Tag Archives: Patrick O’Rourke

Ward Churchill wants his dollar back


DENVER– Remember the dollar bill awarded to Professor Churchill last year because the jury took him at his word that return of his tenure at the University of Colorado was the chief demand of his lawsuit for unlawful dismissal? Judge Larry [K]naves vacated the award and the verdict, which is why Churchill v CU is now being reprised for the Colorado Court of Appeals. As Lawyer David Lane outlined for the reporters, Churchill wants the reinstatement of an original secondary claim dismissed without a trial, he wants to resume teaching at CU Boulder, and precisely for its symbolism, Ward Churchill wants that dollar back. This post’s title is my guess at the Denver News headline.

Actually, mention of the solitary dollar was made in court, but from the other side. Believe it or not, CU argued against having to reinstate Ward Churchill because it adjudged the small award to be indicative of the 2009 jury’s intent. Instead of believing the jury’s statement, that they chose reinstatement in lieu of awarding damages, CU pretended that the trivial remuneration meant they couldn’t give a fig if the wronged professor got his job back either.

Oral arguments were heard today by the Colorado Court of Appeals, in a temporary venue located in the Denver Post building, which until recently was also home to the Rocky Mountain News. Was this a supreme irony, or like the usual M.O. in matters of Native American affairs, a direct insult? Ward Churchill had to plead for redress with authorities under the roof of the establishment most responsible for having slandered him.

How did it go? The room was packed, the judges did not appear to show their hand and promised a judgment would be forthcoming. Probably they say that to everybody.

David Lane gave his usual masterful performance, parrying cuts to the quick from the three judges as if his client’s claims were a foregone conclusion. Lane was ready with his trademark descriptive quips, Churchill’s persecution dubbed a “torchlight parade” where the CU trustees fell over each other to grab the microphone to denounce his September 11th Little Eichmanns quote, even as later they claim quasi-judicial immunity for terminating Churchill without prejudice.

Providing the perfect foil was CU’s counsel Patrick O’Rourke, the down syndrome-coiffed wunderbreadkind, who has me convinced there’s a niche for the incompetent lawyer shtick. How else to battle charismatic speakers like Lane, than play the everyman with a limp to elicit the jury’s sympathies. Lingering on my mind, as CU’s attack-defender lost his train of thought and asked a judge to repeat his question, was the news that O’Rourke is reportedly shortlisted for an appointment as judge, perhaps in recompense for his dispatch of Churchill v CU through the backdoor.

O’Rourke raised the inanity of having been presented with no evidence that the Boulder campus suffered a chilling effect as a result of Professor Churchill’s first amendment rights being violated. One judge ran with the theme, until Lane was able to politely corral the sophomoric philosophy quandary. I wished Lane could have gone for a laugh line: Clearly the CU faculty have become frightened to speak their minds, how else to explain the ongoing dearth of critics among them, in times of continuing and escalating barbarity by our history makers?

The turnout saw a good collection of Denver’s rising legal luminaries, Lane’s team from the original trial, the ACLU legal eagles, and members of the National Lawyers’ Guild. Also in attendance were notorious Denver activists and other Churchill supporters, including the owners of Boulder’s Left Hand Books. A notable absence for me was activist lawyer Lynne Stewart, who’d stopped by the original trial to show her solidarity for Ward Churchill and the besieged academics who served as his witnesses. At that time Stewart was appealing her sentence for aiding-and-abetting terrorists in her role as their defense counsel. This summer, Stewart received not a reprieve, but an even longer sentence, and consequently this month spent her 71st birthday behind bars.

As he did in the original trial, David Lane opened with the suggestion that this case was likely to have a legacy more broad than the presiding judges may all imagine. So far, whether the jurists for the establishment concur or not, I’d say he has been proven correct.

Churchill and his curiously vile detractors

Ward Churchill caricatureDENVER- There’s an interesting sideshow at the Churchill v CU case having to do with a cadre of unsavory Ward Churchill online critics. What they are writing is hardly interesting but their unceasing doggedness, repeating only ad hominem attacks, leads one to wonder who they are and what horse do they have, in not only this race, but in Churchill’s ongoing activism. These are the same voices which heckled the DNC organizers, AIM, and the contra-Columbus actions.

