Former Berkeley Law School Dean Drops Suit

By MARIA DINZEO

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Ousted UC Berkeley law school dean Sujit Choudhry has dropped his discrimination lawsuit against the school, filing a notice of voluntary dismissal this week without explanation.

Choudhry’s dismissal comes only days after a federal judge refused to halt a second round of disciplinary proceedings against the law professor over sexual harassment complaints filed by his former assistant, Tyann Sorrell.

Choudhry sued the Regents of the University of California in September for launching another investigation against him over Sorrell’s claims that Choudhry hugged and kissed her several times.

Choudhry claimed the second proceeding was spurred by public outrage that the school wasn’t disciplining its professors harshly enough for sexual harassment, and by the negative publicity from Sorrell’s lawsuit against the school for not taking her sexual harassment complaints seriously.

After an initial investigation in 2015 found that Choudhry violated the sexual harassment provisions of the UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, then-Executive Vice Chancellor Claude Steele reduced Choudhry’s salary by 10 percent. Steele also required Choudhry to apologize to Sorrell and attend sexual harassment training, telling him he could be subjected to further discipline if he violated the university’s policy again.

After Sorrell sued the school, Choudhry offered to resign as dean. The school then initiated a second disciplinary action, which is still pending. Choudhry now faces the loss of his tenured faculty position.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg declined last week to interfere with the school’s discipline procedures under Younger v. Harris, a Supreme Court ruling that says federal courts cannot enjoin pending state criminal proceedings except in extreme circumstances.

At a hearing last week, Choudhry’s attorney William Taylor told Seeborg that the school was violating Choudhry’s constitutional rights by investigating conduct for which he’d already been sanctioned.

But Seeborg said Choudhry would have adequate opportunities to raise constitutional challenges during the discipline process.

“Choudhry’s allegations of immediate injury do not rise to the exceptionally high level required to warrant federal judicial intervention. Absent relief, Choudhry faces the stress of a second proceeding and expense of defending himself,” Seeborg wrote in his ruling. “Though the stress and expense of the UC proceedings may be substantial, these immediate injuries do not justify federal interference with the activities of the state.”

Taylor did not respond to an email requesting comment.

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