Return to Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa

Judge: UI must pay fraternity

$127,700 judgment also names state, UI official

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

January 25, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

  IOWA CITY — A judge here has ordered the state, University of Iowa and UI Vice President Phillip Jones to pay more than $127,700 in damages and legal fees to a now inactive fraternity chapter after concluding Jones and UI officials relied on an illegal recording to suspend the fraternity in 2002.

  Judge Mitchell Turner ruled the tape, used by the UI for two years to substantiate allegations of hazing by members of Phi Delta Theta, should not have been used by UI officials because it had been made illegally by a former pledge. He had no authorization to be in the rooms where he recorded events and was not present when any of the events took place, the ruling said.

  The student made the recording while living in the house as an unauthorized resident who had refused to move out after his lease to rent a room in the fraternity house had expired, Turner ruled.

  Turner ordered the state, UI and Jones to pay $98,300 plus interest in compensatory damages and an additional $24,444 to help pay the fraternity’s legal fees in the case, which has lingered for more than three years.

  Jones also was ordered to pay $5,000 in punitive damages for continuing to use the tape against the fraternity in disciplinary matters, even after UI officials agreed in 2004 to drop hazing allegations.

  Turner concluded Jones imposed disproportionately harsh sanctions against the fraternity when he imposed the same sanctions for the minor alcohol violation as he did when the hazing and alcohol violations were still pending.

  ‘‘Vice President Jones’ continued use of the disputed tape . . . after the dismissal of the hazing charges, constitutes stubborn, obstinate and willful conduct,’’ Turner wrote in a 17-page ruling filed Wednesday in Johnson County District Court following a two-day trial in September.

  The university revoked recognition of the fraternity in January 2002 after receiving a written complaint and recording from the former pledge about incidents the previous fall. While the fraternity and UI officials had several hearings, hazing allegations were dropped, and former UI President David Skorton ended the suspension in June 2004.

  The fraternity’s national office suspended the UI chapter’s charter in February 2006 because of ‘‘continued failing operations.’’

  The chapter claimed it had suffered financial losses because it was restricted from taking part in campus fraternity functions for more than two years. Turner agreed.

  ‘‘While there may have been other factors involved as well, the university’s de-recognition of the fraternity for over two and one-half years, which precluded them from engaging in formal . . activities and prohibited them from . . events and activities, was a significant, if not the most significant, reason why the fraternity failed,’’ Turner wrote in his ruling.

  Bob Brammer, spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which represented the state, UI and Jones, said attorneys involved in the case had not yet seen Wednesday’s ruling and therefore could not comment.

  ‘‘We well may appeal it,’’ Brammer said.