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Idaho Supreme Court upholds dismissal of ISU professor’s lawsuit over firing

The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a professor who claims he was wrongfully terminated.

The justices issued a ruling Nov. 30 in the case of Habib Sadid, who claims he was fired from Idaho State University for publicly voicing his discontent with administration policies. Sadid sued the university in state court in 2008 while he was still employed at the school, but the case was dismissed.

Officials at the Pocatello university lauded the decision of the high court to affirm the dismissal of the case, which rejected claims Sadid was the victim of retaliation.

“We’re pleased with both the decisions of the Idaho Supreme Court and the district court,” Kent Tingey, vice president for university advancement, told the Idaho State Journal. Faculty leaders at the southeastern Idaho school were pleased with the decision from the Supreme Court, which found that Sadid was not the victim of retaliation and that his employment with the public university did not strip him of his right to free speech as an individual.

Sadid was suspended from the university in August 2009 and terminated a month later for what administrators called unprofessional and insubordinate conduct. But Sadid said his history of speaking out about campus problems led to his termination.

His legal battle over his termination has gained financial support from groups including the American Association of University Professors, the American Federation of Teachers and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The high court found Sadid’s claims that he was punished for voicing his concerns were without merit. But justices found the lower court made a mistake when ruling Sadid’s comments weren’t protected by the First Amendment because of his employment with the university.

“We view it as a massive win,” said biology professor David Delehanty, who holds a faculty leadership post at the university and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers. “The interest of all these organizations is free speech.”

While the lower court found that complaints from Sadid published in a Pocatello newspaper did not involve issues of public concern, the Idaho Supreme Court found that the professor’s critique of plans to create a medical school at the university did constitute a matter of public concern.

“The Supreme Court distinguished between making statements pursuant to one’s official duties and making statements pursuant to one’s right as a citizen,” said Justice Daniel Eismann in the written ruling from the court.

Sadid has other state and federal lawsuits pending over his dismissal.

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