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Law school to drop legal actions against professors

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By Ashley Heffernan
aheffernan@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 11, 2015

The Charleston School of Law is now facing four lawsuits from ex-professors and current employees, and new president Ed Bell is looking to end them as quickly as possible.

“I’ve met with our attorneys and have given them instructions to dismiss all counterclaims against the professors,” Bell said.

Seven faculty members were fired on May 22, and three have since sued the school and co-owners George Kosko and Robert Carr.

Charleston School of Law President Ed Bell met with students for the first time last week. Bell said that the school would drop legal actions against two fired professors and that he plans to reinstate tenure votes. (Photo/Ashley Heffernan)Charleston School of Law President Ed Bell met with students for the first time last week. Bell said that the school would drop legal actions against two fired professors and that he plans to reinstate tenure votes. (Photo/Ashley Heffernan)

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Tenured professors Nancy Zisk and Allyson Haynes Stuart filed similar lawsuits in the summer, claiming they were terminated as retaliation for opposing The InfiLaw System’s purchase of the school. In early October, two current associate professors — Amanda Compton and Jonathan Marcantel — filed a joint lawsuit because the owners refused to rule on their tenure applications.

Most recently, in late October, tenured professor William Want filed a lawsuit (.pdf) claiming that the co-owners intentionally violated the faculty handbook by terminating his employment “when there was no true financial exigency,” the lawsuit says.

The school filed counterclaims against Zisk and Stuart. In court documents, the school said Zisk and Stuart “sabotaged the transfer of the school to InfiLaw,” and accused them of a “civil conspiracy” that inflicted “special damage” on the school.

The counterclaims, though, were filed before Bell became the school’s president and co-owner and essentially ended all discussions with InfiLaw.

“I’ve ordered that those claims be dismissed without any conditions; however, I know that the professors recognize that at that time they were fired, there was a financial emergency, and I’m in the process of correcting that emergency,” Bell said. “As soon as that emergency is over, I’ll be able to sit down and talk with those teachers.”

Zisk also requested injunctive relief in August, and Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. agreed to it. Dennis ordered (.pdf) that the school is “preliminarily and temporarily prohibited, restrained and enjoined from terminating or ‘non-renewing’ the employment of plaintiff Nancy L. Zisk as a tenured full professor of law.”

Days later, the school’s attorneys appealed the decision, but Bell said the appeal will be withdrawn.

He said he’s already heard from a few of the fired professors, adding that some want to return to work and some are enjoying retirement.

“The students miss those teachers. They were great teachers, so we look forward to working something out with all of them,” he said.

Bell anticipates that Compton and Marcantel will dismiss their claims on tenure applications because he plans to end the “tolling policy” enacted by Kosko and Carr as soon as he can convene the appropriate tenure committee.

“Tenure will be voted on,” Bell said.

Reach staff writer Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyBHeff on Twitter.

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