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Widener Law School fundraising leader criticizes sanctions imposed on Prof. Lawrence Connell

Widener Law School fundraising leader criticizes sanctions imposed on Prof. Lawrence Connell

I previously posted about the resignation of Capt. (Ret.) Robert P. Taishoff, a major donor to Widener Law School and Chair of the school’s fundraising campaign, Widener Law School loses major donor over Connell case.

I indicated that I had seen the text of Taishoff’s resignation communication, and that it was clear he resigned because of the sanctions imposed by Dean Linda Ammons on Professor Lawrence Connell.

Connell, you will recall, was cleared of charges of racism and sexism, but found to have violated the school’s retaliation policy by defending himself in a letter to the student body and by his attorney threatening to sue the students making the allegations.  Dean Ammons recommended a one-year suspension and a requirement that Connell undergo a psychiatric examination, which recommendations were accepted by University President James T. Harris, III.

Now Taishoff has gone public with his reasons in an interview with Delaware Law Weekly:

In his resignation letter, submitted earlier this month to Widener Law Dean Linda J. Ammons, Taishoff indicated that he felt the sanctions the school imposed against Connell were excessive, especially after a university panel exonerated the professor of all but one of the charges against him.

“There was not a nexus between the remedy and the findings,” said Taishoff in an interview with Delaware Law Weekly. “I’m not sure Dean Ammons’ and President [James T.] Harris’ recommendations matched the findings of the committee. The committee found that he did not commit sexual or racial harassment.”

Taishoff later added, “The punishment they doled out did not match the offense he was found to have committed.”

Taishoff, a former student of Connell, took issue with the attempt by the two complaining students to paint Connell as racist:

The two men have known each other since Taishoff was a student in one of Connell’s classes in 1989. As a law clinic student, Taishoff worked with Connell on several appellate cases, including helping with multiple death penalty appeals.

“Larry is not only a professor and a friend, but I’ve worked pro bono cases with him,” Taishoff said. “It is so far out of left field for him to be accused of something like this. He is the kind of guy who says what he thinks, but there is not a racist bone in his body.”

The reasons given by Taishoff in the interview mirror the reasons he gave to President Harris in the resignation communication, which concludes with the following paragraphs:

This entire matter has portrayed the University and the Law School in a terribly negative light.

I do not make this decision lightly and I have thought long and hard about how to proceed. I don’t feel I can work with Dean Ammons on a matter as important as this campaign. I am sorry it has come to this, however I am steadfast in my support of Professor Connell and will not compromise my beliefs in this matter to support Widener University School of Law any further.

According to the Delaware Law Weekly interview Taishoff’s foundation will continue to honor prior commitments including to the Veterans Law Clinic:

“We are going to continue to support the Veterans Law Clinic,” said Taishoff. “I’m not going to punish the school for Dean Ammons’ behavior.”

Later, Taishoff added: “I’m not stomping my feet and pulling money. I’m just not going to work with Dean Ammons. In order to run a successful campaign, you have to work with the dean.”

I have e-mailed Widener for comment, and will update this post if it responds.

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Comments

So… He’s not happy but he’s letting his money stay? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

I read, and I read, and I read. What I find truly amazing, after all these years, is that liberals are actually all the same. They want control. Nothing more, nothing less. The reason conservatives have such problems is that the want to just be left alone. The nexus of these two attitudes ALWAYS leads to liberals gaining control and conservatives pulling farther and farther back, UNTIL, like a rubber band, it springs. This is what is happening, and should happen. I for one am fed up with being told what I need to do, and what everyone is SUPPOSED to do and act like. This is what has gone on at Widener. They have accused the professor of not acting as they wished. He said, leave me alone, I am not hurting anyone. He is being punished for bucking the institution (liberals). Enough said

Just as a little background, Widener has an interesting history.

During the 1970s, when the school was begun as the Delaware Law School (DLS) by a conservative former Dean and legal scholar out of Washington DC, named Alfred Avins, it was experiencing serious difficulty getting accreditation from the AALS and the ABA. Avins was a strong proponent of part-time legal education, and he had started a few law schools in Virginia.

But as a result of the lack of accreditation, impending graduates would not be able to sit for the bar exam in New Jersey.

My somewhat fuzzy recollection now is that the focus of Dean Avins scholarship was constitutional law, and in particular, his focus of interest was on the 15th Amendment, the Reconstruction voting right amendment. He wrote a few books and a considerable number of law review articles.

One article of his was rejected for publication in the late 1960s by the Rutgers University Law Review. It traced the legislative history and argued as a result that Brown v. Board of Education had been wrongly decided. Avins sued the Nw Jersey public education institution in federal court and lost. Avins died in 1999.

The then-small part time school was operating in Wilmington, Delaware, out of a building or two that had previously been the operating facilities of a Methodist Church.

Here in New Jersey, somewhere around 1974 or ’75, one former State Senator from a South Jersey district, smack in the center of Camden County, Senator Joseph A. Maressa, D-Lindenwald, actually created a “special legislative committee” to study the Delaware Law School — he obviously had some constituents in his district who were commuting and attending the DLS, and who were concerned that they would graduate but be unable to practice law in New Jersey. From a public transportation perspective, Lindenwold is located at the terminus of the PATCO High Speed Line — which would explain the number of commuting students from that area. Wilmington Station is the first stop below Philly on either AMTRAK or Pennsylvania Railroad trains, and was within moderate walking distance of the DLS.

In New Jersey, as in most states, the Supreme Court constitutionally had (and has) express and exclusive jurisdiction over the admission of attorneys to the practice of law.

The legislative “committee” eventually drafted a short report of its findings, and the issue went nowhere as a political issue until the school finally became affiliated with Widener University and Avins relinquished some of his power.

[…] at Widener law school over the university’s suspension of Professor Lawrence Connell. (Hat tip: Legal Insurrection) It begins: Robert Taishoff has resigned from his position as chairman of Widener University School […]

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