Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Case Western Reserve Settles Lawsuit By Law Professor Who Claimed Retaliation After Reporting Law School Dean’s Sexual Harassment

Posted By on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Former CWRU law school dean Lawrence Mitchell (left) and law professor Ray Ku (right).
  • Former CWRU law school dean Lawrence Mitchell (left) and law professor Ray Ku (right).

Lawyers for Case Western Reserve University law school professor Raymond Ku announced today that the suit against the university and former law school dean Lawrence Mitchell has been settled.

The settlement comes after nearly nine months of subpoenas, affidavits, motions to strike and the defendants (CWRU and Mitchell) appealing court discovery procedures. In October 2013, Ku filed suit against the university and Mitchell for alleged retaliation after reporting Mitchell’s sexual harassment to school administrators. 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).

Here's the full joint statement on the settlement on the website for the Chandra Law Firm, which represented Ku along with Boland Legal:

We are pleased to announce that Case Western Reserve and Professor Raymond Ku have resolved their differences in a manner that will conclude Professor Ku’s litigation against the university and its former law-school dean.

Ku has been a tenured professor at Case Western Reserve’s law school since 2003, and served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “In my opinion, Professor Ku acted in the best interests of students, staff, and faculty,” said mediator Michael N. Ungar, a former Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association president and chair of the Ulmer & Berne law firm’s litigation department. “Likewise, in my opinion, the University has also acted in the best interests of the law school and all members of the school community. The devotion of both to students, staff, and faculty is unquestioned.”

Ungar added: “This has been a hard case, but everyone involved focused on finding a solution that would further the success and momentum of the law school. While the university and Professor Ku had significant differences regarding this matter, their sincere desire to act in the school’s best interests prevailed. I commend them all for their diligence, integrity, and willingness to look beyond individual disagreements and embrace collaboration toward a common goal. As is typical in these types of situations, the details of the resolution are confidential.”

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.

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. The University looks forward to Professor Ku continuing his contributions to this positive momentum and welcomes his ongoing service and commitment to the school.

These circumstances have been challenging for everyone involved. The university and Professor Ku are glad that they were able to find a path that allows everyone to move past these recent difficulties and focus squarely on advancing the law school. Meanwhile, both the university and Professor Ku convey their profound gratitude to the entire law-school community for the dedication its members have demonstrated to the institution and its students.

The terms of the settlement (or “details of an understanding,” per Case Western’s lawyers) have not been disclosed, but it's likely Ku's appointment as director of the school's Center for Cyberspace Law & Policy was apart of the agreement. Leadership positions in school programs were a main area of contention between Ku and former law school dean Lawrence Mitchell.

Talks of a settlement have been in the works in recent weeks. In a July 2 motion by Case Western for an extension of time to file a brief in their appealing of the discovery process, their lawyers write to the court:

The grounds for the request are that the parties have been engaged in on-going discussions and are finalizing the details of an understanding that will negate the need to move forward with this appeal or to brief the discovery and privilege matters at issue in the appeal. The requested extension will allow the parties to devote their time and resources to finalizing their discussions rather than towards preparing briefs that likely will not be necessary.

… Counsel for Appellant Lawrence Mitchell in the related appeal … are also aware of the ongoing discussions and and are seeking a similar extension … in order to facilitate the discussions.

The saga was the focus of a May cover story by Scene, titled “Sex, Politics and Revenge: Lawrence Mitchell Was Supposed to Bring Stability to Case Western Reserve University’s Law School, Not Treat It as His Personal Pickup Playground.”

There, we reported Mitchell’s creepy behavior was well known by those within the school. We reported documented and known instances of Mitchell engaging in relationships with students and subordinates at George Washington, where he was a top professor, and how he quickly engaged in similar behavior as soon as he arrived in Cleveland. There were multiple instances of Mitchell propositioning students and subordinate staff for threesomes, and much more behavior that the university should have dealt with. He’d then work to force out staff members who reported him — like Ray Ku, who filed suit, and former assistant Daniel Dube, who submitted an affidavit with his own experience, backing up Ku’s claims — all under the watchful eye of school administrators like President Barbara Snyder and Provost Bud Baeslack.

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