Yale Law Investigates Allegation on Kavanaugh

Did faculty members encourage female applicants for his clerkships to appear like models?

September 24, 2018
 
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Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Yale University's law school is investigating whether two of its faculty members engaged in misconduct that appears to relate to how they recruited women at the law school to apply for clerkships with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.

A message sent by the law school's dean, Heather Gerken, to faculty members and students didn't explicitly mention reports that two faculty members were aware of an alleged preference by the judge for attractive women as clerks, and that they encouraged women to fit this mold.

Gerken's memo referred only to "the press reports today regarding allegations of faculty misconduct." Gerken said, "The allegations being reported are of enormous concern to me and to the school. While we cannot comment on individual complaints or investigations, the law school and the university thoroughly investigate all complaints regarding violations of university rules and take no options off the table. Neither the law school nor the university prejudges the outcomes of investigations. Any statements to the contrary are inaccurate. The law school has a responsibility to provide a safe environment in which all of our students can live and learn in a community of mutual respect, free of harassment of any kind. I take this responsibility extraordinarily seriously."

The memo came the same day many at the law school were discussing articles in The Guardian and elsewhere that reported that Kavanaugh expected female clerks to look a certain (attractive) way.

Amy Chua, a professor at the law school who was involved in vetting clerkship candidates, was known for encouraging women with a “model-like” appearance and encouraged women seeking clerkships with Kavanaugh to fit this mold, sources told The Guardian. One report said Chua advised women to dress in an "outgoing way." One source told The Guardian that one woman was so offended by the advice she received on her personal appearance that she decided not to apply for the clerkship. (The article noted that the appearance coaching was not advice on looking professional, which many colleges give to students, but went far beyond that.)

The Guardian also reported that Jed Rubenfeld, a law professor married to Chua, told one student, "You should know that Judge Kavanaugh hires women with a certain look."

A spokesman for Rubenfeld and Chua on Saturday released a statement from Chua sent to faculty members and students strongly denying the reports.

"Everything that is being said about the advice I give to students applying to Brett Kavanaugh -- or any judge -- is outrageous, 100 percent false, and the exact opposite of everything I have stood for and said for the last 15 years, " Chua said. "I always tell students to prep insanely hard -- that substance is the most important thing. I advise them to read every opinion, including dissents, the judge has ever written as well as important recent cases from the circuit and Supreme Court. I tell them to review all the black-letter courses they've taken and to be prepared to answer hard questions about their writing sample. I tell them to be courteous to everyone, including the staff and clerks. I advise students, male and female, to dress professionally -- not too casually -- and to avoid inappropriate clothing. I remind them that they are interviewing with a member of the judiciary. I always try my best to be frank and transparent, and to hold students to the highest professional standard, and every year for the last decade I have been invited by affinity groups like Yale Law Women, the Black Law Students Association, and Outlaws to host clerkship advice sessions. My record as a clerkship mentor, especially for women and minorities, is among the things I'm most proud of in my life."

Shortly after that statement started to circulate, a recent Yale law graduate told The Huffington Post that Chua was "lying," and that she was advised not to wear a suit when she met Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh, a Yale graduate, has maintained close ties to the law school and has hired numerous clerks there.

He also pointed to his track record in hiring female law clerks as a point of pride. And that record has been seen as politically valuable, given that many women's advocates fear he might vote against abortion rights, affirmative action programs and other initiatives that have benefited many women.

Chua has been among those praising Kavanaugh for hiring female law clerks. She said he is a good mentor and noted in an essay in The Wall Street Journal that eight of the 10 Kavanaugh clerks from Yale with whom she has worked are women.

Chua is best known as the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua and Rubenfeld also wrote a controversial book, discussed in this Inside Higher Ed article, called The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America.

New Allegation About Kavanaugh as Undergrad

On Sunday, Kavanaugh's conduct as a Yale undergraduate was the subject of a new allegation. The New Yorker reported that a fellow classmate said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her and thrust his penis in her face at a "drunken dormitory party." Some contemporaries of the woman, Deborah Ramirez, said that they remembered her talking about the alleged incident or heard about it. Both the White House and Kavanaugh disputed the allegation. He wrote to The New Yorker: “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple."

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