Bowers set to appeal

Bowers set to appeal

Following a March 16 opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon, Dena Bowers’ attorney was left with only one argument: that Bowers was denied a right to be heard before she was fired from UVA, a violation of her due process rights under the 14th Amendment.

In October 2005, Bowers sent an e-mail from her UVA account containing NAACP attachments that were critical of the University’s chartered restructuring. The e-mail was later forwarded to many more staff members, and Bowers was questioned by her bosses and several UVA higher-ups in a phone call October 20. On November 17, Bowers was told she was facing termination and should “present her defense” by noon on November 21. On November 22, Bowers was handed two pink slips by her superiors in human resources, Nat Scurry and Lucinda Childs-White.

Dena Bowers’ camp is saying “no thanks” to an opportunity to go to court on due process claims. They’ll instead seek an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, claiming her free speech rights were violated.

Initially, Bowers’ case included two major First Amendment arguments and other, smaller claims. But many elements had been pared away by previous proceedings, and the recent opinion seals the deal on any First Amendment arguments mounted by Bowers.

Trial was scheduled to begin March 27, but now Bowers’ attorney, Deborah C. Wyatt, says that they won’t go to court on the due process issues. They are “really not what this case is. That’s the smallest piece,” says Wyatt. Instead, Wyatt will appeal her First Amendment claims to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Reiterating that Bowers’ case hinges on free speech, Wyatt says, “I think everybody at the University really knows that they fired her because they didn’t like what she said [in the e-mail].”

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