Law Professors

Yale Law School professor accused of sexual misconduct is suspended for 2 years

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Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld has been suspended from his position for two years, effective immediately, as a result of sexual harassment allegations, according to an article published Wednesday by New York Magazine.

The constitutional law scholar will be prohibited from teaching small group or required courses when he returns, according to the story.

The New York Magazine story also reported that there were decades of allegations that included verbal harassment, unwanted touching and attempted kissing. People reportedly said the alleged behavior took place in the classroom and at parties in his home.

“I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% deny that I ever sexually harassed anyone, whether verbally or otherwise. Yes, I’ve said stupid things that I regret over the course of my 30 years as professor, and no professor who’s taught as long as I have that I know doesn’t have things that they regret that they said,” Rubenfeld told New York Magazine on Aug. 25.

He also told the publication that he’s written articles about campus Title IX procedures being unreliable, which may be why he “became a target of people making false allegations against me.”

Rubenfeld’s biography was not listed on the law school website Wednesday, but an email sent to his Yale Law School address was returned. A spokesperson for the law school told the ABA Journal that the university declines to comment on the matter. The communication included a link to an Aug. 26 statement from Heather K. Gerken, the law school’s dean.

Titled “A Message from Dean Gerken on Faculty Misconduct” and noting “press reports today regarding faculty misconduct” in the first sentence, Gerken wrote that the school thoroughly investigates all complaints regarding violations of university rules.

“The law school has a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which all of our students can live and learn in a community of mutual respect. As dean, I take this responsibility extraordinarily seriously,” Gerken wrote.

In September 2018, the Guardian reported that Rubenfeld was the subject of an internal Yale investigation focused on his conduct with female law students. He is married to Amy Chua, a contracts professor at Yale Law School who wrote the parenting book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

The Guardian also reported that the couple allegedly told law students that Brett M. Kavanaugh, then a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, preferred female clerks with a certain look, which was feminine and conventionally attractive, according to the article. Chua denied those allegations.

Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2018, following hearings that included accusations of sexual assault, which he denied.

The Rubenfeld investigation began before Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, according to the Guardian. In July 2018, Chua wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal supporting Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

In June 2019, her and Rubenfeld’s daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, was selected as a clerk for Kavanaugh.

Law students have been working for years to call attention to Rubenfeld’s behavior, Molly Coleman told the ABA Journal in an email. A 2020 Harvard Law School graduate, she’s a founder and the executive director of the People’s Parity Project, a law school group that focuses on ending harassment and discrimination in the legal profession.

“Rubenfeld’s suspension is the result of years of work on the part of a few brave students committed to the belief that there are things more important than power. These students risked their careers to make the legal profession a bit safer for others, and I admire them immensely,” wrote Coleman, who thinks the two-year absence is too short.

“The legal community should demand better of Yale. Teaching is a privilege, not an entitlement, and Jed Rubenfeld has clearly demonstrated that he is unfit to guide the next generation of lawyers,” she wrote.

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