Bowers case to move into federal court

Bowers case to move into federal court

Former UVA employee Dena Bowers’ lawsuit against the University will change venues soon. Lawyers for UVA have filed a notice of removal, which would transfer the civil action to U.S. District Court from Charlottesville’s Circuit Court.
    Bowers, once employed in UVA’s human resources department, initiated the lawsuit earlier this year in response to being fired last November. Her claim lists deprivation of due process, violation of her First Amendment rights and breach of contract. Bowers alleges she was fired for sending an e-mail that was critical of UVA’s charter initiative (commonly referred to as “restructuring”). UVA’s lawyers counter that Bowers was fired for being “uncooperative, disrespectful and insubordinate” when approached to discuss the sources of her e-mail.
    Attorneys for UVA have also filed a motion to dismiss the suit; a date for that hearing has not yet been set. They argue that Bowers sent the e-mail, which contained wage figures from the NAACP, in her official capacity at UVA, and thus was not protected by the First Amendment.
    As for the effort to move the suit to federal court, Bowers’ attorney, Deborah Wyatt, says it was anticipated.
    “I think traditionally, as defendants in civil rights cases…universities feel they do better in federal court,” she said.
    UVA spokesperson Carol Wood offered no comment on the lawsuit, since UVA policy prohibits discussing pending litigation.
    Wyatt has made a motion for a civil jury trial, something she says UVA will probably try to avoid.

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