The former chancellor of Yeshiva University may be excused from testifying at in the $380 million sex abuse lawsuit currently pending against the Modern Orthodox institution, the New York Post reported Thursday.
Rabbi Norman Lamm, 85, was reportedly examined on September 16 by Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center neuropsychologist Elise Caccapolo. According to Lamm’s lawyer, she found that his testimony, if provided, would not be reliable.
“Dr. Caccappolo found that a deposition was unlikely to pose a risk or threat to Dr. Lamm’s health,” lawyer Joel Cohen wrote to Judge John Koetl, who is overseeing the case at the U.S. District Court, the Post reported.
“However, after administering a battery of tests conducted over a period of nearly five hours, Dr. Caccopolo determined that ‘the pattern of Dr. Lamm’s cognitive impairment impedes his ability to independently comprehend and adequately respond to questions posed to him, as well to reliably retrieve and report past information.”
On September 9, Koeltl ordered a medical evaluation of Lamm, in response to claims by Cohen during a pre-trial hearing that Lamm is unfit to be deposed because he is suffering from dementia.
At the time, Koeltl said he didn’t want a testimony to “bring on untoward medical consequences,” and asked for an independent evaluation of Lamm’s mental state.
Lamm retired on July 1 — just before the suit was filed — and apologized for alerting authorities to reports of sexual abuse against students of Y.U.’s high school for boys during the 1970s and ‘80s.
“At the time that inappropriate actions by individuals at Yeshiva were brought to my attention, I acted in a way that I thought was correct, but which now seems ill conceived,” Lamm wrote in a letter published the same day. “I understand better today than I did then that sometimes, when you think you are doing good, your actions do not measure up. You think you are helping, but you are not. You submit to momentary compassion in according individuals the benefit of the doubt by not fully recognizing what is before you, and in the process you lose the Promised Land.”
If Lamm is unable to testify it could deprive the former students of a key witness, insiders said.
Anne Cohen is the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not looking for the secret Jewish history of Voodoo in New Orleans, or making lists about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she writes for The Assimilator. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism with an M.S. magazine concentration in 2012.