Legal Issues

Three Legal Victories

The AAUP recently achieved three significant victories in court cases in which we submitted amicus briefs. In the first case, Otero-Burgos v. Inter- American University, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a ringing endorsement of the economic basis for tenure and the interconnection among tenure, economic security, and academic freedom. In reaching its decision, the court relied heavily upon the AAUP’s brief and recommended policies.

New Faculty Handbooks Guide

Can my faculty handbook help me if my job is on the line? Are the processes and procedures it lays out really enforceable? College and university handbooks touch on a broad array of issues, from the composition of an institution’s governance structure to how leave requests are granted.

Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia, 283 Va. 420 (2010)

In a 2012 decision the Virginia Supreme Court rejected attempts by then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to compel disclosure of university research records.  Cuccinelli who publicly opposes the theory of global warming, used his position to formally request emails and other documents relating to former faculty member and climatologist Michael Mann from the University of Virginia (UVA) arguing that he had authority to subpoena these records pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). The Supreme Court of Virginia held that state universities, as agencies of the Commonwealth, do not constitute a “person” under the FATA and therefore Cuccinelli had no authority to require release of the records and his appeal was rendered moot. (In another related case, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected a request for these records under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.)

O’Neil to Serve as General Counsel

Robert M. O’Neil has been appointed to serve as AAUP general counsel for 2010–12. O’Neil is the founding director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and former president of the University of Virginia as well as of the University of Wisconsin system.

"Kneecapping" Academic Freedom

This year, across the nation, state legislators and powerful corporate interests with financial ties to universities and influence over them have launched an unprecedented number of attacks on law school clinics.

The Historians of Industry

What happens when historians enter the courtroom as expert witnesses—and start to affect legal outcomes and social policy?

How to Publish without Financially Perishing

The increasing use of indemnity clauses in publishing agreements makes the author, not the publisher, fully responsible for defending even frivolous lawsuits against the publisher.

Defending Academic Freedom in the Age of Garcetti

As the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos continues to reverberate in academe, the best way for faculty members to defend their academic freedom is not through the courts but through clear university policies.

Faculty Ownership of Research Affirmed

The US Supreme Court in June handed down a victory for faculty members by ruling that federal patent law favors the rights of individual researchers over those of their employers. The case was Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior University v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.

Amicus Brief Supports Faculty Speech Rights

The AAUP recently filed an amicus brief on behalf of Loretta Capeheart, a tenured professor of justice studies at Northeastern Illinois University. The case is the latest in a series of cases in which lower courts have relied on the US Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which stated that a public employee can be disciplined for speech made as part of the employee’s official duties.


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