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John Marshall Law School has asked a Fulton State Court judge to dismiss a suit filed by a tenured professor who was terminated last year for alleged insubordination. Last week, the Atlanta school and its dean, John E. Ryan, filed a motion to dismiss the complaint of former professor David B. Meltz, who taught a third-year course on remedies last fall and earlier had served as the school’s academic dean. Meltz, who was not a dean at the time, sued the school and Ryan in July for $300,000 in damages, alleging that John Marshall terminated his contract without the notice or due process required by its faculty handbook. The suit alleges breach of contract and wrongful termination as well as tortious interference with contract by Ryan and infliction of emotional distress by the school and Ryan. Meltz v. John Marshall Law School, No. 03-VS-053671-D (Fult. St. July 9, 2003). The incident that led to Meltz’s termination and the ensuing litigation arose when a student who was not on the class roll began to attend Meltz’s remedies course, according to the complaint filed in the case. The unidentified former John Marshall student was not enrolled at the time and needed one class to graduate. The student had taken the required remedies course a few years earlier, according to the complaint, but was unable to take the final exam. Meltz’s complaint alleges that a John Marshall dean, who isn’t named, promised the student that he or she could sit in on Meltz’s course last fall and graduate upon passing an exam. Dean Ryan allegedly refused to honor the other dean’s agreement and told the faculty not to allow the student to sit in on classes. According to Meltz’s complaint, he discovered that the student was in his class and told the student to leave. Meltz later reported the matter to Ryan. Nonetheless, in November Ryan suspended Meltz with pay, barred him from the campus and began an investigation of the matter, according to the complaint. Ryan later fired Meltz, despite his tenure. Burton F. Dodd of Fisher & Phillips, who represents John Marshall and Ryan, said the defendants think Meltz was talking about himself when he referred to another dean’s promising the student the opportunity to attend class. The suit comes at an awkward time, as John Marshall is seeking accreditation from the American Bar Association. Academic standards are an issue for the school, which has failed to achieve accreditation four times. In their motion to dismiss, filed by Dodd, John Marshall and Ryan argue that Meltz can’t allege tortious interference of contract by Ryan because the dean wasn’t a third party to the alleged employment contract. The defendants add in their motion that Meltz didn’t allege conduct rising to the level of outrageousness necessary for an intentional infliction claim. Meltz also didn’t claim that he suffered a physical impact or physical injury required to sustain his negligence claim, they argue. In their answer to Meltz’s complaint, the defendants say the school and dean acknowledge that there are procedures in place to discharge a tenured faculty member, but they “deny the exclusivity of these procedures.” Mark L. Golder and Lynn L. Carroll of Siegel & Golder represent Meltz. Golder, reached Tuesday, said the motion to dismiss has no merit. He plans to file a brief arguing his position with the court. “The answer appears to state that John Marshall has printed procedures for firing tenured professors that are published for the world to see, yet there are other methods that are unknown to us that apparently are available to John Marshall, according to their answer,” Golder said.

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