Research assistant professor Andrew Aprikyan waits to see if the judge will accept his temporary injunction. The UW has been trying to fire Aprikyan for allegedly falsifying research.
The UW fired research assistant professor Andrew Aprikyan Friday after a seven-year legal battle with the university stemming from an accusation of research misconduct.
In a Friday hearing, presiding judge Joan DuBuque ruled against the petition Aprikyan filed that asked the King County Superior Court to stop the university from firing him pending further review of his case.
DuBuque said that in order for her to grant an injunction preventing the termination of an employee, Aprikyan and his attorneys would have to prove that there is no other legal way for them to address the negative consequences of the termination, such as suing for damages.
“If I were to accept what the petitioner has indicated … it would mean that in every case involving a research scientist that the court would have to grant a preliminary injunction, because the reality is that the impacts of the decision to terminate would be the same for every research scientist,” DuBuque said. “So the request to issue a preliminary injunction is denied.”
Aprikyan’s appointment with the university was officially terminated Friday, Norm Arkans, UW associate vice president for media relations said.
The UW began investigating the alleged misconduct in 2003 by appointing a scientific advisory committee to review the blood-related research in question and find scientific evidence to prove or disprove the accusation of misconduct. The committee, appointed by Paul Ramsey, dean of the UW School of Medicine, determined that Aprikyan had fabricated data in two of three manuscripts under review.
A faculty adjudication committee next reviewed the case, disagreeing with the scientific committee by concluding that the university did not produce enough evidence to prove that Aprikyan had intentionally falsified his research findings.
UW President Mark Emmert reversed the faculty panel’s decision on January 22, saying that the panel did not have sufficient expertise to judge whether or not the evidence was sufficient. On March 4, he ordered that Aprikyan’s position be terminated.
In response to Emmert’s decision, Aprikyan filed a petition for judicial review. The first part of this review occurred Friday, at a hearing in which Aprikyan’s attorney, Rick Gautschi, argued the university did not follow rules regarding the investigation of scientific misconduct or the termination of an employee as listed in the Faculty Code, among other things, and therefore did not have the right to fire his client because they did not give him a fair trial.
“It must have been eerily reminiscent to him of something he had witnessed all too often growing up in the Soviet Union,” Gautschi said. “Public trials where an accused person who had allegedly committed crimes against the state was given the opportunity for a fair trial, but everybody knew that the verdict would be guilty, and the verdict was always guilty.”
Gautschi expanded on his comparison of the UW to the legal system of the Soviet Union.
“There was no presumption of innocence, in fact there was no presumption of guilt,” he said. “Guilt was predetermined prior to the start of the trial. There’s a term for that kind of proceeding. It’s called a show trial.”
Gautschi asked the court to set aside Emmert’s order to terminate Aprikyan’s appointment at the UW, saying the decision was unfair.
“This is what the respondents are asking this court to do, to place its stamp of approval on a decision by President Emmert that makes a mockery of the basic principles that underlie the system of justice in this country,” he said.
Louis Peterson, UW’s attorney in the proceeding, argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because Emmert, Provost Phyllis Wise and other listed respondents were not notified properly of the petition, and because the university itself was not named as a respondent to the petition.
“There is a significant issue about the failure to join the University of Washington as a party to this preceding,” DuBuque said
Peterson also argued the UW acted properly and followed the Faculty Code in response to the alleged misconduct.
“Dean Ramsey spent over 100 hours of his own time reviewing the record comprehensively, and he wrote a comprehensive decision in which he found seven instances of unequivocal scientific fraud,” he said. “Under the law, that’s the final decision of the University of Washington.”
The court agreed with the UW’s legal team and declined to grant the injunction preventing the university from dismissing Aprikyan.
Aprikyan’s case will return to King County Superior Court on November 15, when the court will determine whether he is guilty of scientific misconduct. If he is found not guilty during the November hearings, Aprikyan plans to seek damages from the university.
Reach reporter Natalie Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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