Judge: UA violated fired prof's rights
A Pima County Superior Court judge released a ruling yesterday stating that the UA took illegal action in firing Alzheimer's researcher Marguerite Kay.
Judge Stephen Villarreal said the University of Arizona's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure violated Kay's right to counsel during the scientific misconduct proceedings that led to her dismissal in July 1998.
"The judge said we were right, that the university violated her rights with the CAFT hearing," said Don Awerkamp, Kay's attorney. "It seems pretty obvious that the university has to reinstate her."
The decision amended an April ruling that stated the UA took "arbitrary and capricious" action by firing Kay on the basis of falsified research data.
Villarreal stated that the university must hold a new administrative hearing for Kay, and allow her attorney to be present.
The ruling did not address whether Kay was guilty of scientific misconduct and only dealt with the process that led to her termination. Villarreal also denied her request for immediate reinstatement and back pay, because of lack of jurisdiction.
UA President Peter Likins said last night he had not heard of Villarreal's recent decision.
"I have no idea how we will react to that," he said.
Kay was unavailable for comment last night.
The decision was based largely on last month's Arizona Supreme Court ruling that employees have the right to legal representation during an administrative hearing.
Villarreal's ruling said Kay's case should have similar considerations.
"A charge of scientific misconduct is a serious accusation discrediting a scholar's competence, honesty and integrity," he stated. "There is no reason to find that the statutory rights ... can be temporarily set aside because the university was operating under the mistaken belief that it could preclude Dr. Kay's lawyer from speaking at the scientific misconduct hearing."
Attorneys representing the UA argued that the Supreme Court decision should apply only to future administrative hearings, but Villarreal ruled the UA "provides no authority for that proposition."
Faculty Chairman Jerrold Hogle said he was displeased with the ruling.
"The second CAFT panel was acting under the rules laid out by the Board of Regents," Hogle said. "I don't think something like this should be ex-post-facto."
Hogle said he doesn't support the idea of attorneys at administrative hearings.
"I prefer the interaction be faculty to faculty rather than attorneys arguing with each other," he added.
At September's Faculty Senate meeting, several senators spoke out, demanding that Likins return Kay to her position. In August, the Committee of Eleven unanimously passed a resolution supporting her reinstatement.
John Marchalonis, microbiology and immunology department head and Kay's former supervisor, said the ruling is a "victory for the faculty."
"I don't have any doubt she has to be immediately reinstated," he said. "She was never guilty of any scientific fraud or misconduct. This is a great thing."
The court also awarded Kay $880 in additional attorney's fees.
"It's great, we won," Awerkamp said. "Now, she's been exonerated."