LANSING — Former University Law Prof. Peter Hammer will have to wait until late January to hear if his lawsuit against the University Board of Regents will go to trial.
In a Lansing courtroom this afternoon, lawyers from both sides argued over the validity of the plaintiff’s evidence. Based on those arguments, Judge James Giddings will decide whether to approve or deny a summary disposition filed by the University, which would stop the case from going to trial.
Hammer’s lawsuit alleges that in a closed-door vote among other law professors in 2003, he was denied tenure due to discrimination because of the fact that he is gay.
At the hearing today, Richard Seryak, an attorney representing the Board of Regents, said that for Hammer’s lawsuit to go to trial, he must prove that his sexual orientation was the “substantial and motivating factor” in the denial of his tenure.
A two-thirds vote by a panel of tenured professors in the Law School is required in order to be awarded tenure.
In the courtroom yesterday, there was a disagreement as to the number of votes cast for Hammer’s tenure between the two sides. According to Seryak, there were 32 professors present at the vote regarding Hammer’s tenure in 2003, and Hammer received 18 “yes” votes and 14 “no” votes.
But according to Hammer’s attorney, Phillip Green, the records of the meeting did not match sworn documents from the “no” voters. There were only 30 present at the final vote, Green said, with 18 “yes” votes and 12 “no” votes.
Based on Seryak’s version of the numbers, Hammer would have to invalidate at least five votes for his denial for tenure to be overturned. Seryak said the seven votes that Hammer and his lawyer are bringing into question lack sufficient evidence of discrimination.
Judge Giddings said he would review both the documented minutes of the voting session and other sworn documents in making his decision.
The votes of law professors Kyle Logue and Bill Miller were brought under the greatest scrutiny by both sides this afternoon.
Logue, who Hammer claims was a friend before the lawsuit, is a Sunday school teacher at a Baptist church that denounces homosexuality on its website, according to Green.
Seryak said that participation in such a church does directly show cause for his vote to deny Hammer’s tenure.
Seryak said that Miller could not have been discriminatory because he had mentored an openly gay woman in the past. But Green argued that Miller’s discrimination was only toward gay men.
Giddings promised to have a decision made by late January 2010.
This is the third request for summary disposition by the University on this case. If Giddings denies the disposition, a court date will be set.
The University could file for the case to be dismissed again after the decision is made, in which case a trial will once again be delayed.
Calls in to the University’s Office of Public Affairs were not returned as of Friday evening.