Widener Law Professor, Targeted For Firing, Sues Dean for Defamation

By April 8, 2011

Late last month FIRE took public the story of Widener Law School Professor Lawrence Connell, whose law school is attempting to fire him for extremely dubious violations of the school’s harassment code. His alleged offenses include using the term “black folks” in class and using the names of law school dean Linda L. Ammons and other law school colleagues as characters in hypothetical examples for his criminal law class (a common practice, as we’ve discussed). Although a faculty committee recommended the charges against him be dismissed, Dean Ammons and the Widener administration have refiled charges against him using another, more secretive, process.

With his job on the line, Professor Connell filed suit today against Dean Ammons in the court of Sussex County, Delaware, on several claims of libel and slander. The complaint, which can be read in its entirety here, discusses six alleged defamatory acts against Professor Connell by Dean Ammons. Connell is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an unspecified amount, as well as legal costs.

As I said in our March 23 press release, “All signs indicate that Widener University School of Law’s senior administration is stringing together vague, ambiguous, misconstrued, and downright false allegations in order to force a tenured professor out of the law school.” Despite FIRE’s efforts, Widener has provided no satisfactory answer to our many concerns about its treatment of Professor Connell and its accusations against him. Now Dean Ammons and Widener are going to have to prepare to defend their accusations in court. (Ashley Thorne of the National Association of Scholars has more on the NAS blog.) FIRE will be watching this case with great interest and will keep our readers and supporters apprised of any new developments.

Schools: Widener University School of Law Cases: Widener University: Law School Threatens Professor’s Academic Freedom