It’s a little circle of shit-knitters, who cross-link or repost each other’s comments from Blogspot blogs Drunkablog, Slapstick Politics, People’s Press Collective, and riding point on the Churchill Trial, Pirate Ballerina. These are Little Green Football variety ditto-heads, and I hardly mean to draw attention to them, but their relentless character assassination seems to wag the local media dogs, and one might as well look into that.

Meaning, more in a bit.

Churchill amused the courtroom audience by illustrating his sarcastic use of quotation marks, as one might refer to the Rocky Mountain News as a “newspaper.”

It’s not enough to conclude Professor Churchill has enemies. There are Native American casino owners who might be threatened by Churchill’s revisiting of the past, there are rivals for Churchill’s influence in the American Indian Movement. Obviously there are historians eager to retread what they’ve invested in the Master Narrative. Curiously, there are Zionists who are vehemently opposed to the discussion Churchill wants to provoke. And I suppose there are stupid white males who will stand for no diminishment of God Blessed America.

These bloggers are the latter “Right Wing” variety obviously, and bring nothing to the table but personal attacks. But what sustains them, tasked as they appear to be, to hound Ward Churchill on a daily basis, year after year?

There are players both on the national scene, and locally, who I consider complete bastards who merit every rebuke possible, but that doesn’t mean I dedicate my every utterance when they so much as visit the bathroom.

Churchill lends trial his sonorous levity

DENVER- Court Room 6 is packed once again as Ward Churchill takes the stand to detail his wrongful dismissal by CU. His testimony began yesterday afternoon, and Attorney David Lane is outlining the basis for damages. Churchill isn’t asking for money. Says he, “I want my job.” Churchill testified that his publishing output is 5% of his usual, only two or three articles in journals, and four books under contract but still awaiting delivery. But Churchill is quick to reassure the room that the works are forthcoming, and he is upbeat, despite CU committee members having testified, sadly but triumphantly, of having reduced Churchill’s reputation, thirty years and twenty books, to a pitcher of warm spit. Lane asked Churchill: “How does this make you feel?”
“Angry” is Churchill’s reply. “But anger is no new feeling for me.”

Cross-examination has begun, Attorney Patrick O’Rourke is inadvertently treating the jury to the very character assassination upon which Churchill has been making his case. O’Rourke’s first question pretended to inform the jury that he and Churchill had become familiar over the course of these many legal actions, and thus direct questions would not be improper or disrespectful. But he loaded his question thus:

“I’m going to ask direct questions, will you be willing to give me direct answers?”

O’Rourke used a second question purportedly to frame his his line of questions. “Professor Churchill, is it fair to say that you’ve been accused of many things, of not being a real Indian, for example, and after your 911 essay, of a half million things it seems like, would that be fair to say?”

“Uh, yes. Although probably not a half million…”

“Well, I’m not going to ask you about any of those things, I’m going to stick to just the allegations made by the committee.”

Later O’Rourke questioned why a previous witness, Russel Means, had referred to his colleague as Doctor Churchill. “You don’t have a PhD, do you?” He asked Churchill. “You only have a Masters, isn’t that correct?”

Churchill explained that he had been given an honorary doctorate, to which O’Rourke replied, “So it’s just an honorary doctorate?”

Asked Churchill: “Do you mean to dishonor it?”

CU lawyer thinks it was Ward Churchill who may have violated 1st Amendment

Colorado State Court Room 6
DENVER- CHURCHILL TRIAL, DAY TWO. University of Colorado defense attorney Patrick O’Rourke wanted the jury to understand that Freedom of Speech was a complicated matter. He asked Dean of CU’s law school, David Getches, to confirm “Is First Amendment Law hard?” “Yes it is.” “Are you an expert on First Amendment law?” “No, I am not.” O’Rourke also got former Governor Bill Owens to admit the First Amendment concept was “tricky.” But no one could have conveyed it better than O’Rourke himself. He described how CU scoured Professor Ward Churchill’s work “to look for First Amendment violations.” Pretending to detail the school’s concern for protecting Churchill’s academic freedom, O’Rourke explained that when it was concluded that Churchill’s 9/11 Little Eichmann essay was protected speech, CU set about to find other instances where “what he said might violate the First Amendment.”