Berkowitz Files Petition With Mass. High Court

Former Assistant Professor of Government Peter Berkowitz filed a petition for review with the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts on Monday, hoping that the state’s highest court will agree to review a June 6 decision of the Appeals Court of Massachusetts that threw out his civil suit.

If the SJC rejects his petition, it will likely mean the end of Berkowitz’s legal battle.

Harvard denied Berkowitz tenure in April 1997. Shortly thereafter, he alleged that he had learned of various improprieties in his tenure procedure and filed a lawsuit.

“If the Supreme Judicial Court agrees to review the case, I think it would be because the court decided the appeals court was wrong,” said Harvey A. Silverglate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who has long taken an interest in Harvard’s internal politics.

“If the SJC grants Berkowitz’s petition for review, I think it’s probably bad news for Harvard...but possibly good news for the University as an institution,” he added, saying that it would mean “more fairness for young professors.”

Silverglate says that the likelihood of the petition being granted is slim.

“I think it’s an uphill battle because Harvard has so much influence on the SJC,” he said, referring to the presence of SJC Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, former Harvard Vice President and General Counsel.

Marshall could choose to recuse herself because of the potential conflict of interest.

“Mr. Berkowitz has every right to follow the legal process as high as he wishes to go,” said University spokeperson Joe Wrinn. “We remain confident that we will continue to prevail.”

The SJC will likely hand down its decision before the end of the year, Silverglate said.

—LAURA L. KRUG