After more than five years of delays, a former law professor’s lawsuit claiming the University discriminated against him because he is gay will face yet another hearing before determining whether it will go to trial.
During a phone-in hearing Friday afternoon in the 30th Judicial Circuit Court, Judge James Giddings set oral arguments to be heard on Nov. 6 regarding a summary disposition filed by the University in March 2008, which requested that the case be thrown out. The University filed two summary dispositions for the case in the past, both of which were denied by the court.
Former University Law School Prof. Peter Hammer, who now teaches at Wayne State University, is suing the University of Michigan after being denied tenure in 2003. He claims the Law School’s faculty, motivated by anti-gay prejudice, prevented his tenure in a closed-door vote.
The hearing Friday addressed two motions that were initially filed by the plaintiff, Hammer. The first sought to expedite a decision on the University’s summary disposition filed in March 2008. The second moved to enforce protective orders, which would keep details of the case private. Neither party has been following the protective orders thus far in the proceedings.
The motion to enforce the protective orders over the case was postponed indefinitely by the court, which neither party protested.
Giddings placed a new protective order on certain details of the case during the hearing on Friday, which both parties intend to follow. The information under this protective order will remain under wraps until the summary hearing in November.
Though unwilling to speak about intimate details of the case, Hammer expressed relief over the decision to move the case along.
“I’m very happy the court has scheduled a hearing date,” Hammer said. “Hopefully the court will determine that this matter can be set for trial.
“I’m hoping by getting this thing all geared up again, we can anticipate a decision shortly after the hearing.”
The filing of the lawsuit came after Hammer was denied tenure in 2003. Hammer had been approved for tenure by a review board for the University by a 4-1 vote, but his tenure was denied when tenured Law School faculty voted 18-12, two votes shy of the two-thirds vote required to be granted tenure.
Hammer left the University shortly after being denied tenure and filed a lawsuit against the University in 2004, alleging he was discriminated against because of his sexuality, which would violate the University’s non-discrimination policies.
The University initially argued that an alleged violation of University policy could not be pursued in a legal setting, but changed its argument in 2006 due to pressure from faculty. Since then, the University has shifted strategy, instead arguing that discrimination had no role in Hammer’s tenure decision.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham, while unable to discuss the University’s legal strategy, said the University does its best to ensure that discrimination does not occur within the community.
“The University is committed to inclusiveness and non-discrimination for all members of our community,” Cunningham said in an e-mail. “The university has bylaws and policies, and entire systems in place to make sure those policies are working properly.”