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University of California’s Legal Battle with Ex-Law School Dean Heats Up

Sujit Choudhry, former dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law and tenured law professor, resigned from his position in March after his former assistant filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment. Now, the ex-dean has filed a lawsuit of his own, alleging that UC’s efforts to hold him accountable for violating its sexual harassment policy are illegal.

Choudhry’s former assistant alleges in her lawsuit that the law professor kissed, hugged and touched her without her consent in 2014 and 2015, but campus officials did nothing to stop it.

In July 2015, campus investigators had determined that the former dean violated the school’s sexual harassment policy. UC Berkeley officials imposed a 10% reduction in his pay as punishment, lowering his salary from $415,000 to $373,500. He was also ordered to get counseling and apologize for his behavior.

But Janet Napolitano, UC President, determined that Choudhry’s punishment was too light after learning of the case. The case against Choudhry was one of many harassment incidents on campus, which angered students, the public and faculty members.

Choudhry, who filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that Napolitano was trying to improve her image and the university’s image when she stepped up the discipline against him.

The day after his resignation, Napolitano wrote to UC’s campus Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, demanding that the former dean be prohibited from returning to campus for the rest of the spring. She also called for the UC Berkeley Academic Senate to make a decision on whether to revoke his tenure.

Choudhry is now claiming that the Academic Senate is biased against him and that he is being singled out because of his “race, color and national origin.” The former dean is a citizen of Canada and of Indian descent.

Some legal experts say Choudhry may actually have a case. The law professor argues that he was punished twice for the same incident.

UC lawyers argue that the punishment was legal, as the university’s policy states that it may “expressly allow disciplinary proceedings” against its faculty members even if administrative actions have already been taken.

The court’s next hearing on the case is scheduled for November 3.