Sexual Harassment

Dean Lawrence Mitchell

These are not rhetorical questions. We expect candor from the university we hired to educate us. As future lawyers, we won’t accept a Potemkin village and will see through any façade erected to make us feel that all is well. Reminding us that there is a new curriculum (which doesn’t seem to amount to more than shifting around the furniture on the Titanic) will not make us look away from the real issues.

– Editors of The Docket, the student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in an editorial entitled Some Hard Questions for President Snyder, posing queries to university administrators about the retaliation lawsuit filed by Professor Raymond Ku against Dean Lawrence Mitchell (who is now on leave).

Dean Lawrence Mitchell

When Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law announced earlier this week that he was taking a temporary leave of absence, we offered two theories about why. The first was that the university wanted to remove him from his post so it could conduct an independent investigation of the allegations made against him in a lawsuit by Professor Raymond Ku. The second was that Dean Mitchell wanted to devote his full time and energy to fighting Professor Ku’s lawsuit, which claims that the dean retaliated against Professor Ku after Ku reported alleged sexual harassment by the dean to university officials.

Of these two theories, the second is probably closer to the truth. Through his lawyers, Dean Mitchell is fighting back — hard — and the university seems to be supporting him all the way.

Since we’ve devoted extensive coverage to the allegations of the lawsuit against Dean Mitchell, let’s now hear the arguments defending him (and attacking Professor Ku). Some of them have been made by Dean Mitchell’s lawyers and the university, and some come from Case Western students and faculty members with whom we have communicated. They paint a most interesting picture….

(Please note the UPDATE added to the end of this post, a message just sent out to Case alumni by President Barbara R. Snyder.)

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V is for ‘victory’?

Critics of Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell won’t have Dean Mitchell to kick around any more — at least for now. The embattled dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, accused in a lawsuit of retaliating against a Case faculty member who blew the whistle on alleged sexual harassment by Dean Mitchell, is taking a temporary leave of absence.

Dean Mitchell and the university haven’t commented much on the allegations of Professor Raymond Ku’s complaint (which was recently amended to add some juicier allegations). The university did issue a statement denying that retaliation occurred, and the dean told the Case community to keep calm and carry on.

To make that process easier, he’s stepping away from his deanly duties for a time. Let’s check out his announcement….

(Please note the UPDATE added at the end of this post.)

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I don’t think we’ll be seeing Case Western Reserve School of Law Dean Lawrence Mitchell writing a New York Times op-ed about the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him. So I think the email he just sent to Case Western Law students will have to suffice as his official response — at least until he can figure out how to wrap “defending the dean from faculty allegations” into Case Western’s revamped curriculum.

I’m not surprised he said something about it. One thing that we’ve clearly seen from Mitchell’s time at Case Western is that he’s a media hound, so long as he doesn’t actually have to answer any questions from the media. He seems to be far more concerned with how he (and the school) is perceived than anything else. Oh, he was going to say something.

But since he can’t really talk about the case against him directly, his email was just reduced to (you guessed it) telling students how lucky they were to be going to Case Western! Of course they are, don’t you wish you could be going to a school where your dean is slowly becoming a national punchline?

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* A Houston couple is suing Carnival Cruises for stranding them on that infamous Poop Ship. Except they were never on that ship. [Houston Chronicle]

* Herman Cain has figured out the culprit behind the sexual harassment allegations that plagued his campaign. It was the Devil! Maybe O.J. should look into where the Devil was when Ron and Nicole were killed. [Talking Points Memo]

* In the running for the worst company name ever: “Dis Is We Thing, Inc.” As always, Above the Law is brought to you by They It Is, LLC. [Rapaport Law Firm]

* The mixologists behind “The OxyContin” cocktail have renamed it “The Cease and Desist” after the pharmaceutical company that makes OxyContin shot off its cease and desist letter. Because this cocktail was more damaging to their reputation than being one of the most used and abused drugs on the market. [Forbes]

* People unfairly zero in on the personalities behind information leaks rather than the substance of the leaks themselves. I don’t know about that… I mean, The Fifth Estate bombed. [Politix]

* The new Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game is coming to America. I gather you can yell “Objection!” at your Nintendo DS and it responds. Anyway, here’s the review. [GameSpot]

* Down in Texas, Judge Sandra Watts got a taste of the new draconian totally fair voter ID requirements when election officials tried to block the 49-year veteran of the voting process from voting because her maiden name was on her ID. Thankfully for Judge Watts, she understood the law a little better than the poll workers. [ThinkProgress]

* Mike Lickver, whose legally-inspired music videos have graced these pages a couple of times before, has a new video. It’s not legally-themed at all, but he’s a rapping lawyer, so we give him a pass for venturing out into other themes. Video after the jump…

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Dean Lawrence Mitchell

Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law is not your ordinary law school dean. How many other deans have been the subject of an ATL caption contest?

