Donald S. Dobkin, 59, has taken an unconventional approach to getting on a law faculty. Dobkin has repeatedly sued the University of Iowa and the College of Law after they turned him down for a faculty position — alleging age discrimination. Dobkin has sued Iowa before after he learned that an allegedly younger and less qualified lawyer was hired over him.
Dobkin founded a large immigration law firm 25 years ago and has reportedly handed thousands cases. However, he alleges that he was not only barred due to his age but was retaliated against for his earlier lawsuit against the school on age discrimination. That lawsuit is pending and Dobkin wants either his lost pay or a position on the faculty.
There is evidence that one of the interviewing faculty members noted that Dobkin was in litigation with the university and suggested that the committee consult with the general counsel on the issue.
The problem with this type of lawsuit is that the criteria for selecting a law faculty member involves a myriad of factors which are weighed by each faculty member in a process that can be very subjective. The quality of a person’s mind — as reflected in writing or presentations — is difficult to state in objective terms. Moreover, one’s ability to relate and communicate to students is highly impressionistic.
This is not to say that discrimination laws cannot practically apply to academic positions. There could be a pattern or express discriminatory statements made in the process. However, it is not true that another candidate is objectively less qualified due to fact that he or she has handled fewer cases or has less experience. There is also the prediction of scholarship and teaching ability — matters upon which law faculty have considerable experience. A court is likely to approach such questions with a high degree of deference absent strong evidence of a discriminatory intent or impact. Thousands of people apply today for a relatively few slots at top schools each year. The “meat market” held every year is a brutal process for applicants and faculty alike. It is a pool composed for uniformly talented people with different strengthens and skills that have to be balanced by the committee members.
Dobkin is asking for a jury trial on the question and will presumably pursue the communications between the committee members and the university with great vigor.
The Canadian-born Dobkin does list a variety of publications through the years in academic journals and has held local bar positions. Here is a bio for Dobkin as “of counsel” to the Fakhoury Law Group PC :
Donald S. Dobkin is “Of Counsel” to the firm. Mr. Dobkin acts as a consultant to the firm in the areas of medical immigration with emphasis on exceptional and extraordinary aliens.
After graduating from Northwestern Law School (LL.M.), Mr. Dobkin began his legal career in Chicago, Illinois. He was the immigration counsel to the American Medical Association in Chicago, Illinois from 1976 to 1979. In 1979 Mr. Dobkin founded his own law firm. From 1979 to 2004, Mr. Dobkin was Senior Partner of Dobkin & Associates, P.C. based in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Mr. Dobkin is an internationally renown immigration attorney, having handled over 5000 cases in his career. He is also a prolific author — his writings on immigration law, civil liberties, constitutional law and political science have been published in numerous law reviews and journals. He has lectured and given seminars on immigration in the United States, Canada and England. Mr. Dobkin is a past chairperson of the Oakland County, Michigan Bar Association, Immigration Law Section.
Mr. Dobkin holds the highest rating “av” accorded to lawyers by the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory having achieved this honor at age 30.
He can legitimately take pride in such a career, though Iowa is a highly distinguished law school that attracts top candidates for the faculty. This record would not necessarily stand out in that group, though Dobkin’s litigation record clearly would distinguish him from most applicants who apply with only a few years of litigation experience.
Source: Press Citizen as first seen on ABA Journal