Updated at 2:14 p.m.
Nicholas Spaeth, the former state attorney general for North Dakota, filed suit Thursday in Washington federal court against the Michigan State University College of Law, accusing school officials of refusing to consider him for a teaching job because of his age.
Spaeth, according to his complaint (PDF), applied to be considered for a teaching job at the school in October, responding to a posting on the Association of American Law Schools' bulletin. During the group's Faculty Recruitment Conference, he was not offered an interview slot.
He accuses the school of instead hiring three individuals who are younger and who he believes brought far less professional experience to the table. Spaeth is being represented by Lynne Bernabei and Alan Kabat of Washington’s Bernabei & Wachtel.
Spaeth’s complaint alleges one count of a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. He’s seeking an appointment to a teaching position at the school, compensation for future lost wages and other damages.
“If Defendant had considered Plaintiff’s application based on his qualifications alone and not based on his age, it would have hired him for any one of the teaching positions for which it hired,” Spaeth wrote in the complaint.
In a statement today, College of Law Dean Joan Howarth said the school had not received notice of the lawsuit.
"When or if one comes our way it will be a false accusation because we do not and have not discriminated on the basis of age," she said.
Bernabei said Spaeth had previously filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against more than 100 law schools that also did not offer him an interview. Of those complaints, between 30 and 40 had been dismissed and the rest were still pending. This is the first lawsuit Spaeth has filed against one of the schools, but Bernabei said they expect to add more defendants to the suit or file related cases.
Spaeth was elected as North Dakota’s attorney general in 1984, a position he held through 1993. He spent the following seven years in private practice as a partner at Dorsey & Whitney and Cooley Godward, with a focus on corporate law. He spent the past decade in the legal offices of major corporations, including Inuit Inc., H&R Block Inc., and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.
Spaeth earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1977 and his clerking experience includes a stint with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White from 1978 to 1979. He previously taught law at University of Minnesota Law School and University of Missouri School of Law.
The case is before U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle.
Updated with additional reporting.