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RULING ALLOWS UND PROF'S RIGHTS LAWSUIT TO PROCEED

A federal judge has cleared the way for a former UND professor to proceed to trial in a $4.25 million civil rights lawsuit over his dismissal from the university.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Webb ruled last week that Clyde Morris can sue UND President Thomas Clifford and several other administrators and faculty members in their individual capacities, but not in their official capacities.

Morris contends that he was wrongfully dismissed in 1982. He was tenured and had spent 18 years at UND, Morris taught in the education department, then at the Center for Teaching and Learning when it absorbed the education department.

Webb's ruling states that Morris allegations raise "factual issues" to be determined at a trial. But the judge also ruled that the procedures UND went through to dismiss Morris were reasonable and therefore cannot be part of the suit.

"This is a major victory for us," said Morris' attorney, David Thompson. "He's now 66 years old, and his career has been ruined. Clyde Morris has been terrible wronged."

UND's attorney, Gary Thune of Bismarck, said he is likewise heartened by Webb's ruling, although "we're somewhat concerned that this one issue remains."

Thune said the fact that the administrators can be sued individually when they acted in their official capacities "does cause some concern."

Thune said one option is to appeal Webb's ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Another is to go to trial. If UND opts not to appeal a trial date probably would be set for sometime this spring.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, February 7, 1989