NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - On Monday, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled against Stephen F. Austin State University's appeal argument in a federal civil lawsuit filed by former employee Christian Cutler.
The court ruled that the dispute between the former SFA Gallery director and top university officials, including President Baker Patillo, can go to trial.
Cutler is arguing he lost his job in 2010 for saying no to Congressman Louie Gohmert's request to judge an art show and referring to the politician as a "fear monger." Cutler resigned, but later sued the university for violating his rights to free speech.
Tim Garrigan, Cutler's attorney, said the ruling is good for many employees, not just Cutler.
"University employees and really public employees everywhere know that their First Amendment rights will be respected and can be enforced in court," Garrigan said. "And I think that's particularly helpful here in Nacogdoches and at SFA for the employees to understand that they do have a right to speak their political views, and they don't have to worry about jeopardizing their job."
Garrigan says the decision could lead to settlement talks. Until then he says a trial will be pursued.
On Tuesday,SFA general counsel Damon Derrick stated the university and the Office of the Attorney General are studying the opinion carefully to determine what steps to take next.