"Law professors tend to be astonishingly bad at the whole 'law' thing"
February 18, 2024 2:43 PM   Subscribe

Paul Campos, University of Colorado law professor known for his work in exposing the law school scam, has obtained a settlement in his Title VII retaliation case. Campos has now blogged the whole sordid course of events: How I Won My Lawsuit Against the University of Colorado - Part II - Part III

Elsewhere: It Turns Out Law School Leaving A Paper Trail Of Retaliation Was A Poor Litigation Strategy (Joe Patrice, Above The Law, 2024-02-13). "No one necessarily expects the legal academy to be experts in the practicalities, but telling the plaintiff you’re retaliating against them should probably warrant a lesson."

Earlier coverage: Law School Professor Sues School After What Sounds Like A Whole Lot Of Retaliation (Joe Patrice again); Professor who was one of first to write about the 'law school scam' brings Title VII claim (Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal, 2023-06-29)
posted by Not A Thing (36 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Judging by his other posts on that blog he doesn't seem to be much of a MAGA/republican fan, which makes me wonder why he felt the need to point out that the dean's academic background is in CRT, given what a weird dogwhistle that's become. I guess he was maybe just trying to say she's not trained in law, but he could've just said that without also inviting some kind of weird MAGA reaction. Stuck out to me like a sore thumb.
posted by axiom at 4:29 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I took it as being relevant because the initial complaint was about discrimination within the department.
posted by Horselover Fat at 4:38 PM on February 18 [20 favorites]


OK, I guess, but the complaint wasn't about racial discrimination as far as I could tell.
posted by axiom at 4:49 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Apologies for not linking the original texts: Complaint, Docket, Amended Complaint.

Campos has IMO a bit of a weakness for leaving interpretive work for the reader. I think the intended germanity of the Dean's academic specialty (and she is trained in law) relates to paragraph 27 of the original complaint (29 of the amended complaint):
D. Professor Campos Reports Discrimination to the University.
27. On May 23, 2022, Professor Campos met with Dean Inniss to discuss his rating. He explained to Dean Inniss that he believed it reflected, among other issues, racial bias based on his Latino ethnicity, as well as punishment for taking paternity leave.
I.e. someone of the Dean's academic background should definitely have understood that "this isn't that kind of place" isn't an appropriate response to an employee raising concerns about racial discrimination.
posted by Not A Thing at 5:06 PM on February 18 [20 favorites]


If you read more of the links you’ll see that it was about racial discrimination, both him accusing the dean / review committee of being biased against him as a Latino and also the dean / review committee accusing him of saying racist and sexist comments in his classes. Not everything is about Trump and having a background in CRT does inoculate you against being an asshole.
posted by youthenrage at 5:12 PM on February 18 [7 favorites]


(Did you mean to write "does not inoculate you", youthenrage?)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:28 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


Yes I did thank you ::face palm::
posted by youthenrage at 5:35 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Good heavens that’s n excellent flamethrower he has there :) sounds like they really screwed up by going after him. The bit about the law school’s funding in post III is particularly fine sword thrust.
posted by Peach at 5:40 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


While I have no knowledge of this case, I have been adjacent to CU in various capacities for about 20 years now. Gross incompetence and pointless venom are... I wouldn't say "common", but "more common than they should be". It started for me as an undergrad being thrown under a bus by a tenured prof, and has been a pretty constant thread since then.

A particular sin of CU is having many, many hours of training on diversity, understanding others, and compassion, and then having leadership behave in ways diametrically opposed to that training. And then having no actual consequences for it.

The one thing I didn't see in the articles was where higher administration was involved. I would be fascinated to see who knew what, when.
posted by SunSnork at 5:54 PM on February 18 [6 favorites]


Well that was an entertaining read. Thank you.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:50 PM on February 18


why he felt the need to point out that the dean's academic background is in CRT, given what a weird dogwhistle that's become

When I first read that, I did a double-take, because I didn't have him filed away in my head as a conservative. I see the connection, but if I had been editing the piece, I would've suggested he cut it to avoid distracting people.
posted by praemunire at 7:08 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


> The bit about the law school’s funding in post III is particularly fine sword thrust.

