The Volokh Conspiracy

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Yale's Motion to Dismiss the Yale Law School DinnerPartyGate Lawsuit


I wrote about the Complaint in November, and included this excerpt (which is of course just the plaintiffs' side of the story):

[1.] Two Yale Law School deans, along with Yale Law School's Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, worked together in an attempt to blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation for refusing to lie to support the University's investigation into a professor of color.

[2.] Gerken, Yale Law School's Dean, and Cosgrove, the Associate Dean, approached an esteemed law professor and expert in constitutional law, and discouraged the professor—who already employed Jane and John as long-term research assistants—from hiring Jane and John as so-called "Coker Fellows," prestigious teaching assistant positions that often lead to federal clerkships and other lucrative career opportunities.

[3.] Defendants Gerken and Cosgrove approached the professor as retaliation for Plaintiffs Jane and John's reporting a harassing and defamatory report (the "Dossier"), which was compiled and circulated by another law student and related to Plaintiffs' private interactions with a high-profile Yale Law School Professor, Amy Chua ….

[4.] The Dossier, which Defendants disseminated, placed Jane and John at the center of an ongoing campus-politics feud between Gerken and Chua.

[5.] When Plaintiffs reported the Dossier to the University, Defendants Cosgrove and Eldik pressured Jane and John to make knowingly and materially false statements in a formal complaint against Chua.

[6.] When Plaintiffs refused, Gerken and Cosgrove retaliated by speaking with the professor and telling him that he should not hire Jane and John because of their "lack of candor," despite Plaintiffs' steadfast refusal to lie to further the University's crusade against Chua.

[7.] Not only did Gerken and Cosgrove harm Plaintiffs by knowingly circulating a document full of lies to Plaintiffs' employer and professor, but they also violated the University's Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment (the "Handbook")—by its own terms a binding contract on all members of Yale's community—whereby the administration is explicitly prohibited from retaliating against students who report a concern, file a complaint, and/or participate in an investigation….

(You can also read the currently operative Second Amended Complaint.) The Motion to Dismiss (in the case now called Stubbs v. Gerken) has just been filed, so I thought I'd quote its summary of argument—you can of course read the full motion for more:

The Yale anti-retaliation policy on which Plaintiffs base their breach of contract claim [and their promissory estoppel claim] was not yet even in effect when Plaintiffs allege they were retaliated against, and in any event the policy prohibits retaliation based on complaints of discrimination or harassment related to protected characteristics (such as race or gender), not on any conceivable sort of alleged retaliation….

Their tortious interference claim fails because they do not allege any specific business relationships they had with professors or judges—except for their relationship with the Professor, and as to him, they do not allege that he did not extend teaching assistant offers to them.

The defamation claim against Gerken and Cosgrove fails because Plaintiffs allege  statements of opinion, and their defamation claim relating to Bell's statements likewise relies on opinion statements—and opinions offered by a professor not alleged to have been part of the school's administration or in any other way acting in furtherance of her employer when she commented as a law professor on a lawsuit.

Plaintiffs' unreasonable publicity and false light claims fail because they do not allege Defendants ever publicized the already very-public "dossier," which they admit has attracted significant public interest.

Finally, the IIED claim fails because it does not allege extreme and outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress.