Spuler v. Pickar

958 F.2d 103 (1992)

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Spuler v. Pickar

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
958 F.2d 103 (1992)

Facts

Richard Spuler (plaintiff) was employed with the University of Houston (Houston) (defendant) as an assistant professor in the German department (the department). After five consecutive one-year appointments, Spuler was notified that his contract would not be renewed for the upcoming school year. The department cited financial reasons as the basis for its decision. Concerned about how this might look to future employers, Spuler asked if he could go through the formal tenure process to show that he was eligible for tenure. Spuler’s request was obliged, and a committee found that he had complied with tenure requirements and was eligible for tenure. Houston’s faculty handbook laid out a formal process for tenure appointments, providing that tenure was granted after the completion of a probation period, with the ultimate decision made by the board of regents. After Spuler’s departure, a professor in the department resigned. Spuler, however, was not offered the position, which remained vacant for two years while Houston advertised it nationally. According to Houston, this position was for a German literature teacher, requiring specialized knowledge that Spuler, as a linguistics expert who taught basic courses, lacked. Spuler filed suit against Houston and various administrators, alleging that he had suffered a violation of due process and that he had arbitrarily and capriciously been denied tenure. Spuler relied on the language in Houston’s faculty handbook. A jury agreed with Spuler and awarded him damages. Houston filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which was granted by the trial court. In granting Houston’s motion, the trial court found that Spuler had no property interest in continued employment. Spuler appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)

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