Not long after her lawsuit was disposed, Madonna Constantine is turning to yet another legal option with a $200 million defamation complaint filed Tuesday to the New York State Supreme Court. Constantine, once a tenured professor of counseling and clinical psychology at Teachers College, gained notoriety last October when a noose was found on her office door. Police have not found the perpetrator, but recently more hate mail was sent to TC, and according to the complaint, the picture of a noose was addressed to Constantine. In February 2008, TC announced that Constantine had been found guilty of plagiarizing passages from the work of three former students and colleagues. TC's legal representation, Hughes, Hubbard, & Reed, LLP, reported finding 36 incriminating passages. After Constantine appealed the decision, TC found her guilty once again and raised the penalty from undefined sanctions to termination pending appeal. As Constantine's defenses have failed, she has gone through additional options to reverse and compensate for her sanctions, turning from internal appeal to an October lawsuit, and now—on the heels of an internal review before the Faculty Advisory Committee—to the complaint. According to Constantine's representation, the Law Offices of Paul Giacomo, Jr., Constantine seeks to recover damages from TC, Hughes Hubbard & Reed, LLP, and former TC faculty members and students who have been indemnified by TC to speak up against her alleging plagiarism. The introduction to the 92-page complaint is titled "the academic lynching of Professor Madonna Constantine," and states that these allegations were part of an "invidious scheme to ruin the scholarly reputation of the Plaintiff through a conspiracy to drum up and eventually publish false claims against the Plaintiff." The only representative of Teachers College that could be reached by press time was Marcia Horowitz of PR firm Rubenstein Associates, Inc., who is the spokesperson TC hired to deal with hate crimes and the Constantine case. "This case is totally without merit, and we intend to defend against it rigorously," she said on behalf of TC, adding that it is inappropriate to comment further on pending litigation. Constantine's suit alleges that evidence against her was fabricated and publicized, and that her own evidence was ignored in proceedings. A press release from Giacomo's firm accuses TC of a "whole sale cover-up" including the destruction of several hard drives. Constantine is seeking damages for "Defamation Per Se, Defamation, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress" to pay for legal fees and other costs. Internally, according to Giacomo's release, an administrative review "of all of the evidence of plagiarism and the procedures used by Teachers College to prosecute Professor Constantine will begin on April 23, 2009 before the Faculty Advisory Committee at Teachers College. In connection with those proceedings, Teachers College and the Faculty Advisory Committee have attempted to prevent publication of this information to the Press." In October, Constantine filed a case under an Article 78 proceeding of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, which allowed her to challenge the process by which TC decided to fire her as being "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable" under state law—meaning the New York Supreme Court would use TC's own rules to evaluate the process of Constantine's termination. This suit was recently disposed by Justice Deborah Solomon. The Complaint traces damages beyond the termination itself, saying that the appearance of a noose on Constantine's door led to an outpouring of racial "ill will" and allegations that she had placed the noose there herself.
Columbia Spectator Staff