Bailey & Ehrenberg Partner Jason Ehrenberg has filed a First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of firm client Bruce Fleming, a civilian professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. The suit, which has received national media coverage, alleges that the Naval Academy violated Professor Fleming’s First Amendment rights and principles of academic freedom in issuing him a Letter of Reprimand. The Letter of Reprimand stemmed from a 2013 class discussion where Fleming prompted his students to consider the academy’s sexual assault program and the potentially one-sided burdens it put on men, at a time when the academy was part of the national debate over how to stop sexual assault in the military. Two female students disagreed with Fleming’s comments in class. After Fleming sent emails to them and other students about what was said, the two students complained to sexual assault prevention officials.
After an initial inquiry by the English Department cleared Professor Fleming of any wrongdoing, military officials at the Naval Academy opened a Command Investigation into Professor Fleming. As a result of the Command Investigation, Professor Fleming was issued the Letter of Reprimand, which criticized Professor Fleming for leading his class in a discussion critical of the Naval Academy’s sexual assault program. As a result of the Letter of Reprimand, Professor Fleming was denied merit pay and $7,000 in summer funding.
Fleming has been an English professor at the academy for more than 29 years. He is known for being an outspoken critic of academy policies. For example, he has criticized the academy’s admissions policy relating to athletes and minorities.
More information about the lawsuit can be found at the link below: