while she was dean.

But the law school countered that Bullock’s deanship was marked by declining Texas bar exam pass rates, a student backlash against his leadership and a vote of no confidence from the faculty.

“The only class Bullock taught Thurgood, a 1L tort class, went so badly that an extra faculty member had to be brought in to help out,” he said.

Read more:

Fired Texas law dean sues school for gender bias and retaliation

Struggling Florida law school faces another professor lawsuit

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Karen Sloane

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com

Nancy I. Romero