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Nation in brief: Prof faults politics for pulled contract

THURSDAY, SEPT. 13, 2007

In a showdown over academic freedom, a prominent legal scholar said Wednesday that the University of California, Irvine’s chancellor had succumbed to conservative political pressure in rescinding his contract to head the university’s new law school, a charge the chancellor vehemently denied.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a well-known liberal expert on constitutional law, said he had signed a contract Sept. 4, only to be told Tuesday by Chancellor Michael Drake that he was voiding their deal because Chemerinsky was too liberal and the university had underestimated “conservatives out to get me.”

Later Wednesday, however, Drake said there had been no outside pressure and that he had decided to reject Chemerinsky, now of Duke University, because he felt the law professor’s commentaries were “polarizing” and would not serve the interests of California’s first new public law school in 40 years.

News of Drake’s decision quickly made its way through academic and legal circles nationally, where it came under criticism from liberal and conservative scholars who said Chemerinsky was being unfairly penalized.

Big Creek, W.Va.

No hate charges in kidnap-torture

Authorities decided Wednesday not to pursue hate crime charges in the kidnapping and weeklong torture of a black woman, instead going after the suspects, who are white, on state charges that carry stiffer penalties.

While federal civil rights or state hate crime charges remain an option, a state kidnapping count that carries a sentence of up to life in prison will provide the best chance for successful prosecution, officials said.

“As a practical matter, sentenced to life, what else can be done?” U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller told the Associated Press.

Six people face charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and lying to police in the torture of Megan Williams, 20, at a remote hillside home in Big Creek.

Newark, N.J.

Court overturns abortion rule

A doctor has no duty to tell a woman considering an abortion that her embryo is an “existing human being,” a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, averting a trial over when human life begins.

The decision, citing past rulings, said the court “will not place a duty on doctors when there is no consensus in the medical community or among the public” on when life begins.

The 5-0 Supreme Court ruling reversed a unanimous ruling by a three-judge appeals panel and dismissed the lawsuit of a woman who had an abortion. Abortion cases pending in Illinois and South Dakota have raised the same issue.

The New Jersey ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a woman who accused a doctor of failing to give her enough information before she signed a consent form for him to perform an abortion.


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