DENVER (AP) — A University of Colorado professor fired following a public outcry over an essay in which he compared some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi is getting a hearing before the Colorado Supreme Court.

The court was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday afternoon regarding the 2007 termination of Ward Churchill.

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The university launched an investigation into the former ethnic studies professor’s academic work amid publicity surrounding his essay in which he described some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as “little Eichmanns.”

Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi leader who helped orchestrate the Holocaust.
The court will consider whether the investigation violated Churchill’s First Amendment rights and whether the school’s Board of Regents has immunity from lawsuits.

Churchill’s essay prompted furious condemnation and calls for his dismissal. The university investigated whether the piece was protected under the First Amendment and found that it was.

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But while the investigation was under way, other academics accused Churchill of plagiarism and fraud in scholarly writings, which led to his termination. None of the allegations were about the Sept. 11 essay.

After his termination, Churchill sued the university. A Denver District Court jury ruled that that the school unlawfully fired Churchill but awarded him only $1 in damages.

The decision whether to reinstate Churchill was left to the presiding judge. After a hearing, Denver District Judge Larry Naves ruled that the university did not have to rehire Churchill.

Naves also ruled that the university’s regents, who are elected, acted as a “quasi-judicial” panel that had immunity from the lawsuit. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Naves’ ruling, and Churchill appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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