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UNR whistleblower’s lawsuits thrown out

RENO — A federal judge has dismissed two lawsuits filed against the University of Nevada, Reno by a former professor who claims he was fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged abuse of research animals.

A lawyer for Hussein S. Hussein said he plans to appeal the ruling in the 4-year-old case.

“It is by no means over,” Reno attorney Jeff Dickerson said Friday.

Hussein, an internationally renowned animal nutritionist, was fired April 11 by UNR President Milton Glick after a disciplinary hearing regarding some of the research contracts he had secured and credit he gave graduate students for their work.

Hussein’s complaints about UNR’s animal farm and labs sparked a federal probe in 2005 and resulted in the Agriculture Department citing the university for 46 violations of federal animal welfare regulations from May 2004 to March 2005. The school agreed to pay an $11,400 fine.

U.S. District Court Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas ruled Thursday that Hussein had not produced enough evidence to show he was the victim of reprisals to warrant a jury trial.

The two lawsuits are among 14 Hussein has filed against UNR and its employees in state and federal courts. Seven cases have been dismissed, two are on appeal and five are pending, UNR officials said.

“We are certainly pleased with Judge Mahan’s decision,” said Chuck Hilsabeck, assistant general counsel with the university.

“It is our contention that the matters cited in the remaining lawsuits are largely derivative from the original two lawsuits dismissed” Thursday, he said.

“We anticipate the decision … to dismiss these two lawsuits will have important implications for the remaining lawsuits filed by Dr. Hussein and his attorney, Jeff Dickerson, in federal and state district courts. As these matters move through the courts, the actions and reputation of the university will be vindicated,” he said in a statement.

Dickerson said Mahan’s ruling marked a reversal of the judge’s position two months ago when he denied all motions to dismiss the case based on the same evidence.

“We have fought too hard to abandon ship now, especially with such inconsistent rulings from the same identical judge,” Dickerson said.

“We believe the appeals court will find this inconsistency unusual, for judges usually follow their own orders,” he said.

Hussein said he “cannot believe” the judge dismissed the two lawsuits. “I do not understand how a judge can go from green light to red light based on the same evidence in two months. I am shocked,” he said.

Earlier this week, Washoe County District Judge Connie Steinheimer refused to reinstate Hussein to his position at the university.

In April, Mahan found Hussein and Dickerson in contempt of court and ordered them to pay $25,516 in attorneys fees. Later that month, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt issued sanctions against Dickerson, ordering him to pay $32,428 in attorneys fees.

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