Brief Filed In Adams v. UNCW
Special Report - July 1, 2010
A conservative professor involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) has won the support of three key organizations. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief in the case on July 2 in support of an appeal by Dr. Mike Adams, an associate professor of criminology at UNCW who is suing the university for denying him a promotion to full professor and subjecting him to “harassment by his superiors because of his religious beliefs and conservative viewpoint.” As we have previously reported, Dr. Adams is being represented in the lawsuit by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which has filed an appeal of a lower court decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Back in March 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division ruled in a summary judgment order that Dr. Adams’ nationally syndicated opinion columns are not protected by the First Amendment because he referred to them in a promotion application. In its appeal of this summary judgment, ADF argues that Dr. Adams’ opinion columns constitute protected free speech.
In their friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, AAUP, FIRE and the Thomas Jefferson Center express their support for Dr. Adams’ appeal of the district court’s ruling. Although they did not take a position on whether UNCW acted incorrectly by denying tenure to Dr. Adams, the groups argue that the April 2010 summary judgment by the district court “incorrectly applied Garcetti v. Ceballos,” a 2006 Supreme Court decision “that held that public employees receive no First Amendment protection when speaking pursuant to their official capacities.” According to the friend-of-court-brief, the Supreme Court in Garcetti did not apply its ruling to academic speech. The groups further contend that the district court’s decision in the Adams case “could destroy First Amendment protection for all speech made by university professors pursuant to what the court deems to be their official duties.” The brief goes on to warn, “This decision, if allowed to stand, would have a chilling effect on research, innovation, and discourse within a public universitya place whose primary purpose is the development of knowledge through discussion, debate and inquiry.” The groups urge the appeals court to send the case back to the district court “for a proper analysis of the unusually complicated facts in light of precedent, the longstanding principles of academic freedom, and the reservation for academic speech articulated in the majority’s opinion in Garcetti.”
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