Larry Mitchell Resigns From Case Western Deanship

Lawrence MitchellDean Lawrence Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law has resigned from his post after taking a leave of absence on November 6th amid charges of sexual harassment. Mitchell had previously said he would not resign and cited the support of the University. He also attracted the initial support of individuals like David Lat at Above the Law. However, the university reportedly may now be investigating the matter and a court has rejected Mitchell’s effort to strike large portions of the amended complaint.

Mitchell, a former colleague of mine at George Washington University, noted that past developments make it unlikely that he could resume the deanship with “the same energy and enthusiasm that characterized my earlier service.” Mitchell concluded that “[a]t this point, it is in the best interest of the law school for me to step down as dean . . . I will retain my position as a tenured professor and continue to seek to serve the school however I can.”

300px-Case_Western_Reserve_University_seal.svgThe scandal at the school could not come at a worse time for the law school which was ranked as showing one of the sharpest declines in applications in the nation. There are now reports of the University investigating the matter after being criticized for its initial response. That is viewed as a change from its earlier absolute defense of Mitchell. Mitchell has retained one of the leading firms in the area as well as a well-known public relations firm, Dix & Eaton. It is not clear whether the university will pay the fees for the law firm or the public relations firm. The investigation of the matter by the university could reflect a recognition that the earlier response of the University was not sufficient, as claimed by those bringing these allegations. However, the delay in the investigation may not satisfy a jury on the role or record of the university. If the investigation finds support for the allegations, it may magnify the view that it reacted in a biased and obstructionist fashion when the allegations were first raised. If they clear Mitchell, it could be viewed as a tactical move to improve its position in court.

6a00d8341c4eab53ef019b0041f004970b-200wiThe amended complaint of Law Professor Raymond Ku alleges that Mitchell engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation as Dean, including suggestions of three-some trysts with students and administrators. The complaint further claims relations with students during Mitchell’s tenure at George Washington Law School and notes that he married a student while a law professor. Ku’s allegations have been reportedly affirmed by a former administrator who came with Mitchell to Case Western from GWU, Daniel Dubé. There are also unnamed faculty and students referenced in the complaint. [For Dubé’s affidavit, click here]

The complaint states that a professor reported an allegation from a student that Mitchell had proposed a “threesome” and sexual flirting and harassment by the dean. Media has reported that Daniel Dubé had come forward to say that he is Administrative Staff Member 3 referenced in the complaint. The complaint states that Administrative Member 3 reported Mitchell’s alleged sexual relationship with a law student and that he was then subject to retaliation from Mitchell. The complaint states that he was offered a severance package in exchange for a nondisclosure agreement.

The complaint states that Administrative Staff Member 3 recounted how Mitchell had proposed a threesome with the staff member and his date during a party at Mitchell’s home. Mitchell’s prior tenure at GWU is also part of the complaint: “Before Dean Mitchell arrived at Case Law School to begin his deanship, his reputation preceded him. Members of the search committee and the Case Law School faculty, including Professor Ku, were aware of concerns about Dean Mitchell’s sexual behavior at [George Washington University Law School], including at least one sexual relationship with a law student and other inappropriate and questionable conduct.” [For the record, I was not interviewed by their search committee and gave no information to the school].

Mitchell has denied all of the allegations and his counsel, before answering the complaint, tried to strip the complaint of some allegations, insisting that Ku is a bitter and disgruntled colleague who had it out for him after he beat Ku in the competition for the deanship and is trying “to cover up and distract from his unsatisfactory performance.” The motion sought to “strike certain immaterial, impertinent and scandalous allegations and materials.” The motion insists these “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous allegations are in no way relevant to the limited claim in this case as to whether Ku was retaliated against in his employment, are clearly prejudicial to Dean Mitchell, and must be immediately stricken from the court record to prevent even further harm to Dean Mitchell’s reputation and goodwill.” Ku’s counsel responded to the motion as an effort to shield Mitchell from embarrassment. Cuyahoga County Common Please Judge Peter J. Corrigan denied the motion.

