WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - UNC Wilmington is being asked to pay more than a million dollars in legal fees a professor racked up while fighting the university in court over the last several years.
Criminology Professor Mike Adams says he was denied a promotion because of his conservative political views and right wing blog. After a seven year fight, a federal jury recently sided with Professor Adams and a judge ordered that he be promoted to full professor and receive $50,000 in back pay.
Additionally, the courts have ordered that UNCW cover Adams' legal bills. Alliance in Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice have served as Mike Adams' legal team in this fight.
Adams' attorneys submitted legal bills to the court for $1,049,000 to cover their time fighting this case over the last 7 years. A federal judge will review the bill, and could rule any day on whether to grant Adams' attorneys the full amount requested, or whether to reduce what the university is required to pay.
Despite some opposition over how much tax money has already been spent fighting this case for the university and how much additional money taxpayers may be on the hook for covering Adams' legal fees, WECT has also learned today the University is appealing the jury's verdict. That appeal would drive legal fees even higher, with no guarantee of a favorable outcome for UNCW.
In a letter to the University Board of Trustees earlier this year, State Senator Thom Goolsby said he was disappointed that UNCW was even considering an appeal.
"Substantial taxpayer resources were already expended in this litigation, and an appeal would require substantially more," Goolsby wrote. "This case received national news coverage and the jury's verdict is damaging to UNCW's reputation as an academic institution…. I urge the Board of Trustees to…put this matter to rest."
The university didn't comment on the specific appeal of the case, but does dispute the claim for a million in legal fees with the following statement:
"Federal courts have well-articulated precedent regarding the documentation and requirements surrounding the award of attorneys' fees and costs. Given the amount of fees and costs sought by Dr. Adams' attorneys, we agree with the Attorney General's office that there is a need for further documentation and justification of the fees and costs. This additional information is needed to allow the Attorney General's Office to effectively respond to amounts being sought, and argue in support of reasonable fees and costs. The petition contains charges for the time of more than 17 attorneys, 11 of whom are asking to be paid at a hourly rates in the range of $400/hour. These rates substantially exceed the amounts that judges typically award to attorneys of comparable experience in the Eastern District of North Carolina. There are also charges for $280 dinners; potential over-staffing and duplicative work; costs already disallowed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; paralegal or ministerial work billed at $295/hour; and potential billing for tasks that are not normally part of reasonable and permitted reimbursements. And finally, there is no commensurate reduction acknowledging that two of Dr. Adams' three claims (religious discrimination and equal protection) were dismissed by the District Court and those dismissals upheld on appeal to the Fourth Circuit (despite repeated and inaccurate media reports, the court concluded that there existed no evidence of religious discrimination against Dr. Adams).
We do not believe it is appropriate to require the taxpayers of North Carolina to underwrite such potentially excessive lawyer fees and costs. Thus, the Attorney General's staff will file a Notice of Appeal later this week in order to preserve the University's rights to dispute the attorneys' fees and costs. Filing the notice, along with our response to the fee petition, will also provide the parties additional time to reach a resolution of contested matters."