Updated at 3:48 p.m.
In considering candidates for tenure-track jobs in 2010, Georgetown University Law Center said in a court filing today that it passed on former North Dakota Attorney General Nicholas Spaeth's application because of his lack of scholarship, and not because of his age.
Spaeth sued Georgetown and several other law schools after he failed to get an interview that year through the Association of American Law Schools faculty recruitment conference, accusing them of age discrimination. Today, Georgetown filed a motion for summary judgment (PDF), arguing that it had legitimate and non-discriminatory reasons for rejecting Spaeth.
According to the motion, Spaeth's application didn't make it past the first stage of review. A Georgetown law professor on the hiring committee looked at Spaeth's materials, the school said, but moved on after noting that he hadn't offered any past original legal writing samples and didn't express any interest in academic scholarship. Georgetown also noted that Spaeth wrote an article in 2011 revealing "little respect for or interest in legal scholarship," a factor that the school said it gives considerable weight to in the hiring process.
Spaeth's attorney, Lynn Bernabei of Washington's Bernabei & Wachtel, said that they had uncovered evidence that Georgetown was taking age into consideration in hiring. On the question of scholarship, she said Spaeth had written articles and that Georgetown never articulated that a primary criterion was how many articles a candidate had published in a law review.
"I think it a little disingenuous at this point to say the primary criteria is scholarship where that's written nowhere," she said.
Georgetown is being represented by Hogan Lovells partner William Nussbaum.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle denied Georgetown's motion to dismiss the case in March 2012, finding that Spaeth had made sufficient claims to move forward. In today's motion, Georgetown argued that discovery had produced no evidence of age discrimination and that, on the contrary, there was significant evidence that lack of scholarship, and not age, was why Spaeth wasn't interviewed or hired.
Besides the testimony of the professor who reviewed Spaeth's applications, the school noted that during the 2010-2011 hiring cycle, they interviewed three candidates over the age of 40. Georgetown also pointed out that Spaeth didn't indicate an interest in teaching tax law on his application, an area where the school was hoping to hire that year; two of the three candidates who were hired during that cycle were tax law specialists, according to the school.
Spaeth sued five other schools, but after they were transferred to their home jurisdictions he dismissed most of the claims. He is still pursuing the Georgetown case in Washington federal court and a lawsuit against the University of Missouri School of Law in state court.