The University of Colorado could fire professor Ward Churchill for plagiarism and fabrication as soon as next month, but the academic misconduct case is likely to linger in the courts for years, legal experts predicted Wednesday.
The ethnic-studies professor most likely will take CU to federal court if administrators fire or suspend him without pay as recommended by a committee that examined his writings, his attorney, David Lane, said.
Churchill's lawsuit would accuse the university of retaliating against the tenured professor because of his essay saying some World Trade Center terrorism victims were not innocent and comparing them to a Nazi bureaucrat, Lane said.
"They now have their excuse that took them a year and a half to put together to fire him," he said. "When they fire Ward Churchill, which they will, it will be deemed retaliation."
But some legal analysts questioned whether Churchill has a case, now that a committee of scholars has found him guilty of stealing others' work and fabricating historical facts.
The origin of the investigation into Churchill's work smacked of punishment for free speech, but the committee's condemning report released Tuesday might deflate Churchill's case, said attorney Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education...