Tag Archives: Lawsuits Against Universities

Court Holds Grad Students Have Legal Rights, Dissenting Judges Bemoan The Death of Academic Freedom

Graduate students in America live like ancient monks: they subside primarily off of stale noodles and rice, in constant fear that bureaucratic politics or the whims of their superiors will end their careers at a moment’s notice. They spend a little time researching and a lot of time inflating egos and toiling in drudgery, too overwhelmed with the full professors’ work to complete their dissertations.   Part of the problem arises from the nature of academia. As the eminent physicist Max Planck said decades ago, "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Why Does The First Aurora Shooting Lawsuit Look So Dubious?

Back when news broke of James Holmes’ shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado on July, I briefly considered writing about it.  As hard as it is to write about a tragedy on a personal level, I genuinely find the law interesting; unpacking the liability after an air show disaster or a sexual predator run amuck at a university is, to me, both challenging and rewarding.  I was quite busy last week, though, and frankly my heart was not in it, because the news quickly got the civil liability story correct, leaving not much ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Do Paterno And Spanier Have Golden Parachutes At Penn State?

The Sandusky child molestation scandal at Penn State continues to be the biggest legal news in Pennsylvania. One lawsuit against Penn State and the Second Mile has already been filed, presumably because the victim was either nearing, or had already passed, the statute of limitations. A civil lawsuit can be filed at any point after a criminal act, though in that case the civil litigation is usually put on hold until the criminal case is finished. I've already discussed most of the issues in the cases that could be filed by sexual abuse survivors in my previous post, linked above, ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Corporations: It’s Our Fault, But You’ll Have To Pay

[Update: June 23, 2012: In the wake of Sandusky's guilty verdict, Penn State has changed its tune, and has indicated a willingness to discuss settlement. Reuters has an article that quotes me.] Whenever a corporation is caught causing a catastrophe — an oil company that destroys an ecosystem through shoddy maintenance, a drug manufacturer that sells a drug which they know causes cancer, et cetera — the corporate entity goes through a three-stage public relations process to avoid responsibility. First, there's denial. Nothing happened and if it did happen it's not so bad. Second, there's phony regret. It's not our fault, ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Colleges and Universities Start To Take Campus Rape Seriously (We Hope)

The fallout from the child molestation scandal at Penn State continues with a thousand articles saying roughly the same thing and a handful of in-depth reports, like Sports Illustrated’s This is Penn State piece, which explains a lot about what Happy Valley was like: Outgoing, accessible (his home phone number is in the campus directory) and philanthropic, Paterno was the benevolent despot. But he was a despot nonetheless. Org chart be damned—unlike Schultz and Curley, Paterno is not classified as a senior staff member—he ran the place. "He built this university, he built this town, and everybody knows it," says ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Can Sandusky’s Sexual Abuse Victims Sue Penn State?

[UPDATE, July 12, 2012: The independent report by Louis Freeh's law firm has been released. It is damning, to say the least, concluding there was a "total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims." Blame is rightfully heaped upon Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz.] [UPDATE, June 22, 2012: Jerry Sandusky was convicted on almost all counts. Reuters quoted me talking about the effect of the prosecution and conviction on the civil lawsuits pre-verdict here and post-verdict here. Short version: Penn State, as I had hoped, is signaling their ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Examining The Annie Le Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Yale University

As a Yale alum, I was shocked and horrified by the death of Annie Le, a Yale School of Medicine student murdered just a week before her own wedding. Like the Petit family murders, the crime was just a depraved act by a stranger, despite attempts by some to downplay it as a "crime of passion" or "workplace violence," as if any rape-murder were less evil if the perpetrator had delusions of attachment at the time of the crime or if they happened to be employed by the same company. She was targeted and it was murder; we know that from the ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Antitrust and The Univ. of California’s Proposed Boycott of Nature Publishing Group

Few enterprises generate as much frustration among their suppliers and consumers as the scientific publishing industry. The business model is so unfair it's comical: Governments, foundations, universities and private companies provide grants to researchers for scientific research; Researchers spend weeks, months, and sometimes years drafting papers based upon the results of their research; The papers are submitted to the publishers; The publishers send the papers out to other researchers, who peer review the papers free of charge; The publishers pick the best papers and publish them in their journals, without paying the authors; The publishers charge governments, foundations, universities, private ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Federal Circuit Invalidates Harvard and MIT’s Patent For NF-kB Gene Expression

Via Blawgletter (and a couple other sources), the whole eleven-judge Federal Circuit issued a rare en banc opinion that held, 9-2, that Harvard, MIT, the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Inc. couldn't, well, I'll let Barry Barnett explain: Ariad, MIT, the Whitehead Institute, and Harvard claimed that Eli Lilly infringed their patent on ways to reduce the symptoms of some diseases by causing a protein -- Nuclear Factor kappaB* -- to behave.  The problem (as Blawgletter gleans from the judges' five opinions) arises from the fact that the inventors seem not to have figured out how to suppress ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn

Academic Abstention Should Not Be a Blank Check for Arbitrary and Capricious Conduct by Universities

Via Atrios, we have Stanley Fish's recent NYTimes column, The Rise and Fall of Academic Abstention: As recently as 1979, legal academics Virginia Nordin and Harry Edwards were able to say that “historically American courts have adhered fairly consistently to the doctrine of academic abstention in order to avoid excessive judicial oversight of academic institutions” (Higher Education and the Law). Academic abstention is the doctrine (never formally promulgated) that courts should defer to colleges and universities when it comes to matters like promotions, curricula, admission policies, grading, tenure, etc. The reasoning is that courts lack the competence to monitor academic ... Continue Reading

Tweet Like Email LinkedIn