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Yale loses legal fight in fake-degree lawsuit
Question of the Day
HARTFORD, Conn. — A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected a second bid by Yale University to throw out all the allegations in a lawsuit filed by a South Korean university that claims it lost tens of millions of dollars after Yale damaged its reputation.
Dongguk University claims in the 2008 lawsuit that it hired an art history professor after Yale wrongly confirmed the professor earned a doctorate at the New Haven school. Court papers say the professor, Shin Jeong-ah, later had a scandalous love affair with an aide to South Korea’s president.
Dongguk, a Buddhist-affiliated university in Seoul, is suing Yale for more than $50 million, saying it lost that amount in government grants, alumni donations and costs of building a law school the government later refused to approve because of the scandal.
U.S. District Judge Tucker L. Melancon on Friday rejected most of Yale’s motion for summary judgment. While the judge granted Yale’s request to dismiss a civil charge of reckless and wanton conduct, he let stand allegations of defamation and negligence.
A trial is set for June. Yale previously lost a bid to get the lawsuit dismissed.
“We were very pleased with the decision,” said Robert Weiner, a New York City lawyer for Dongguk. “We believe we have lots of damages we can establish at trial.”
Lawyers for Yale didn’t return messages Monday. University officials have said the lawsuit is without merit and they would defend against it.
Ms. Shin was sentenced to 18 months in a South Korean jail in March 2008 for using fake Yale credentials to get the professor’s job at Dongguk and for embezzling museum funds. Officials said she also faked two degrees from the University of Kansas in getting the job in 2005.
The former presidential aide, Byeon Yang-kyoon, was accused of using his influence to get Ms. Shin hired by Dongguk. He was forced to step down as an aide to then-President Roh Moo-hyun because of the scandal.
Byeon was sentenced to a suspended one-year jail term and 160 hours of community service in 2008 for exercising his influence to provide state tax benefits to a Buddhist temple founded by a former Dongguk official who helped hire Ms. Shin as a professor, South Korean officials said.
Yale told Dongguk in June 2007 that Ms. Shin didn’t receive a doctorate there, saying a letter confirming the degree that Ms. Shin presented to Dongguk was bogus. Yale also told Korean media that it never received a registered letter in 2005 from Dongguk asking whether Ms. Shin had received a doctorate, even though it did receive the letter, the lawsuit said.
Yale later apologized to Dongguk in late 2007 for what it called an administrative error. But Dongguk officials said by that time the damage to its reputation had been done. South Korean media reported in the summer and fall of 2007 that Ms. Shin’s academic degrees were a fraud, that Dongguk failed to verify Ms. Shin’s degrees, that Ms. Shin had an affair with Byeon, and that Byeon had recommended to Dongguk officials that they hire Ms. Shin, court records say.
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