Conflicted Court’s Tech Loyalty Trumped Leach

After digesting the 24-page opinion made Thursday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in its ruling against Mike Leach’s wrongful termination lawsuit against Texas Tech, it’s clear the conflicted court didn’t have the stomach to rule against its beloved Texas Tech.

Tech-friendly court trumped Leach's claim

(Court that ruled against Leach schooled at Texas Tech)

All four 7th Circuit judges matriculated at Texas Tech, with one justice, Mackey Hancock, a registered donor (pdf) to the Red Raider Club. (The primary fundraising arm for Tech athletics.)

Then there’s 7th Circuit Chief Justice Brian Quinn, who authored the court’s opinion that threw out Leach’s appeal. Quinn, an adjunct Texas Tech faculty member (pdf), is a former longtime partner at the prominent Lubbock law firm, McWhorter, Cobb & Johnson. That same law firm made multiple contributions to current Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance’s past run for a Senate (pdf).

It is a widely held belief that Leach’s personality conflict with Chancellor Hance contributed to the coach’s firing.

But if the court was indeed in the bag for Tech, why was Thursday’s judgment against Leach conflicted? One only read the rhetoric employed by Chief Justice Quinn in his written opinion to recognize the acute ambiguity of the decision.

Texas Tech’s argument in its appeal was that Leach’s breach of contract claim was invalid because of the State of Texas’ “sovereign immunity” law.

In short, contractual sovereign immunity protects the state of Texas from breach of contract claims between a private party and the state. The law asserts that state institutions, like Texas Tech, cannot be sued in such cases regardless of the circumstances of an employee’s dismissal.

Yes, you read that correctly.

So in its argument to the 7th Circuit, Texas Tech claimed that a contract written and executed by Texas Tech was unenforceable. (In its ruling against Leach, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.)

Yes, you read that correctly.

Not surprisingly, in his written opinion, 7th Circuit Chief Justice Quinn was pained in the explanation of the court’s decision. Read more…