Yale Law students 'blackballed' for refusing to lie about professor, lawsuit says

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut November 12, 2015. More than 1,000 students, professors and staff at Yale University gathered on Wednesday to discuss race and diversity at the elite Ivy League school, amid a wave of demonstrations at U.S. colleges over the treatment of minority students. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
  • Students claim retaliation by officials probing Amy Chua
  • Lawsuit filed anonymously

(Reuters) - Two Yale Law School students on Monday sued the school's dean and the university, claiming they faced retaliation for not participating in the investigation of a high-profile professor earlier this year.

The students, who sued anonymously as Jane and John Doe, claim they lost networking and career opportunities after they refused to make a statement against law professor Amy Chua.

The law school investigated Chua in the spring for allegedly violating an agreement to not socialize with students at her home. Chua first clashed with dean Heather Gerken in 2018 over claims, which Chua denied, that she counseled female students seeking clerkships with now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to look feminine.

In a statement, Yale called the students' lawsuit "legally and factually baseless."

Chua, who gained fame in 2011 with the publication of her controversial parenting book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

A lawyer for the students, John Balestriere, said Tuesday that his clients sought to resolve the matter out of court but “Yale did not engage in meaningful discussion.”

The Connecticut federal court lawsuit says the students were included in a classmate's “dossier” of texts and other evidence that purportedly showed that Chua hosted student gatherings this spring. Chua has repeatedly denied hosting any such parties.

Jane and John Doe met twice with Chua at her home in the spring, but only to privately discuss the alienation they felt as minorities at the law school, their complaint says. John Doe is Asian American, while Jane Doe is Black.

The plaintiffs say they complained to administrators that the dossier had violated their privacy, only to be pressed to make a statement against Chua, which they refused.

Administrators pressured a professor not to select either of them as a Coker Fellow, a highly sought research post that can pave the way to federal clerkships and other opportunities, the lawsuit alleges.

The officials "worked together in an attempt to blackball two students of color from job opportunities as retaliation for refusing to lie," the students claim.

Jane Doe, who completed her second year, is on a leave of absence from the school, according to the complaint, and John Doe is a third-year student. A judge must decide whether to allow the plaintiffs to proceed anonymously.

The case is Jane Doe and John Doe v. Heather Gerken, Ellen Cosgrove, Yaseen Eldik, and Yale University in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, No. 3:21-cv-01525

For the Does: John Balestriere of Balestriere Fariello

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com