A few months ago we told you about our lawsuit on behalf of a pro-life nurse in Indiana who was turned down for a faculty position at Indiana University South Bend (“IUSB”). Our client, Cynthia Isabell, was denied a full-time faculty job at IUSB for which she was eminently well-qualified after being grilled in an interview by an Assistant Dean “about being pro-life.”
This happened shortly after Cindy had published an internet blog article about her pro-life views. We’re suing IUSB in federal court in South Bend alleging that IUSB’s agents retaliated against Cindy for expressing her viewpoint in violation of her First Amendment right to free speech. IUSB filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the Court to dismiss Cindy’s case on various legal grounds.
We are now happy to report that the Court has denied IUSB’s motion. In a thorough and well-reasoned 27-page opinion issued today, the Hon. Damon R. Leichty rebuffed IUSB’s attempt to have the case thrown out, stating that “this case is for the jury.” The Court noted the abundance of testimony in the record from IUSB’s own employees, faculty members who participated in the hiring process and others, that the process was grossly unfair to Cindy Isabell. Several IUSB faculty members reported that Assistant Dean Dobrzykowski directly questioned Cindy “about being pro-life” with one professor going so far as to file an Affirmative Action complaint about it.
In today’s opinion, Judge Leichty writes, “[T]he question about being ‘pro-life’ was apparently a shot heard around campus as faculty outside the process learned about it and became ‘appalled’; and even more, the subject was discussed within the search and screen committee.” Thus, the Court held that “a reasonable jury could find that Dr. Dobrzykowski was tying together ‘being pro-life’ with the ‘inability to teach’ at Indiana University – an animus deserving no place in hiring decisions at a prestigious state university.”
We couldn’t agree more. Equating “being pro-life” with an “inability to teach” at a state university or any other institution for that matter is indeed an unlawful animus. Actions taken by public officials in furtherance of such animus – whether denying a job or discriminating in the terms or conditions of employment – are against the law.
In Cindy’s case, her rights under the First Amendment are directly implicated. As the Court has now found, the record in Cindy’s case contains more than enough evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that IUSB’s Assistant Dean harbored an animus against Cindy because of the pro-life views she expressed in her article and that this undermined the legitimacy of the whole process.
With today’s decision, we have been given the green light to prepare the case for trial on April 29th before a jury in South Bend. We look forward to doing just that and to vindicating the First Amendment rights of all citizens, and in particular pro-life citizens, who shouldn’t have to be afraid that “being pro-life” could cost them their careers.
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