Berkeley Settles Sex Harassment Case Against Former Law School Dean

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ending a story that may never be told in court, UC Berkeley School of Law has settled a controversial sexual harassment case against the school and its former dean.

Sujit Choudhry, who resigned as dean last year after a former assistant sued him for sexual harassment, has settled the case. So has the university, which will pay $1.7 million to Tyann Sorrell and her attorneys.

Although the settlement agreement with the university is confidential, it has already been released on the internet. It does not admit liability and contains no details of Sorrell's allegations.

"This has been a long and challenging road for herself, her family and the campus community," said Leslie Levy, who represented Sorrell in the case. She and the university declined to comment further.

Separate Settlement

In a separate settlement between the individual parties, however, Sorrell had more to say. She expressed outrage about the deal, saying it "insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege."

Sorrell alleged in her complaint that the dean hugged, kissed, and touched her repeatedly in 2014 and 2015 and that the university did nothing to stop it. A constitutional law expert, Choudhry became dean in 2014 and resigned in 2016.

The dean resigned immediately after the lawsuit was filed, although the university allowed him to continue teaching. In the settlement, he will finish this term, then begin an unpaid sabbatical and resign in "good standing" in May 2018.

Separate from the $1.7 payment by the university, Choudhry will pay $50,000 to charities that fight sexual harassment and $50,000 to Sorrell's attorneys.

Two-Sided Story

After Choudhry resigned as dean and the story became public, he posted an open letter to the students at the law school. He said he never intended anything sexual in his actions towards Sorrell, but the public response was devastating.

"I became too frightened to leave my own home, an exiled pariah," he said. "I watched helplessly as my reputation as an academic administrator, a scholar, a husband, a father and a friend crumbled in a matter of days."

According to reports, Choudry is one of several UC Berkeley employees to face sexual harassment allegations that have been substantiated by the university in recent years. He stepped down as dean amidst reports that the univerisity's discipline was "light-handed."

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