Judge allows adviser’s First Amendment lawsuit against university to go forward

MISSOURI — A lawsuit filed by a former student newspaperadviser accusing Central Missouri State University of violatingher First Amendment rights will go forward, following a federaljudge’s May 10 denial of the university’s motion to dismiss thecase.

Barbara Lach-Smith sued Central Missouri State in June 2000,alleging that the university did not renew her contract becauseofficials were upset by student newspaper stories that uncoveredthe outgoing president’s especially generous contract. The storiesin the Muleskinner led to criticism of the university bythe state attorney general’s office and an audit by the stateauditor’s office.

Following the controversy provoked by the Muleskinner‘sstories, university President Bobby Patton ordered the reclassificationof Lach-Smith’s position from a non-tenure-track position to atenure-track position. Lach-Smith, who had advised the Muleskinnerfor six years, applied for the new position but was never interviewed.In May 2000, the position was offered to someone else.

Lach-Smith claims the university punished her in retaliationfor her decision to contact an attorney regarding what she perceivedas mistreatment of student newspaper staff members and for hersupport of student journalists’ press freedom, including her refusalto review the Muleskinner prior to publication.

In addition to denying the university’s motion to dismiss Lach-Smith’sFirst Amendment claim, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple denieda motion to dismiss Lach-Smith’s claim that school officials conspiredtogether to retaliate against her for exercising her First Amendmentrights.

Whipple did, however, grant the university’s motion to dismissLach-Smith’s claims that officials violated her due process rightsand caused her emotional distress.

Clickhere to download the judge’s order denying Central Missouri StateUniversity’s motion to dismiss the case in pdf format.