DES MOINES, Iowa — A conservative Republican who sued the University of Iowa saying the school denied her promotion multiple times because of her political orientation lost her appeal Friday for a new trial.
Teresa Wagner, 48, was the center of the high-profile trial in federal court in Davenport last year.
A former adjunct professor at George Mason University law school in Virginia, Wagner argued that she was denied a promotion at the University of Iowa law school’s writing center because of her conservative history, including work with the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage, and the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes abortion.
Her legal team presented testimony and evidence at trial, claiming she was far more qualified than other applicants given jobs that she applied for beginning in late 2006. University officials, however, said she failed to grasp the concept of a writing instructor’s position and failed a key interview.
A 12-person federal jury decided that the law school was not guilty of political discrimination, which was the highest-profile allegation in the case. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict as to whether the school had violated Wagner’s equal protection rights, leading to a mistrial on that count. A third count, alleging a violation of Wagner’s due process rights, was dismissed prior to being considered by the jury.
Wagner moved for a retrial on all counts in the case. Her attorneys said the jury was reconvened by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Shields without notifying Wagner’s attorney when he accepted a verdict on the first count. Shields, along with U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt, presided over the case.
Wagner said the action denied her a right to poll the jury, a process that allows lawyers to help determine if jurors were unduly pressured to render a verdict after lengthy deliberations.
“What happened is exactly what I feared: The jury that is coming down to the deadline got, in my opinion, a coerced order for a verdict,” Stephen Fieweger, Wagner’s attorney, told The Des Moines Register in December.
Pratt on Friday issued a 43-page ruling rejecting Wagner’s arguments and denying a new trial. He also granted the law school defendants’ motion to dismiss the count that the school had violated Wagner’s equal protection rights.
Wagner declined Friday to comment, referring questions to Fieweger. Fieweger could not immediately be reached for comment.
Jeff Paterzalek, an assistant attorney general for the state, called Pratt’s ruling “thorough.”
“We’re certainly pleased with the amount and thoroughness of the analysis involved,” Paterzalek said.
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