The Cap Times | Wisconsin Supreme Court justices full of questions at hearing on professor’s suit against Marquette

The Cap Times recaps the probing questions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices during oral arguments in McAdams v. Marquette.

Suspended Marquette University professor John McAdams told reporters Thursday after lively oral arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court that the case that packed the court chambers was about nothing more than his employment contract.

“It is essentially that simple,” McAdams said.

And several of the six justices who heard the case peppered attorneys with questions about the content of McAdams’ employment contract. But that content — with its guarantees that McAdams would not be fired for exercising rights protected by the U.S. Constitution or disciplined for exercising academic freedom — generated unusually broad interest in the case and the filing of a dozen or more amicus briefs by organizations who say they have a stake in its outcome. 

McAdams was represented by Richard Esenberg, president of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. WILL stepped in and filed suit in McAdams’ name in 2016, in a contentious climate where conservatives argue that their voices are stifled on college campuses and skeptics of the value of higher education have championed moves to make it easier to remove tenured faculty.

McAdams refused to apologize, as demanded by Marquette president Michael Lovell, to a philosophy teaching assistant whom a faculty panel said McAdams inappropriately named in a 2014 blog post. The political science professor had accused graduate student Cheryl Abbate of silencing a discussion of gay marriage for political reasons, and linked to her blog. Abbate was eventually the target of hateful communications that she said made her fear for her safety. She left Marquette soon after the incident.

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