January 26, 2021

Ole Miss professor strikes back at state auditor with defamation lawsuit

Mississippi State Auditor Shad White has been sued by the Mississippi Center for Justice on behalf of an Ole Miss professor after White ordered the professor to pay nearly $2,000 for a work stoppage earlier this year.

The complaint filed in Hinds County Circuit Court raises a claim of defamation relating to White’s repeated contention that professor James Thomas violated Mississippi’s no-strike law. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that Thomas did not violate that law.

In the complaint,  attorneys with MCJ said that White attacked Thomas, who is a faculty member and teacher at the University of Mississippi, and falsely accused Thomas of violating Mississippi’s law prohibiting certain public employee strikes and called on the University to terminate his employment as a result.

Thomas had participated in a strike on Sept. 8 and 9, as part of a national “Scholar Strike” movement. White said strikes were illegal in Mississippi and that Thomas should have been fired.

“The false statement was made by Mr. White in a letter to the Chancellor of the University, in a subsequent letter to Dr. Thomas himself, in at least one press release, and in a number of interviews and other public statements,” the complaint reads.

“This lawsuit is brought on behalf of Dr. Thomas. It seeks to hold Mr. White accountable under the law of defamation for this false statement. However, Dr. Thomas does not seek the payment of any taxpayer money. This defamation suit is brought against Mr. White in his individual capacity,” the complaint reads. “If Mr. White is found to be liable for this false statement, the jury can decide whether he personally should pay any money. If the jury says he should pay one dollar, that is fine. If the jury orders payment of more money, that is fine too. But no taxpayer money will be paid to Dr. Thomas as a result of this lawsuit.”