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Update on law school scandal at CWRU

Lawrence Mitchell, the dean of the law school at my university, has finally resigned from the deanship while continuing to be a tenured professor. He had been on a leave of absence while a lawsuit against him moved forward. The lawsuit had been brought by associate dean Raymond Ku who charged that Mitchell had retaliated against him for reporting numerous allegations of sexual misconduct involving students and faculty. (I know many of the law school faculty but have never met Mitchell who came here only in 2011. But I know and like Ku who has been here for some time. But not being in the law school, I have no inside knowledge on the merits of the charges.)

Jonathan Turley of George Washington University (where Mitchell worked before he came here and where there were also allegations of sexual improprieties has a good rundown of the situation, suggesting that the CWRU university administration has itself behaved inconsistently on the controversy, first stoutly defending Mitchell and now re-opening the investigation.

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. [My italics-MS]

This does not speak well of the ethical sensibilities of New York corporate law firms. But I guess we already knew that.

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