By Associated Press - Friday, April 30, 2021

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - A visiting conservative scholar at the University of Colorado in Boulder stripped of his main public duties after speaking at a rally in Washington before the riot at the U.S. Capitol is pursuing a lawsuit against school and campus leaders.

Attorneys for John Eastman filed a notice of claim, a prerequisite for bringing a lawsuit, against the university‘s board of regents and other officials, including Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano, on Thursday, the Daily Camera reported. The filing accuses them of defamation, breach of contract, retaliation, violating the school’s discrimination policies and not following due process. Eastman is seeking $1.86 million in damages, including 10 years of pay at $185,000 a year, for reputational harm, and $19,835 remaining in his university research account.

He drew criticism from university leaders and the campus community for his speech at the rally, which included unproven claims of widespread election fraud. Afterward, the university canceled Eastman’s classes, citing low enrollment, and banned him from his public speaking and representation duties at Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, where he is a visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy. At the time, the university said performing those duties would likely be “disruptive” and damage the interests of the center.

In a statement Thursday, Boulder campus spokesperson Andrew Sorensen said its decisions regarding Eastman were made in accordance with university policies on freedom of expression and academic freedom and that he has been able to continue to speak about any subject and pursue scholarship.

Eastman said he was pursuing the lawsuit, in part, to vindicate his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process.

“But even more importantly, I am taking this step because my role in this whole controversy puts me in a position to take a stand for other professors who may, as a result of what has been done to me, be cowed from their own exercise of First Amendment rights, choosing self-censorship instead of the gauntlet of hate and vitriol to which I have been subject,” he said at a press conference attended by about 30 supporters.

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