17 J.L. & Educ. 281 (1988)
Eckmann v. Board of Education of Hawthorn School District: Bad Management Makes Bad Law

handle is hein.journals/jle17 and id is 291 raw text is: Eckmann v. Board of Education of
Hawthorn School District:
Bad Management Makes Bad Law
DONAL M. SACKEN*
It has been suggested that both hard cases and easy cases make bad
law. I Eckmann v. Board of Education of Hawthorn School District2 sug-
gests a third aphorism: bad management makes bad law. This case was
generated by a local school board's dismissal of a teacher who had become
an unwed mother. Such dismissals are in general legally problematic, but
here a rapist had impregnated the teacher. The jury demonstrated its out-
rage towards the board by awarding the teacher a 3.3 million dollar ver-
dict. Although the judge reduced the verdict, he made pointedly critical re-
marks regarding the board's conduct. More importantly, he also
grounded the legal justification for the jury's decision in a recognition of
Eckmann's constitutionally protected decision to bear a child, irrespective
of prior marriage. While the outcome in this case is both desirable and
legally defensible, this general constitutional principle could work in-
tolerable mischief for school boards and represents an unnecessary
judicialization of a complex social question, more appropriate to resolu-
tion in another governmental forum.
The Antecedent Events3
Eckmann was an outsider in the small, somewhat rural town of
Marengo, Illinois. In 1977, she moved to the town from Chicago to be-
come a teacher. She arrived as a stranger to the community in more than
*Associate Professor, Educational Administration, University of Arizona.
1. Compare BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY 847 (4th ed. 1968) (Hard cases are the quicksand of the
law.) with Ross v. Springfield Sch. Dist. No. 19, 716 P.2d 724, 730 (Or. 1986) ( 'Easy' cases make
bad law.).
2. 636 F. Supp. 1214 (N.D. I11. 1986).
3. The facts of this case are recited briefly in the opinion. However, two newspaper accounts of
the case amplified the trial judge's recitation. See Smothers, Marengo, Ill. v. Jeanne Eckmann, Los
Angeles Daily J., Dec. 7, 1982, at 7, and Ranir, Teacher Awarded $3.3 Million in 'Immorality'
Dismissal Case, Nat'l L. J., July 22, 1985, at 9.

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