Friday, February 10, 2006

Petit against Arizona State University; revisiting San Filippo against Rutgers?

On September 25, 2005, IPBiz had a post on a lawsuit filed by Professor Petit against various entities at Arizona State University.

One of the counts in the complaint is under 42 USC section 1983. This reminds one of the case filed by chemistry professor Joseph San Filippo against Rutgers University. The San Filippo case is notable for many reasons: it has generated its own law review article, San Filippo v. Bongiovanni: The Public Concern
Criteria and the Scope of the Modern Petition Right, 48 Vand. L. Rev. 1697 (1995) [see also Getting Tossed From the Ivory Tower: The Legal Implications of
Evaluating Faculty Performance, 61 Mo. L. Rev. 233] and it produced an almost unimaginable instance of collateral damage against a different faculty member. [see Fortenbaugh, 317 N.J.Super. 439, 722 A.2d 568]

As the Third Circuit stated in the San Filippo case: This case, brought under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, arises out of the dismissal by Rutgers University -- New Jersey's principal state institution of higher education -- of plaintiff Dr. Joseph San Filippo, who was, until May 13, 1988, a tenured professor of chemistry. The defendants named in this case are Rutgers University and six members of the Rutgers Board of Governors (hereinafter collectively described as "Rutgers"). The district court granted Rutgers ' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Professor San Filippo's case.

The Third Circuit noted of Rutgers' problem with San Filippo: On November 25, 1985, Dean Tilden Edelstein told San Filippo and his Rutgers AAUP counsellor, Wells Keddie, n1 of allegations that San Filippo had harassed, exploited and attempted to exploit visiting scholars from the People's Republic of China. [Specifically, San Filippo was accused of taking advantage of his professorial position and exploited
Mr. Hetian Gao and Mr. Changhe Xiao, both visiting scholars from the People's Republic of China, by directing them or leading them to believe that they had no choice but to perform domestic work for San Filippo, such as garden work and indoor and outdoor cleaning work during the period May through July 1985.

Of San Filippo's problem with Rutgers: San Filippo filed the instant action on June 13, 1988. He alleges, among other things, that disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him and that he was dismissed in retaliation for the numerous (1) grievances and lawsuits he had instituted, and (2) complaints he had voiced, against Rutgers University and various University officials between 1977 and 1986 -- activities that he contends are protected by the first amendment.

The beginning of the district court decision within 743 F. Supp. 327 is of interest:

It is a disgrace that Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey,
cannot terminate a faculty member when he or she has committed ethical
violations of a high order because, for whatever reason, Rutgers has not seen fit to
adopt regulations which would permit it to do so. It is similarly a disgrace
that 46 days of hearings which culminated in a 44 page report recommending
plaintiff's dismissal because he violated the basic ethical tenets of the
profession as evidenced by his exploitation of and threatening and abusive behavior
towards individuals who worked under him and his lack of integrity in
professional dealings, a report sustained by the Board of Governors in a 60 page
opinion, must turn out to be a total waste of time and taxpayers' money.
Finally, it is a disgrace that, having committed the gross ethical violations seen here, plaintiff will, most likely, return to Rutgers, although that
return will hardly be the return of a conquering hero.


January 22, 1999. Fortenbaugh case decided.

August 18, 1994. Request of Rutgers for rehearing denied in 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 22725

July 21, 1994. Third Circuit Court of Appeals rules in 30 F.3d 424, affirming summary judgment on behalf of Rutgers on due process claim but vacating summary judgment on behalf of Rutgers on first amendment claim.

July 25, 1990. District court ruling in 743 F. Supp. 327

June 13, 1988. San Filippo files suit against Rutgers.


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