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DR. JOSEPH T. SKEHAN v. BLOOMSBURG STATE COLLEGE (01/17/86)

decided: January 17, 1986.

DR. JOSEPH T. SKEHAN, APPELLANT
v.
BLOOMSBURG STATE COLLEGE, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County in the case of Dr. Joseph T. Skehan v. Bloomsburg State College, et al., No. 261-1981.

COUNSEL

Cletus P. Lyman, Lyman & Ash, for appellant.

Calvin R. Koons, Deputy Attorney General, with him, Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, Chief of Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for appellees.

Judges MacPhail and Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 253]

Dr. Joseph T. Skehan (Skehan) appeals here from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County which granted summary judgment in favor of Bloomsburg State College (College).*fn1 We affirm.

A full recitation of the procedural history of this matter is found at Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 669 F.2d 142 (3rd Cir.), rehearing and rehearing en banc denied, 675 F.2d 72 (3rd Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1048 (1982), from which we distill the following recitation.*fn2 Briefly,

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 254]

    the College notified Skehan, a non-tenured associate professor of economics at the College, that his contract would not be renewed beyond the 1970-71 academic year. Skehan protested, in writing, on the grounds that the non-renewal decision was caused in large part by his opinion on national politics and college administration.

In October of 1970, Skehan was suspended and subsequently dismissed on the grounds that he failed to teach classes as scheduled by the College. Skehan filed suit in federal court alleging that both the non-renewal decision and his dismissal were in retaliation for his political activities, a violation of his First Amendment rights. Skehan also alleged that he was denied hearings on these decisions in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The federal courts ultimately rejected his First Amendment claim. The United States District for the Middle District of Pennsylvania found that Skehan's dismissal violated due process because he was not given a hearing. Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 358 F. Supp. 430 (M.D. Pa. 1973), vacated, 501 F.2d 31 (1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 979 (1976), vacated, 538 F.2d 53 (1976). Following a remand to the district court, a hearing was conducted. The district court held that the College violated Skehan's right to due process by failing to afford him a hearing on the non-renewal decision. Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 431 F. Supp. 1379, 1391 (M.D. Pa. 1977).

After hearings on the appropriate remedy, the district court concluded that the proper remedy would be for the College to reinstate Skehan to the suspended status he held on October 15, 1970, after he was suspended but before he was dismissed. Skehan v. Board of Trustees of Bloomsburg State College, 436 F. Supp. 657, 664 (M.D. Pa. 1977), modified in 590 F.2d 470

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 255]

(1978), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832 (1979). The district court also held that the College must afford Skehan a hearing on both the non-renewal decision and on his dismissal, in that order. Id. at 664, 668-69.

Accordingly, Skehan was reinstated as an associate professor from August 1, 1977 through June 2, 1978. The required hearing was held before an elected committee of faculty members (committee). That committee found that Skehan's contract was not renewed for reasons which violated Skehan's right to academic freedom and recommended his reinstatement and reconsideration. The College, however, chose to withdraw the non-renewal letter and rely instead on the dismissal action.

A hearing on the dismissal was held before the committee which recommended Skehan's termination, and on June 2, 1978, the College informed Skehan that on the basis of the committee's findings of fact and ...


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