Judge Deals Setback to Ex-Students Suing Yeshiva for $380M Over Sex Abuse Claims

Refuses To Allow Plaintiff's Lawyer To Probe School


By Paul Berger

Published August 08, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Twelve alumni of Yeshiva University have joined 19 other former students who are suing the Modern Orthodox flagship university for allegedly covering up decades of sexual abuse at its Manhattan high school for boys.

But the 31 students suffered a setback August 6, when United States District Judge John G. Koeltl denied their attorney’s request to gain access to more information through discovery at a court in Manhattan.

“You’re basically having plaintiffs tied one hand behind their back because much of the information is in the hands of the defendants,” Kevin Mulhearn, the students’ attorney, told the court, according to a transcript.

Click to see the rest of the section, Click for more stories about abuse at Y.U.

In New York, criminal and civil cases of child sexual abuse must be brought before a victim turns 23; the plaintiffs are older, and claim that they were abused during the 1970s and ’80s. Mulhearn, however, argues in the suit that the statute of limitations does not apply, because Y.U. fraudulently covered up the abuse.

Discovery would have given Mulhearn access to internal Y.U. documents and the ability to interview current and former Y.U. employees about the alleged cover-up. It is a legal maneuver he used in a similar abuse case against Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School, which the school settled with 12 men represented by Mulhearn.

Instead, Koeltl accepted Y.U.’s request for a motion to dismiss the $380 million lawsuit, and gave Y.U. until September 13 to prepare the paperwork.

Referring to an ongoing investigation that Y.U. commissioned from an international law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, into the abuse allegations, Mulhearn added, “I know that they have conducted a seven-month investigation independently, talked to dozens — if not hundreds — of individuals, with respect to issues pertaining to notice of abuse and the school’s response to notice.

“It would be unfair and prejudicial to the plaintiffs to go forward and have our plaintiffs be put in legal jeopardy on a motion to dismiss without that information being in our possession.”

But Koeltl ruled that Mulhearn would have to survive Y.U.’s motion to dismiss the case before he could begin discovery.

“Complaints are not filed in order to get discovery,” Koeltl said.

Mulhearn argued that discovery should begin promptly because some of the defendants in the case are elderly. He singled out Y.U.’s former president Norman Lamm, who is “rumored to be in ill health.”

Koeltl asked Y.U.’s lawyers to check on Lamm’s health.

Karen Bitar, of Greenberg Traurig, a law firm representing Y.U., said, “Dr. Lamm has a private counsel that has been his attorney for several years now, and I know that he is looking into this issue with Dr. Lamm, and so we will be prepared to discuss that with plaintiffs’ counsel expeditiously.”

Of the case against Y.U., Bitar drew attention to the fact that the alleged assaults took place between 25 and 42 years ago.

“In all candor, it is a very old case,” Bitar said.

On July 17, the New York paper The Jewish Week reported that Sullivan & Cromwell’s investigation into the abuse allegations had cost Y.U. $2.5 million and would be completed in four weeks.

Matt Yaniv, a spokesman for Y.U., told the Forward that he could not comment on the cost of the investigation.

In an August 5 email, Yaniv sent the Forward the following statement: “It is anticipated that the investigation will be finalized and a comprehensive report will be released by Sullivan & Cromwell in the coming weeks.”

Yaniv had given the same statement to The New York Times on July 9.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter, @pdberger


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.