On April 2, 2009, after hearing evidence for a month, a Denver jury unanimously found that Ward Churchill had been fired from the University of Colorado *not* because of research misconduct but in retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment.
After more than four years of political attacks on Ward Churchill, a clear statement had been made: the University of Colorado had violated the U.S. Constitution when it fired Churchill, a tenured full professor of American Indian Studies.
The normal remedy in such cases? Reinstatement.
Today, July 7, 2009, Judge Larry Naves of the Denver District Court threw out the jury’s verdict, adopting the University’s argument that the Regents have “quasi-judicial” immunity from such lawsuits. In essence, this means that the Regents and University administrators are free to continue to violating the Constitution.
In a 42-page opinion lifted wholesale from the University’s pleadings, Judge Naves went on to explain why Ward Churchill should not be given front pay, back pay, or be reinstated.
All of these are irrelevant, of course, if the jury’s verdict is not upheld. But the fact that the judge went to such pains to adopt the University’s arguments – which often directly contravened the factual record in this case – speaks volumes.
This ruling simply confirms what we have observed so often. When given access to the facts, regular people on the street can make clear, reasoned decisions that uphold constitutional values. It is rare, however, to find persons in positions of power who will not bow to political pressure.
Attorney David Lane will, of course, appeal this decision. Ward Churchill’s reaction? “I can’t think of any way to improve upon Steve Earle’s line from *The Hard Way*: ‘There are some who break and bend. I’m the other kind.’”
July 7, 2009
If you’re an American Indian in the United States of America, whether you are a Lakotah or a Navajo, a tenured professor or a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or an elected president of another country, you will not receive justice in any form from the white people of America.
They attacked Vine Deloria, Jr. (on the day of his funeral), Rigoberta Menchu and Evo Morales. An Indian on a reservation can’t get justice. And a tenured professor can get unconstitutionally thrown out, vindicated by a jury of his peers in a court of law, and it doesn’t matter.
Everyone I’ve named cannot fight back. Evo Morales has to worry about being the president of a country; Rigoberta Menchu has to continue working for her people. Vine Deloria is dead. Indian people on reservations have no power of any kind.
Only Ward has the ability to fight back and win, and it’s still not good enough. They still quash him.
The American Indian has been living at Guantánamo Bay since the founding of the United States of America
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