The law school's declining tuition revenue & growing number of full-time faculty remind me of behaviors of corporations or conglomerates where "investment capital tends to flow most readily to its least productive divisions", and decisions to proceed with unprofitable projects are more likely if a corporation is able to fund the project with its own cash reserves without scrutiny from an external lender such as a bank. There's a quite funny article by William J Bernstein with citations to research about this kind of phenomenon, if you'll excuse a link regarding decision-making, agency costs and maladministration in for-profit corporate bureaucracies amidst this discussion regarding decision-making in academic bureaucracies, which are surely completely different beasts.

"The purpose of a system is what it does" -- Stafford Beer
posted by are-coral-made at 7:57 PM on February 18 [8 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that the law school dean didn't have the sense to cover their tracks but actually created and documented evidence proving they had acted illegally. Against a law professor. I certainly would have assumed any law professor is someone more likely than most to, firstly, understand the law, but, more importantly, have an appetite for testing out their legal skills in a real-life battle.
posted by dg at 8:18 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I am a science professor at a public, undergraduate only, regional commuter college, and many offices on our campus will not answer questions by email and our president will not let people record her town hall meetings because they do not want there to be documentation of, well, anything. It blows my mind that our administration is more into covering their asses legally than a law school.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:40 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that the law school dean didn't have the sense to cover their tracks but actually created and documented evidence proving they had acted illegally.

Hubris is a sickness that can strike anyone.
posted by NoMich at 5:10 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]


It takes a while to get to the underlying discrimination claim. The author had 2 young children at home during the pandemic. Women faculty with children were given explicitly easier evaluations that cycle for handling child-rearing during school closures, but male faculty with children were not. That's the initial lawsuit threat that he was retaliated against for: male faculty were being discriminated against because the evaluation committee gave leeway during an exceptional time to women with young children. I appreciate that bonuses to people outside your class are enough, but it seems to me like he sinks the rationale for the lawsuit by pointing out that the person who evaluated him had a personal grudge. Some jerk giving you a bad evaluation with no rationale may be contrary to their policies, but it explains the actions without sex discrimination playing a meaningful role.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:17 AM on February 19


That may be, except that apparently the same pattern played out for at least one other male faculty member with children.
posted by jedicus at 5:26 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


More broadly, his claim is that the process for promotion and tenure was extremely arbitrary and biased in a number of ways, violating a number of policies, and that the Dean did not step in to do her job when alerted to the fact, instead choosing to silence and retaliate against him. Apparently, the courts agreed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:50 AM on February 19 [9 favorites]


There was also the part where if a woman didn't have a piece already published, it was "alleged", regardless of how far along it was, whereas for a guy, if he was just thinking about it, it counted as being in the pipeline.
posted by Spike Glee at 7:33 AM on February 19 [6 favorites]


I found that striking, that the women's childcare 'bonus' was needed because the reviewers had dismissed or ignored the women's accomplishments to the point that the overall results were clearly unusable.

And from there, they just kept digging, to the point where they had to settle this lawsuit without an NDA.
posted by mersen at 7:50 AM on February 19 [8 favorites]


And they had to pay his full legal bill. As Campos writes in the first of three posts,

Employment discrimination law in this country is extremely defendant-friendly. It’s usually very hard for plaintiffs to prove that bad treatment from their employers was a product of illegal motives, and it’s also difficult in these cases to prove that the employer is liable for enough damages to make these cases worth pursuing. And of course people don’t want to sue their employers because they want to keep their jobs.