Case Western is a prominent and well-ranked law school, #68 in the latest U.S. News rankings. It didn’t make the ATL Law School rankings, which stop at the top 50, but Case Western alumni give their alma mater a solid B-plus, as you can see from the school’s ATL Career Center profile.

But Mitchell’s fame comes less from Case Western and more from his national profile as a defender of legal education. Last year, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, Law School Is Worth the Money, that went viral.

Critics of Mitchell’s piece, including my colleague Elie Mystal, accused the dean of screwing over his students. Case Western charges tuition of almost $50,000, but less than 50 percent of its graduates secure full-time, long-term employment as lawyers, according to Law School Transparency.

Today Dean Mitchell is back in the news. A lawsuit filed this morning alleges that he screws his students more literally….

(See the UPDATE added below for the university’s response to the complaint.)

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I think we all saw this day coming. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito certainly did. Last term, Alito’s holding in Vance v. Ball State essentially announced that it was open season on women you work with as long as you are not their direct superior. Thanks to “Alito time,” you can now sexually harass pretty much any woman at the office so long as she doesn’t directly report to you, without getting your employer in trouble.

And sure, while it might be fun to sexually harass your boss’s secretary, asking female colleagues to “touch it” is not without its dangers. In this crazy world, the female object of your desire might one day become your boss, or something similarly ridiculous. And who really wants to feel up a career-oriented co-worker anyway? Even if she can’t sue the company, she’s probably just going to be bitch about it in some uncool fashion anyway.

No, the gold standard for harassing people at work are the young, nubile, and generally helpless interns. They’re the ones who can’t really even complain about it. They’re the ones who might take your creepy advances as a career opportunity. And now, according to a New York judge, you can do pretty much anything you want to them, so long as they are so desperate as to be working for your company for free….

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Remember a couple of months ago when a local radio host accused a cab driver of taking lewd video of her? Remember how I reflexively took the side of the local celeb, a woman accusing a big bad man of inappropriate sexual conduct?

I might have gotten that a bit wrong. Authorities have now dropped the charges against the cab driver and accused the woman of making the whole thing up.

Yeah…

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* Lawyers from the DOJ are literally begging judges to stay their litigation cases because they’re not allowed to work unless it’s an emergency. How very lucky for U.S. Air. [Blog of Legal Times]

* FYI, the IRS wants to further screw victims of layoffs. If you were recently laid off and received a severance package from your firm, this is a SCOTUS case you’ll want to follow this Term. [Reuters]

* Which Biglaw firm has the best brand in the world? We’ll give you a hint: it’s not the new top dog on the Am Law Global 100 (and that glorious firm didn’t even finish in second place). We’ll have more on this later. [Am Law Daily]

* Yet another Biglaw firm just elected its first woman chair ever. Congratulations to Jami Wintz McKeon, the power litigatrix who will lead Morgan Lewis to great success in the coming years. [Am Law Daily]

* Thanks to another huge gift from an alumnus, U. Chicago Law is going to create a business leadership program at the school. Yay! [DealBook / New York Times]

* Some corporate “girl on girl action”: ex-employees of the National Association of Professional Women are now suing the organization over a female manager’s sexual harassment. [DealBook / New York Times]

* New Jersey’s AG is desperately trying to delay the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses after a trial judge’s ruling last week. At this point, the Garden State’s arguments are just livin’ on a prayer. [Bloomberg]

Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

In our last story about Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, we noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute: “The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.”

When we last checked in on the case, Marchuk’s lawyers announced their intent to seek sanctions against the defendants. The basis for that move: the defendants’ counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging that she defamed the defendants by creating or helping to create an anonymous Gmail account that was used to disseminate her lawsuit over email. Marchuk’s lawyers denied that their client emailed her complaint around and said that they would seek sanctions from the defendants for the “frivolous and abusive” counterclaims — which sought a whopping $15 million from Marchuk.

Until now, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher. But today brings word of a possible de-escalation in this hard-fought battle….

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