As noted earlier, with the complaint unchanged, the discovery in this matter is likely to be drawn out and bitter. Absent a settlement, this could be a costly and protracted contest.

What is clear is that Mitchell is unlikely to be considered by another law school while these allegations remain unresolved and he now faces two fronts: an investigation at the university and litigation in the courts. Even if he defeats the lawsuit, it will not likely remove the stigma of having controversies involving sexual matters at two different schools. That may cut off an alternative avenue in academia and leave him with the choice of staying on the Case Western faculty permanently or leaving teaching entirely. Faculties tend to be small and insular places — making this a rather awkward relationship going forward.

With the resignation, the University may find Mitchell something of a liability, particularly if the investigation finds merit in the allegations. Mitchell could then negotiate a golden parachute deal to leave the school. Indeed, attorneys will often discourage a resignation in such cases in the hopes of securing such a deal for a lump sum payment (in exchange for tenure surrender) and/or continuing litigation support. That is not necessarily the motivation of Mitchell in this case, who insists that these allegations are simply retaliatory measures of bitter employees. Mitchell is a talented academic with a long list of impressive works in the corporate field. He is also highly ambitious and creative. He is not someone who is likely to willingly fade into obscurity. I expect that he would be marketable at corporate law firms where these allegations may be viewed as less of a problem, particularly if he goes to New York.

Mitchell remains adamant that the allegations are false. It is unclear if a settlement could still be reached. If the university shifts its position against Mitchell, it could seek a settlement with the plaintiffs that includes damaging findings against Mitchell as well as some limited financial settlement with the payment of legal fees. That would leave Mitchell quite isolated. For Mitchell, he may only want vindication given the impact on his career since a settlement would likely require a concession of some wrongdoing. Complicating the matter further the question of those fees if the university adopts a more hostile position.

The resignation will at least bringing closure for the leadership of the school, which needs to deal with both the damage of the scandal and the danger presented by dropping applications. Case Western is a strong school with a talented faculty. It has long been a rock for the local bar. Hopefully, the graduates of the school will rally behind the institution and return even stronger from this period.

Source: National Law Journal (sub.req.)

8 thoughts on “Larry Mitchell Resigns From Case Western Deanship”

  1. Clearly the current university Provost along with the current President are vulnerable and complicit in retaliation by virtue of initial mishandling of Ku complaints

  2. I would think that the law school would not want this guy as a teacher, at least until he is found innocent of the charges. They have a duty to protect the student body from an alleged sexual harasser. They may run into the same problems Northwestern is having with a professor who is alleged to have sexually harassed students.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if the allegations were true. Universities make the Roman Catholic Church look like amateurs in tolerating sexual harassment. A well known figure in my subfield climbed to ever more prestigious schools and/or positions despite well-documented allegations of harassment. Even more easily proven charges of financial imporriety weren’t enough to derail his career. Finally, after a couple decades, sex and financial impropriety came together and put him in prison–an affair went bad and the the wounded party knew of his now quite huge financial improprieties and that finally ended his career. His research was never anything special but he acquired powerful friends along the way.

  4. “Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law”
    — Sophocles

  5. On the morning of February 10, 1996, my wife’s and my adopted son and his wife were killed when their automobile exploded, in part, as I observed, to having many incompletely fused spot welds. On February 14, 1996, which was both St. Valentine’s day and the day on which we had planned to celebrate our son’s twenty-eighth birthday, we watched their caskets being lowered into their shared gravesite.

    Soon thereafter, my wife and I became respondents in a civil lawsuit centered on our daughter-in-law’s daughter (who was not our granddaughter) and our son’s and daughter-in-law’s son, who was supposedly our grandson.

    The plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney submitted an affidavit to the court in which it was stated that I was a known child abuser and, in effect, an unfit parent. All claims made by the plaintiff and made through the plaintiff’s attorney(s) to the effect of my being a known child abuser were absolutely and utterly false.

