Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Court Affirms Dismissal of Alum's Defamation Lawsuit Against Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School LogoNational Law Journal:  Appeals Court Sides with Stanford Against Graduate:

A California appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of a defamation and retaliation lawsuit brought against Stanford Law School by a graduate who claimed that a law professor blacklisted her with San Francisco Bay Area law firms.  [Viswanathan v. Leland Stanford Jr. University, Nos. H036960, H037048 (CA Ct. App. 6th App. Dist. Aug. 24, 2012)]

A three-judge panel of the Sixth District Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's ruling that plaintiff Usha Viswanathan had supplied insufficient evidence to move forward. The court issued the unpublished opinion on August 24. ...

Viswanathan has a long history of litigation against her alma mater and professor Robert Weisberg. She first sued the school in 1997, claiming it did not steer minority women toward the same job opportunities as it did white students. That suit was dismissed in 2001, as were several subsequent claims by Viswanathan that the school retaliated against her because of her litigation.

Viswanathan sought a temporary restraining order against Weisberg in 2006, alleging that he had orchestrated "hang-up" calls to her phone and had students monitor her in the law school library, according to the opinion. The judge found insufficient evidence to grant the order.

Viswanathan again sued the law school and Weisberg in 2009, alleging that he had systematically discouraged law firms from hiring her for at least eight years. Her suit argued that Weisberg carries significant clout among Bay Area legal employers.

The complaint claims that she had pretended to interview with one law firm in 2009 and asked Stanford to send a transcript. The firm received a computer-generated voice mail that called Viswanathan a "dangerous personality" and claimed she stalked a Stanford professor, the complaint says.

According to that complaint, Viswanathan hadn't held a full-time legal job in eight years, with the exception of a one-year stint at a small firm that laid her off in late 2008. ...

The court concluded:

Clearly plaintiff has experienced considerable emotional and professional challenges since her graduation from Stanford Law School in 1994. Nevertheless, defendants established that because plaintiff would not be able to prove the elements of her defamation and related claims, they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

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