474 F.2d 928 (7th Cir. 1972), 71-1709, Clark v. Holmes

Docket Nº:71-1709.
Citation:474 F.2d 928
Party Name:L. Verdelle CLARK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Leslie HOLMES et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:December 12, 1972
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 928

474 F.2d 928 (7th Cir. 1972)

L. Verdelle CLARK, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Leslie HOLMES et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 71-1709.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

December 12, 1972

Argued Sept. 11, 1972.

Certiorari Denied May 7, 1973.

See 93 S.Ct. 2148.

Page 929

Elmer Gertz, Wayne B. Giampietro, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert E. Cronin, John L. McCausland, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellees.

Before SWYGERT, Chief Judge, and PELL and STEVENS, Circuit Judges.


In his amended three-count complaint based upon 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 (3), L. Verdelle Clark sought damages for the alleged violation of his civil rights by certain teachers and officials at Northern Illinois University (NIU), 1 a state institution of higher learning. A nontenured temporary substitute teacher at NIU from 1962 to 1964, Clark claimed, inter alia, that the defendants had made false charges against him, the result of which was that NIU decided not to rehire him. The defendants also allegedly denied him a hearing or investigation of these charges. Clark maintained that these actions stemmed from a conspiracy among the defendants, who allegedly wished to penalize him for exercises by him of his right to freedom of speech.

The trial, limited to the question of liability, was held before a jury. At the close of the plaintiff's case, the court granted a directed verdict for the defendants on the issue of conspiracy (Count II and part of Count I). 2 It also rejected plaintiff's proffered instructions on the First Amendment rights of public school teachers. The jury returned verdicts for each of the defendants. After the court denied his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdicts or for a new trial, Clark brought this appeal.

In August 1962, Clark applied for and accepted a temporary position for the fall semester of 1962 as an associate professor

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in NIU's Department of Biological Sciences. Clark was to substitute for the professor who usually taught a required introductory health survey course. The possibility of employment for the spring semester was left open. When the teacher for whom the plaintiff was substituting decided not to return for the spring session, Clark accepted an offer to teach that semester.

In a letter dated April 30, 1963, the head of the Department of Biological Sciences offered Clark a temporary position for the following academic year, 1963-64, as a replacement for another professor. The letter also warned Clark that his acceptance of the offer should be made with the understanding that he should remedy certain deficiences in his professional conduct: he counselled an excessive number of students instead of referring them to NIU's professional counsellors; he overemphasized sex in his health survey course; he counselled students with his office door closed; and he belittled other staff members in discussions with students.

Clark subsequently discussed these criticisms with the department head and with defendant Skok, then Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He defended his conduct, maintaining that it was proper for a teacher to hold himself out as a personal confidant of his students and denying that he was teaching too much sex education. He stated that he had surveyed his students' interests, had found that they wanted sex education and mental health emphasized and so had agreed to do so and only "touch on" the other topics covered by the assigned text and the course syllabus. Rejecting disapproval of his critical remarks as hypocritical, he declared that he would not stop discussing with students his complaints about the administration and other teachers and he would not confine his discussions to his office. Rather, he would "do it where I think it is effective, and if it costs me, so be it."

In May 1963, Clark...

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