Updated at 3:13 p.m.
Nicholas Spaeth, the former North Dakota attorney general suing a group of law schools for age discrimination, scored a win yesterday from U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle. Huvelle denied (PDF) Georgetown University Law Center's motion to dismiss the case, finding Spaeth made sufficient claims to move forward.
Spaeth, who was born in 1950, sued six law schools in July in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He accused them of rejecting his applications for teaching positions in favor of younger, less-qualified applicants.
Georgetown is the only school in Washington named in the complaint. Huvelle transferred Spaeth’s claims against the other five schools to their respective home states, finding that they didn’t have enough ties to the District to keep the cases in a local court.
In today’s ruling, Huvelle found that Spaeth presented a sufficient claim of age discrimination against Georgetown under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act to survive a motion to dismiss. Spaeth accused Georgetown of refusing to grant him an interview and then hiring three younger applicants in areas of law Spaeth was qualified to teach.
Spaeth’s attorney, Lynne Bernabei of Washington’s Bernabei & Wachtel, said in a phone interview this morning that “we were quite pleased that she recognized that we had pled a serious claim.”
A spokeswoman for Georgetown declined to comment. Georgetown’s attorney, Hogan Lovells partner William Nussbaum, could not immediately be reached.
The other five schools were Michigan State University College of Law, Missouri School of Law, University of California Hastings College of Law, University of Iowa College of Law and University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Bernabei said they are still deciding how and whether to proceed in those cases.
Spaeth applied for teaching jobs at more than 100 schools in 2010 through the American Association of Law Schools Faculty Appointment Register. According to his complaint, he received two interviews and no job offers.
Georgetown argued Spaeth’s case should fail because the university didn’t hire anyone to teach the areas of law that Spaeth listed on his application. Huvelle wrote that, at this stage of the case, Spaeth should be allowed to challenge the university’s claim that he didn’t apply for positions they were interested in filling. She noted that neither side had claimed that Georgetown came in to the application process trying to hire in specific areas.
“Spaeth may succeed on his age discrimination claim…if he can show, for instance, that Georgetown would have hired him to teach the subjects he specified, or to teach other subjects, but-for his age,” she wrote.
A scheduling conference is scheduled for April 3.