Does Mirecki Have a Tort?
Anti-Religion Religion professor, Paul Mirecki, has retained a lawyer to investigate the possibility of suing the University of Kansas for denying him rights under the First Amendment. A Law Professor reviews the possiblities for Mirecki and KU. Paul M. Secunda, an associate professor of law at University of Mississippi says Mirecki might have a difficult time building a case against KU.
From a public employment standpoint, Mirecki would not seem to have a procedural due process claim against Kansas, as public employees are not seen as having a property interest in administrative positions such as the chairmanship of the department as opposed to having such interests in their professorial positions. On the other hand, Mirecki could potentially have a First Amendment retaliation claim under the Connick/Pickering line of cases because he was demoted for speaking out on a matter of public concern and his rights to free expression may outweigh the efficiency concerns of his government employer. That being said, because Mirecki’s conduct has caused a substantial disruption to the university, a Pickering balancing test may indeed come out in the University’s favor.
I think KU has another defense the Secunda doesn’t address, but Rhymes with Right has in a comment to a previous post: By exposing his prejudice against religion in general and Chrisitianity in particular, Professor Mirecki has disqualified himself from chair of a department of religion. Moreover, should we learn that Mirecki in any way falsified his report to the police or to the media concerning how received his injuries, the university could take additional steps against Mirecki. My guess is, though, that Mirecki’s story to the press is a lot different from his story to the police. Though filing a false police report is only misdemeanor in most states, I assume he’s smart enough to avoid that charge.