Law Professors

Columbia law prof banned from 2 depositions after allegations of verbal abuse, intimidating presence

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Columbia Law School

A professor at Columbia Law School has been banned from depositions in a trademark case. Photo from Shutterstock.

A Columbia Law School professor has been banned from depositions in a trademark case after a former employee who was set to be deposed alleged that his post-traumatic stress disorder partly stemmed partly from the professor’s actions.

The professor, Eben Moglen, was banned from depositions in a Nov. 8 ruling by Judge Jennifer L. Elgin, an administrative judge at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Law360 reports.

Moglen is the founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, a pro bono law firm that handles cases for open-source software-rights enforcement groups, Law360 explains. He is opposing a trademark for the name and logo of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which was part of Moglen’s group before Moglen fired programmer Bradley Kuhn, who left along with the group.

Elgin ruled that Moglen can’t attend the deposition of Kuhn or Karen Sandler, the lawyer for the conservancy who is Moglen’s former law student.

Kuhn said he suffers from PTSD partly because of Moglen’s “continued verbal abuse and occasional physical intimidation” while supervising Kuhn, Law360 reports. According to Elgin, Kuhn had alleged that Moglen:

  • Insulted Kuhn’s technological skill and told him that he may be in the wrong job.

  • Yelled at Kuhn about a blog post and intimidated him physically and aggressively.

  • Made evocative comments in a public setting that may have been intended to refer to the murder of Kuhn’s mother.

  • Tried to sit with Kuhn in a restaurant after Kuhn asked him to keep his distance.

  • Berated Sandler from the audience when she was on a conference panel.

  • Called Kuhn a “psycho” and called Kuhn and Sandler “clowns” in a phone call with a third party.

Moglen is a licensed lawyer, but he has not entered an appearance as counsel in the trademark dispute. He had opposed the motion to exclude him.

“After decades spent law professing, I guess there are quite a few people who, imagining me cross-examining them, would feel afraid,” Moglen wrote in a declaration. “Their subjective moods do not constitute a basis for limiting my state-granted right to practice law.”

The conservancy is represented by lawyer John L. Welch, who blogged about the decision.

Moglen did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal email seeking comment.

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