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Court: $666 Pay Raise Not Diabolical

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 25, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

They say the devil's in the details.

No, really, that's what a law professor and an assistant dean said in their complaint against their old law school. Professor Sheldon Gelman said his $666 pay raise was intended to invoke the "mark of the beast."

Gelman alleged that Dean Craig Boise, of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, basically called him "Satan" for organizing a union. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said, well, no.


In an unpublished opinion, Lifter v. Cleveland State University, the appeals court affirmed the dismissal of the complaint by Gelman and his wife Jean Lifter. They were both long-term employees: Gelman retired after 35 years in 2015; Sheldon was laid off in 2012 after 37 years.

They sued in federal court, alleging the law school retaliated against them. A district court judge dismissed on a motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit looked again at the facts. The judges concluded that there was no mystery about Gelman's $666 pay raise or his claim that the law school retaliated against him.

"[T]here is no material issue of fact as to how Boise reached the $666 figure," the court said. It had "no biblical significance," and "fell on pro-union and anti-union faculty members alike."

Budget Cuts

Lifter, the judges said, could not sue for her husband's First Amendment claims. They said she was laid off amid declining enrollment and budget shortfalls.

Gelman retired after the school offered him a buyout. Boise went on to become dean of Syracuse University College of Law.

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