    My wife and I set out to find one or more attorneys who we thought could properly represent us, as we had no right to an attorney in such a civil court case. We did find attorneys at a law firm in Illinois who stated that they knew how to help us, and stated that they could not guarantee that their work would be effective. They also stated that, for them to take the case, we would need to have at least a million dollars, and possibly two million dollars or more,

    My wife and I had no achievable access to the money the attorneys said we needed to have to be represented by them, and neither my wife nor I could see any value whatsoever in paying lawyers anything when the lawyers indicated, as I understood them, that they did not know what to do other than collect money from us.

    That left me being a fool who goes into court pro-se, for want of any more useful and practicable alternative. I garnered a plethora of law books and law-professor-written books and set out in pursuit of an achievable way to rebut the falsehoods in the affidavit that asserted my being a known child abuser and unfit parent.

    To do that, I ignored the lawsuit and focused my effort on the upcoming probate court case, and, being pro-se and, in being not bound by lawyerly traditions, over many variations of briefs and affidavits, rebutted every false claim made against me without any of my rebuttals being challenged in court.

    After what I deemed an adequate amount of time had elapsed after my successful rebuttal of the false claims asserted against me, I set out, also successfully, to become licensed as a Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer.

    My continuing work in bioengineering, done in accord with the Code of Ethics of the National Society of Professional Engineer, is centered on the nature and function of deception as a critical aspect of the social construction of reality-defined-by-societal-consensus.

    I follow the Internet activity named, “Library of Social Science” of Richard A. Koenigsberg, Ph.D. Yesterday’s contribution by Dr. Koeningsberg is titled, “POLITICAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY.”

    Dr.. Koeningsberg mentions the DSM-IV definiiton of a “delusion” in his opening paragraph. To paraphrase that definition, with the purpose of my avoiding copyright infringement and also to promote the notion that I mau adequately understand said definition;

    A delusion is a mistaken belief, grounded in misunderstanding(s) of actual life events, which are resolutely sustained regardless of accurately demonstrated contrary evidence, and resolutely sustained in spite of other people in the assigned subculture of the person harboring the mistaken belief(s) not sharing the mistaken belief.

    An Internet search for “blog” and “library of social science” readily produced the blog on which is posted Dr. Koeningsberg’s “POLITICAL PSYCHOPATHOLOGY” for me.

    I never learned to believe that any actually avoidable accident or mistake ever actually happens, and I never learned to confuse hypothetical (fairy-tale?) reality with directly observable (actually tangible?) reality. As no actual, living, biological, person has ever been actually able to actually demonstrate to me even so much a one actually avoidable event which actually happened, I have, for the whole of my life, relegated any and every notion of actually avoidable events not having actually avoided to the trashcan of social-construction-of-reality trauma-generating delusions, doing so regardless of the percentage of people who harbor such (fairy tale, to me) delusions.

    I also ask people to demonstrate that my understanding of tangibly objective reality is actually false by demonstrating one (one is fully sufficient, methinks) event which actually happened and which was concurrently actually avoidable because it did not actually happen.

    That demonstration would totally and forever rebut, methinks, the whole set of the “laws of intelligible thought,” to wit: the law of identity (A is A), the law of non-contradiction {which, without contradiction is also known as the law of contradiction} (A is not non-A), the law of the excluded middle for actual dichotomies (A is not both A and B if A is not-B), the law of the included middle for continua (C is of both A and B, and A may include B as B may include A), and, finally, the law of rational inference (If, in certain particulars, A is the same as B, and if, in those same particulars, B is the same as C, then, in those same particulars, C is the same as A).

    Absent the “laws of intelligible thought,” my consistent experience is only that of unintelligible thought.

  6. Having dealt w/ many sexual harassment cases, I can think of few where the perpetrator did not vehemently deny the allegations. And, you all remember Bob Filner. But, he will have good counsel and the truth will come out, in this case probably kicking and screaming.

  7. Well written Prof. JT! Prof. Mitchell should leave the law school; Prof. Mitchell will have no problem finding another job. The longer he stays, the worst everyone looks. I think he will settle, and eventually leave the university.

    This is the concern with tenure that I have. He can resign his position as dean, but maintain his job as a law professor. This has to change in higher ed.

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on this issue.

Comments are closed.