WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- A former North Dakota attorney general is appealing a ruling by a federal judge earlier this month that Georgetown University's law school did not discriminate against him based on his age when it passed him over for a teaching position.

Nick Spaeth, who filed a lawsuit against six law schools but later dropped all of the complaints except the one against Georgetown, filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit June 7.

He argues that Georgetown discriminated against him based on age when it declined to interview and hire him after he applied for an entry-level tenure-track teaching position through the 2010 American Association of Law Schools, or AALS, Faculty Appointments Register.

In her ruling against Spaeth, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the former attorney general simply was less qualified for the job.

"Georgetown denies that discriminatory animus played any role in its decision and argues that Spaeth's application was rejected because 'the materials he submitted did not reveal any interest or experience in producing the kind of original legal research and scholarship that Georgetown -- like other top tier law schools in the United States -- requires.' Thus, despite his impressive credentials, he did not meet 'one important (and non-discriminatory) qualification Georgetown requires of its entry-level tenure-track hires,'" Huvelle explained in her May 9 opinion.

The judge said the record is "clear" that scholarship was a primary concern in the school's hiring process.

"The vast majority of exchanges among faculty members about the candidates who were called back reflect extensive discussions about the quality of their scholarly work," Huvelle wrote. "The fact that the faculty focused their debate on the merits of various candidates' scholarship only underscores its centrality as a qualification for the faculty.

"Whether scholarship was more highly valued than teaching is beside the point, for it is evident that it was an essential job qualification."

Huvelle also noted that the lack of a written requirement prioritizing scholarship in hiring -- an argument of Spaeth's -- is "irrelevant."

"There is no need to put in writing what everyone knows: scholarship is, for better or worse, one of the overriding concerns among elite law schools in making hiring decisions," she wrote.

Spaeth was North Dakota's attorney general from 1985-92.

In 1992, he lost the governor's race to Republican Ed Schafer.

In 2004, he joined H&R Block Inc., as senior vice president and chief legal officer.

He resigned in 2007 and joined the Federal Home Loan Bank, or FHLB, as executive vice president, general counsel and chief risk officer.

He retired in 2009, looking to pursue an academic career.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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