Appeals court rules former Notre Dame professor not entitled to back pay

A former University of Notre Dame professor is not entitled to over $500,000 in damages and back pay after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling.

Oliver Collins sued the university after he was fired for misusing National Science Foundation grant money.

He was accused of using the money to purchase cameras, computers and accessories not detailed in grant proposals, court records stated.

In addition, the university said it found cameras in Collins' care were used to take sexually explicit and pornographic images and computers in his care contained sexually explicit and pornographic images.

Collins was indicted by a grand jury 2011 and pleaded guilty was convicted in 2013 of one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds.

Collins filed suit against the university alleging it breached his contract by firing him.

The district court granted summary judgment in Collins' favor saying the university breached Collins' contract by having the same faculty member participate in the informal mediation process as well as serve on the hearing committee.

During a trial for damages, the court awarded Collins $501,367 for lost compensation from the date of his dismissal in June 2010 to his conviction in February 2013.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court decision finding there was nothing in the contract that prohibited a faculty member from participating in the mediation process and serve on the hearing committee.

The court found there was no procedural breach and there was "serious cause" to fire Collins, it reversed the prior decision in Notre Dame's favor and dismissed Collins' cross-appeal.

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