Professor Wins First Amendment Battle with Univ. of North Carolina

In a settlement reached this week, a seven-year legal battle between Professor Mike Adams and the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) has finally come to an end, as Adams will receive his due promotion to full professor of criminology, which comes with a salary of $75,000, giving him a raise of $9,000.

He will also receive $50,000 in back pay, and $615,000 in legal fees, writes Pressley Baird for The Wilmington Star News.  Adams’ yearly evaluations will also include faculty members from departments outside if his own, of which Adams will choose two of the three who will make up his peer review committee.

The university also agreed to withdraw its appeal of a verdict reached in March when a jury sided with Adams’ argument that the university had in fact retaliated against him by denying him a promotion.  According to university officials, there was a “potentially excessive” cost attached to reimbursing Adams for his legal fees.

Adams had sued the school in 2007 for infringing on his First Amendment rights when he began writing for a non-university related publication.  The lawsuit stemmed from a decision to convert to Christianity in 2000 and the creation of his conservative column on TownHall.com.

In 2006, the school “subjected Adams to a campaign of academic harassment that culminated in the denial of his promotion to full professor.”

“The university has chosen the right course in opting to stop defending its unconstitutional actions, to right the wrong done to Dr. Adams by granting him the promotion he has long deserved, and to protect him against future retaliation,” said Travis Barham, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the professor.

Opponents of the decision thought the appeal was a faux pas by UNCW Chancellor Gary Miller, who had inherited the case in July of 2011 when he became chancellor.  Many of these critics believed the case should have been settled much earlier, which would have reduced these costs, writes Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times.

State Senator Thom Goolsby asked for an in end to the lawsuit in May, referring to the school’s decision to appeal as “a campaign of disinformation” against Adams.

“(UNCW) came out with all this, saying, ‘We’re appealing it because of these lawyers’ fees,’” Goolsby said in an interview in May. “But they’re literally appealing saying he didn’t have a First Amendment right and they disagree with the jury verdict.”

According to Adams, the ruling was “groundbreaking.”

“To the best of my knowledge, that’s the only time a conservative has ever actually gone and taken on a secular university and actually won in a jury trial,” said Mr. Adams. “It was a jury of my peers that spoke, and we won.”

Adams is a member of the school’s criminology and sociology department, and rather ironically, teaches a course on The First Amdendment.