How much did CU fuck up here? *That* much!
posted by NoMich at 8:02 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


On one hand, its plausible that there is a legally valid claim in the underlying discrimination case and that the Dean who responded screwed up. On the other, a 34-year tenured law professor and Federalist Society member has such an inherently high level of social privilege that it is difficult to imagine that what he experienced had any consequential impact on his actual life. I also have to suspect from the gleeful tone of his blog that he was actually glad to have the opportunity to humiliate a Black woman who represented a liberal establishment. It may be true that "A packed house, drawn by his provocative take on a wide range of topics, attended his presentation of the 27th Annual Austin W. Scott, Jr. Lecture entitled "The Obesity Myth & The Lewinsky Scandal," , I could not bring myself to watch it, but you can if you are so inclined. It's also striking that at least according to Google Scholar he has not published anything of substance in a long time, FWIW.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:18 AM on February 19 [5 favorites]


Federalist Society member

The page you link states the following: "A person listed as a contributor has spoken or otherwise participated in Federalist Society events, publications, or multimedia presentations. A person's appearance on this list does not imply any other endorsement or relationship between the person and the Federalist Society." It also shows Campos' last appearance at such an event as being in 2014.

Here is what Campos had to say about the matter more recently: Boycotting the Federalist Society:
Don’t collaborate with the Trump administration. Don’t treat the Federalist Society as anything but an instrument of Trumpism, because that’s what it now is.

I say this as someone who has participated in several Federalist Society events over the years, although I stopped doing so after the 2016 election. If you are a leftist, a liberal, or a conservative who doesn’t like ethno-nationalism, don’t do anything to support an organization that continues to play a key role in the attempt to re-create America’s version of herrenvolk democracy.
The rest of your comment seems to proceed from the assumption that Campos must be a fedsocker and must therefore hate the "liberal establishment." That would seem pretty odd given his blogging, although it's probably fair to say that he is no friend to the comfortable club of elite legal establishment as represented by Merrick Garland and the Supreme Court on the one hand or legal academia on the other. (And yes, here as in scamblogging he derives much of his authority from being at least a quasi-member of that establishment himself; but who else would be listened to on the subject? The reason scambloggers never got traction before Campos started ITLSS is because they were seen as a bunch of disgruntled losers.)
posted by Not A Thing at 9:56 AM on February 19 [20 favorites]


I certainly would have assumed any law professor is someone more likely than most to, firstly, understand the law, but, more importantly, have an appetite for testing out their legal skills in a real-life battle.

In reality, the opposite is true - few law professors (especially at the elite end of the field) have real practical experience in the legal profession. This is how you get things like the Massachusetts Supreme Court laughing at Larry Lessig arguing that an "originalist" argument for campaign finance laws would find a receptive audience at SCOTUS.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:36 AM on February 19 [1 favorite]


OK, I guess, but the complaint wasn't about racial discrimination as far as I could tell.

Racial discrimination was a major part of Campos' interaction with the dean:
Finally, the dean proceeded to file a complaint against me with the university’s Office of Equity and Institutional Compliance, because I had, on the advice of a colleague, a two-minute phone conversation with the head of the Latino Law Students Association about concerns I and others had raised about the dean’s treatment of Latino students, faculty, and staff.

I learned about Dean Inniss’s attempt to abuse the OEIC process in this way via discovery, since OEIC knew I was perfectly within my rights to raise such concerns, and therefore did not initiate an investigation against me. (OEIC is currently in what is now the 21st month of its ongoing investigation of Dean Inniss’s conduct toward me: an investigation that has already produced a 200-page evidentiary report, and that is not affected by the settlement of my lawsuit.)
The point of bringing up Innis' specialization in CRT is that she should have known better.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:48 AM on February 19 [7 favorites]


few law professors (especially at the elite end of the field) have real practical experience in the legal profession

I have a very gifted friend who was a Supreme Court clerk and now holds a named chair at HYS who, IIRC, only took testimony for the first time last year. Now, she at least writes briefs in court cases (though usually amicus briefs, which are a slightly different genre), but...honestly, there's no particular reason to think that a legal scholar would have to be a good practitioner, any more than a top theologian would have to be good at pastoral care. My problem with the legal academy (setting aside the scam issues) is that far too few of them are anywhere near impressive scholars.
posted by praemunire at 12:02 PM on February 19 [3 favorites]


but...honestly, there's no particular reason to think that a legal scholar would have to be a good practitioner, any more than a top theologian would have to be good at pastoral care.

