Education

Former UK student appeals dismissal of lawsuit over gun on campus

A former University of Kentucky graduate student and employee has appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit he filed against UK over his firing for having a gun in his parked car on school property.

Michael Mitchell has asked that the case be reviewed immediately by the Kentucky Supreme Court because it involves the right to bear arms granted by the Kentucky and the U.S. constitutions.

"This case presents a question of great and immediate public importance to the citizens of the commonwealth because, without a swift resolution of this case, more than 300,000 students and employees of the various colleges, universities, technical schools and other postsecondary education institutions will be unable to exercise their right of self-defense and possession of firearms in support of that right," according to a motion asking that the case be transferred from the Kentucky Court of Appeals to the state Supreme Court. The motion was filed Monday by Mitchell's attorney, Christopher Hunt of Lexington.

"In addition, any other citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky or the United States is also at risk of having their fundamental right to bear arms and defend themselves infringed by the lower court's ruling," the motion says.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university does not comment on pending litigation.

Last month, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine dismissed Mitchell's suit, which was filed in January.

She said that UK's policy of prohibiting possession of a deadly weapon on campus was not a violation of public policy and that Mitchell was not wrongfully dismissed. She said the right to bear arms is not absolute, and exceptions have been recognized by the state Supreme Court.

Hunt said then that he and his client didn't dispute that the university has some authority to control firearms on its property but that the authority does not extend to a person's vehicle.

Mitchell, 27, was fired as an anesthesia assistant at the UK Chandler Medical Center in April 2009 after he told UK officials he had a concealed-carry permit for a firearm he kept in his vehicle, which was parked in a Commonwealth Stadium parking lot. Mitchell was a UK graduate student studying epidemiology.

In July 2009, Mitchell was awarded unemployment benefits. UK officials argued before an unemployment hearing officer that Mitchell was fired for misconduct and thus should be denied unemployment benefits. Mitchell argued that he was dismissed for a reason other than misconduct, and the hearing officer ruled in Mitchell's favor.

Mitchell was to have begun studying to become a physician this month at Ross University in the West Indies.

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