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August 21, 2009

University of Iowa law school sued for age discrimination

Brian Morelli
Iowa City Press-Citizen

A veteran lawyer, who applied for a faculty position at University of Iowa, has sued UI and UI College of Law for age discrimination.

Donald Dobkin, 56, of West Bloomfield, Mich., filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court Southern District of Iowa Davenport Division on Wednesday.

“I just think that it is pretty obvious to me and my lawyers that persons over the age of 40 are not considered for entry-level positions. That is widely known in academic circles. Not only do we see this as illegal, but it is a disservice to students who are being taught by professors, with some exceptions, that have never practiced law in the fields they are teaching,” Dobkin said in a telephone interview.

“We are threat to them. We have a body of knowledge they don’t have,” Dobkin said.

UI policy does not permit its representatives to discuss matters that involve pending litigation, UI spokesman Tom Moore said. Law school Dean Carolyn Jones declined comment.

According to court filings, Dobkin responded to a 2008 advertisement for a UI law professor position that called for experience in administrative, immigration, international and criminal law, among others.

In 2009, Eric Andersen, on behalf of the law school, notified Dobkin he had been rejected despite an “impressive academic and professional record,” according to court filings. The filings allege that the College of Law has not hired a faculty member older than 40 in the last 10 years.

The positions for administrative law and immigration law were filled by Jayanth Krishnan and Stephen Lee, who are both younger than 40, according to the court filings.

Dobkin has more than 25 years of experience leading the largest independent immigration firm in Michigan, a law degree from Northwestern University and has written numerous journal articles, among other qualifications, according to court filings.

Dobkin is seeking a position on the faculty and compensation for lost wages and benefits, according to court filings.

“My goal is to get appointed professor of law at UI and help students, impart my 30 years of experience and train another level of future lawyers,” Dobkin said in the interview. “That’s why I want to do it.”

Another discrimination lawsuit against the law school is also pending. Teresa Wagner sued UI, the law school and Jones in January alleging Wagner did not get hired because of political bias based on her conservative political views.