Male Law School Trial Advocacy Director Sues Alleging Bias (1)

June 17, 2021, 5:48 PMUpdated: June 17, 2021, 8:59 PM

The director of the Center for Advocacy at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law says in a new suit in federal court that, because of his gender, debunked allegations of sex discrimination were wrongly used against him to delay consideration of the renewal of his teaching contract.

David Schott says the sex discrimination ensued after Viva Moffat, the associate dean of Academic Affairs, told him in 2016 that she didn’t “want to see white men teaching anymore in the Center for Advocacy,” a comment he immediately reported to Bruce Smith, the dean of the law school.

Schott, who is White, says “he felt pressure not to hire white men to teach” at the center, even when they were the most qualified applicants.

He was also soon “the target of a steady barrage of adverse actions and false statements that have damaged his reputation and violated the terms of his employment contract” that were “largely orchestrated by Moffat, but with at least the tacit support of Smith,” the suit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado alleges.

That included Moffat reporting “utterly unfounded” allegations of sex discrimination in the Center for Advocacy, according to Schott.

One allegation involved a female professor from a Texas law school with no affiliation with the center or Denver University using the word “bitchy” when speaking with four female students, according to the suit. The other involved a female student trying out for the National Trial Team who was asked the same question about time commitment that all of the other candidates were asked, Schott says.

“The University of Denver does not comment about pending litigation,” a spokesperson told Bloomberg Law in an email Thursday.

The university’s Title IX office investigated and dismissed the allegations against him for lacking merit, the suit says.

But Moffat and Smith nevertheless imposed a new “statement of expectations” on him that he and the Title IX office effectively were forced to go along with, Schott says.

Schott and the center fully satisfied those expectations, yet Moffat again raised the unfounded sex bias allegations against him a few years later in connection with the renewal of his appointment as a “Professor of the Practice,” the suit says.

And a fellow professor then republished Moffat’s false allegations to the law school’s entire faculty, the suit says.

Moffat additionally denied Schott’s use of the compensatory leave that he had agreed to accept in lieu of extra pay for the “overload courses he taught,” the suit says.

She and Smith denied his request for a full investigation into the sex bias allegations against him, and the university failed to investigate when he filed a Title IX complaint about the sex-based mistreatment he endured, Schott says.

Causes of Action: Sex discrimination; retaliation; breach of contract, Colorado Wage Claim Act; defamation; promissory estoppel; tortious interference with contract.

Relief: Economic damages for unpaid wages and breach of contract; noneconomic damages for inconvenience, reputational harm, mental anguish, and emotional distress; punitive damages; declaratory and injunctive relief; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Attorneys: Jester Gibson & Moore LLP represents Schott.

The case is Schott v. Univ. of Denver, D. Colo., No. 1:21-cv-01645, complaint filed 6/16/21.

(Updated with comment from the university in the seventh paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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