Labor / Employment, Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Sex, Sex Scandals, Sexual Harassment

A Super-Salacious Lawsuit, Settled

Former dean Larry Mitchell

Color me disappointed. The parties have reached a settlement in Ku v. Mitchell. We won’t get to hear trial testimony about a law school dean allegedly propositioning students and staff or trying to set up threesomes on a bed with Chinese silk sheets.

Okay, let’s rewind. Last October, Case Western law professor Raymond Ku filed a lawsuit against former Case dean Lawrence Mitchell and against the university. Ku alleged that he suffered retaliation after reporting to university officials that Mitchell had potentially sexually harassed women at the law school, including employees and students. In the wake of the lawsuit, Mitchell took a leave of absence as dean, then resigned the deanship (but remained on the faculty).

Today brings word of the parties settling the case. What are the terms of the settlement, and what do the parties have to say about it?

Here’s a report from the Cleveland Scene:

The settlement comes after nearly nine months of subpoenas, affidavits, motions to strike and the defendants (CWRU and Mitchell) appealing court discovery procedures…. The closure of the case comes after Case Western and Mitchell appealed a judge’s ruling on electronic discovery protocol — which would have likely yielded even more corroborating and embarrassing information against the former dean and the university — and before the case could go to trial, which would have highlighted everything in an even more public forum (see our story “Sex, Politics and Revenge” for details).

I previously suggested — based on Dean Mitchell and CWRU’s aggressive public pronouncements and choice of counsel — that this case might make it to trial. But in the end, the prospect of even more dirty laundry emerging was probably just too much to bear.

The parties issued a joint statement about the settlement. It predictably praises both Ku and the university for acting in the best interests of the law school (even though Ku and CWRU were working at cross-purposes at various points in the case).

UPDATE (4:00 p.m.): The statement does include some warm praise for Ku from Michael N. Ungar, the mediator who handled the case: “In my opinion, Professor Ku acted in the best interests of students, staff, and faculty.” Ku can take that to be a kind of vindication (in addition to any monetary payment he might have received).

The statement notes that the settlement terms are confidential, but includes this information:

Effective July 1, Professor Ku, who has published widely on legal issues involving the Internet, privacy, and copyright, will become Director of the law school’s newly created Center for Cyberspace Law & Policy.

We’re guessing that’s part of the settlement. Recall that one of Professor Ku’s claims of retaliation was how he got stripped of his co-directorship of the Center for Law, Technology and the Arts.

(This is, by the way, a very “law school” solution. Is there a problem that needs solving, or a faculty member who needs appeasing? Create a new center! You get a center, and you get a center, and everybody gets a center! Centers for Law and Blah-Blah are legal academia’s answer to the politician’s “task force” or “blue-ribbon commission.”)

Then the statement pivots toward Case Western’s progress as a law school:

Case Western Reserve’s law school has made significant gains in the 2013-2014 academic year, including dramatic increases in admissions applications and deposits as well as major improvements in the proportion of graduates employed in positions requiring bar passage.

These accomplishments are reflected in Case Western breaking into ATL’s top 50 law schools. Our rankings focus on employment outcomes, not (admittedly titillating) distractions like allegedly misbehaving deans, so Case’s moving up despite tawdry headlines is not a total shock.

We reached out to Subodh Chandra, counsel to Ku, to see if he had anything to add to the joint statement. He simply stated, presumably pursuant to the settlement’s confidentiality provisions, that “the matter has been resolved to the parties’ satisfaction.”

Perhaps not entirely to spectators’ satisfaction; we wouldn’t have minded some juicy in-court revelations about former Dean Mitchell’s alleged acts of sleaze. But hey, it’s not all about us; it’s about what’s best for the Case Western law school community.

Congratulations to Raymond Ku on his new Center, and congratulations to Larry Mitchell and to Case Western on putting this messy matter behind them. Things might be awkward in the faculty lounge for a while, but that’s a small price to pay for keeping meat-section misadventures out of the headlines.

Case Western Reserve Settles Lawsuit By Law Professor Who Claimed Retaliation After Reporting Law School Dean’s Sexual Harassment [Cleveland Scene]
Professor Raymond Ku and Case Western Reserve University resolve Ku v. Mitchell [Chandra Law Firm]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Lawrence Mitchell

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