State lawyers file for dismissal of suit against UMBC

January 28, 1995|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

State lawyers have called for the dismissal of a $1 million federal lawsuit against the University of Maryland Baltimore County, saying allegations of civil rights violations are contradicted by the plaintiff's own words.

In papers filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. argued that the complaint of former UMBC instructor Gisela V. Dibble, even if true, does not show that her constitutional or civil rights were violated.

Dr. Dibble charged that her colleagues and administrators at UMBC had prevented her from seeking a tenure-track job at the Catonsville campus because she is a woman, because she is German, because she is Protestant and because she was not a Marxist. Campus officials said they cannot comment on the case beyond denying the charges.

The state's motion for summary judgment, filed by Assistant State Attorney General Anne Donohue, quoted extensively from the pretrial depositions of Dr. Dibble and used her own statements made under oath in an attempt to undermine her charges. As a public university, UMBC is represented by the attorney general's office.

"They're trying to say there's no dispute," said University of Baltimore law professor William Weston. Ms. Donohue's motions argues that "even if you take the plaintiff's account as true here, she still hasn't said anything on which we can base a case," Mr. Weston said.

In short, the state's motion contends that Dr. Dibble's belief that she was the victim of discrimination, is not sufficient grounds for a lawsuit unless she can offer other proof.

Tracy E. Mulligan of Rockville, Dr. Dibble's attorney, said he had not yet read the motion by the attorney general's office.

Dr. Dibble, who served as an instructor in German at UMBC from 1983 to 1992, claimed that she was told not to apply for a tenure-track job given to a male applicant because she was not a Marxist and that earlier comments from other members of her department indicated their anger that she would be a proponent of Western values.

In the lawsuit, first filed in June 1993, she names several colleagues and current and former UMBC administrators as defendants and seeks $500,000 in back pay and $500,000 in compensatory damages.

Asked during deposition what it means for two people to have different world views, Dr. Dibble replied, "That would not bother me at all. But [several colleagues cited in the lawsuit] are still working there. I am equally qualified to work there, and I do not. And I am nowhere. So, therefore, I have been discriminated [against]."

Pressed on how she was discriminated against on the basis of religion, Dr. Dibble responded, "Marxism is a religion, and I do not belong to this religion."

The state's motion responds: "While a wide range of beliefs may qualify for protection, the plaintiff's expression that her philosophy of life is equated to a religion makes a mockery of persons with serious religious beliefs, and it should not qualify for protection."

Dr. Dibble alleged in her testimony that her department chairman was charming but did not take her seriously enough, while a female colleague took action against her because, they "are not the same type of woman . . . [the colleague] quietly suffers because she is a woman, and I like being a woman."

The motion retorts: "At this time in American jurisprudence, there is no viable cause of action for gender-based employment discrimination against someone who is charming, who is bullying, who doesn't take one seriously or who has a different view of what it means to be a woman."

U.S. Judge J. Frederick Motz has not yet ruled on the motion.

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