I think that there's a strong argument that practical experience is an important part of an understanding of a field, and thus a legal scholar without practical experience is missing that understanding of the law as practiced - which is how you get a law professor volunteering in a sworn deposition information about their ongoing grudge with the plaintiff that would serve to undermine their case.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:31 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


nomich: Hubris is a sickness that can strike anyone.

Ha, sure. Anyone other than me, of course. I'm far too competent to worry about that sort of thing.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:26 PM on February 19 [5 favorites]


Ha, sure. Anyone other than me, of course. I'm far too competent to worry about that sort of thing.

LOL. That's always how it works. Just ask the neocon architects of Bush's war in Iraq.

Also: "She concluded our conversation by telling me that she was, in her words, 'not afraid of litigation.'"
posted by NoMich at 7:03 PM on February 19


Also: "She concluded our conversation by telling me that she was, in her words, 'not afraid of litigation.'"

The lesson here is that if one says "bring it", they needs be prepared for it to be brung.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:07 PM on February 19 [8 favorites]


understanding of the law as practiced

Legal practice is both highly specialized and ephemeral. What I do on a day to day basis is different from what a patent litigator does which is different from what an M&A guy does which is different from what a T&E guy does which is also surprisingly different from what I did ten years ago in more or less the same field. You do not need to know how to take a good deposition or how to draft a due diligence waiver that will stand up in court to contemplate the intricacies of federal courts jurisdiction or track the historical development of the law of habeas corpus.

which is how you get a law professor volunteering in a sworn deposition information about their ongoing grudge with the plaintiff that would serve to undermine

The problem here is not that she didn't understand what a deposition was or how the evidence would be used, and I doubt she was unclear on the broad strokes of the employment law doctrine involved, either. A sense of impunity and/or an unwillingness to understand how one might act or be perceived to act unfairly can overcome any depo prep.
posted by praemunire at 7:44 PM on February 19 [2 favorites]


I was referring to the head of the evaluation committee which started this whole mess:
Speaking of which, when my lawyer deposed him, Pierre Schlag responded to a question about his relationship with me by volunteering the information that, for the past three decades, he had held a personal grudge against me, because he resented the way I had gone about pursuing a book publishing opportunity thirty years ago.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:28 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


And from there, they just kept digging, to the point where they had to settle this lawsuit without an NDA.

I came in here to make this exact point. I settled a case not so different from this one about six years back, and boy howdy do I wish I could talk about the particulars, but the NDA is ironclad and I don't want to give the money back.

For CU to have lost this case so badly that this guy can broadcast the gritty details of just how incompetent and malicious the administration is, shows that they were in a full panic over how badly he was about to eat their lunch. It's an unqualified disaster for the school.
posted by Mayor West at 5:20 AM on February 20 [10 favorites]


To which I can only repeat: A sense of impunity and/or an unwillingness to understand how one might act or be perceived to act unfairly can overcome any depo prep. Check out how Tesla's ex-GC testified in the compensation case about his relationship with Musk. The quotes that ended up in the decision left me crippled with vicarious cringe for days afterwards and did not help Tesla's case one bit. That's a practicing and well-paid lawyer!
posted by praemunire at 9:05 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]


And the University of Colorado's Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance has also found that Inniss retaliated against Campos, a separate process from the settlement, and one that also carries sanctions as well.

I would not be surprised if we see an announcement in the coming week or so that Dean Inniss has "decided to pursue other opportunities".
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:57 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Wow, that's quite the follow up.
Right Hand: We admit no wrong doing.
Left Hand: We violated university policy and federal law.
LinkedIn profile update coming soon.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:06 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


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