Victory for Due Process in Colorado

By January 9, 2001

BOULDER, CO—In yet another case of a free society confronted with the appalling reality of campus kangaroo courts, the District Court of Boulder has overturned the expulsion of Carlos Martinez from the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). Martinez, an undergraduate, single-handedly defeated a team of seasoned lawyers in a lawsuit against the University. FIRE became involved in the case in June of 2000 and corresponded with the University on Mr. Martinez’s behalf, challenging the arbitrary and unjust behavior of university administrators, and, in particular, of the Judicial Affairs Office.

Martinez acted as his own lawyer in legal actions against CU. At the heart of the case was his capricious expulsion, in spring 2000, by Andrea Goldblum, the head of the Judicial Affairs Office. A campus Hearing Board had found that Martinez’s speech, in a dispute with the University Bursar’s office, had created a “hostile and threatening environment.” According to Alan Charles Kors, President of FIRE, “The transcripts and tape recordings of Carlos Martinez’s alleged sins reveal an astonishing gap between his words and the University’s account of and response to those words. Thank goodness for legal discovery. That aside, however, Mr. Martinez was denied even the most fundamental fairness throughout his ordeal, which happens to students across this land.” Kors noted that Martinez maintains a website—www.worstcaseever.com—where one can read (and even hear) the evidence and review the court proceedings in this dreadful case.

The case began in December 1999, when Goldblum suspended Martinez in a purely administrative action. Martinez secured an actual trial before CU’s Judicial Affairs Hearing Board in February, which reduced his sentence to probation, the writing of a letter of apology, and attendance at an “anger management” seminar. When Goldblum communicated the verdict of the Hearing Board, she added imminent deadlines, which the Board had not set, for the completion of its provisions. Martinez did not comply with the deadline for the letter of apology, and he wrote that he might not comply with attendance at the seminar. Ms. Goldblum, unable to manage her own anger, summarily expelled Martinez without a hearing. Martinez sought a preliminary injunction.

During the hearings over that preliminary injunction, Goldblum became a witness against Martinez. She proclaimed herself so afraid of him that the Court ordered no contact between them. In June, the Court found for Martinez and voided the expulsion. At that point, Goldblum asked the Court to vacate the restriction on contact with Martinez, so that she could preside over a new administrative hearing. Kors observed: “Where but at a university these days is an alleged victim allowed to sit in final judgment over the accused?” After FIRE threatened to expose this ugly denial of an impartial hearing, Goldblum provided a different hearing officer—a close colleague—who reinstated Goldblum’s penalty of expulsion. Martinez pursued his case in Court.

On December 29, 2000, District Court Judge Daniel C. Hale ordered CU to readmit Martinez. He found that Goldblum and CU had violated Martinez’s due process rights by not following their own policies and procedures. Hale found that Goldblum’s and her colleagues’ actions were all “an abuse of discretion . . . and not supported by any competent evidence.” He observed: “It is an unbelievable leap from the punishment of writing a letter of apology to expulsion.” He also noted “the troublesome role Goldblum played in disciplining Martinez from the outset,” deciding that “the University’s use of Goldblum to review the matter after the letter of apology was not written is inexcusable.” For Judge Hale, “the Goldblum decision was so devoid of evidentiary support that it can only be explained as an arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority.” Finding that the second administrative hearing was “irrelevant,” “of no effect, “void,” and a “blatant attempt at evading judicial review,” the court ordered Martinez readmitted for the Spring 2001 semester, and established reasonable deadlines for the minor sanctions. In words that every university should take deeply to heart, Judge Hale wrote, “A disciplinary system must have the appearance of impartiality and fairness, neither of which was apparent in this case.

Last July, FIRE wrote to CU about the unfairness, bias, and abuse of power in this case. FIRE warned against the ongoing involvement of Goldblum in the hearing, which denied any semblance of impartiality and fairness. Martinez said, “FIRE’s involvement changed perceptions of this case from a student whining to a broad spectrum of scholars and legal minds interested in saving a university. Thank you for turning the tide.” Kors, in reply, thanked Martinez for his courage: “You could have settled this easily and early on. Instead, you fought for principle, took great risks, and won.”

Goldblum, who told the Court, “this is the worst case of student conduct that I have ever seen,” oversees an office that last year handled charges of assault, rape, student riots, and theft. Goldblum oversees the judicial system of a 26,000-person campus and is a director of the nationwide Association of Student Judicial Affairs. She will be leading a seminar on “Restorative Justice” at the Association’s February meeting. Kors noted, “She might want to think about restoring justice in Colorado by leaving.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is a nonprofit educational foundation. FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, the rights of conscience, and religious liberty on our campuses. FIRE’s website, www.thefire.org, provides documentation of and links to the Martinez case and explains FIRE’s views of the assault on liberty and dignity in higher education.

CONTACT:
Andrea Goldblum, CU Director of Judicial Affairs:
303-492-5550, andrea.goldblum@colorado.edu

Carlos Martinez: 303-786-1709
Email: carlos.martinez@colorado.edu

Thor L. Halvorssen, Executive Director of FIRE:
215-717-3473, Email: thor@thefire.org

Schools: University of Colorado at Boulder Cases: University of Colorado at Boulder: Disciplinary Hearing Allowing Accuser to Judge Accused