By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Yeshiva University’s Request to Appeal LGBTQ Lawsuit to Highest State Court Denied

Yeshiva University’s request to appeal YU v. the YU Pride Alliance to the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, was denied Thursday by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York State, First Department, the court below the Court of Appeals.

Representatives of the Becket Fund and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, who represent the university and Pride Alliance, told The Commentator that the court denied YU’s request to move the case to the Court of Appeals since the question of what damages YU is liable to for discrimination against the four plaintiffs has yet to be decided in trial court.

Eric Baxter, senior counsel of the Becket Fund, told The Commentator that the court’s ruling did not come as a surprise and that the university had sought the appeal to resolve the legal issues of the Pride Alliance’s status first.

“The Court’s ruling is not unexpected: In New York, intermediate appeals to the Court of Appeals are rarely granted,” said Baxter. “The University sought the ability to appeal so that the legal issues could be finally resolved before Plaintiffs would be required to produce documents or give depositions. Unfortunately, Plaintiffs’ counsel refused to support the appeal, choosing instead to push first for monetary damages against the University.”

Yeshiva University’s case with the YU Pride Alliance has two components. The first, concerning whether the university needs to recognize the student group as an official student organization, was denied by the appellate division in December. That part was prevented from advancing to the state’s highest court Thursday since the second component — what kind of damages YU is liable to for discriminating against its LGBTQ students under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which a judge ruled that YU violated in June — is still in a pre-trial phase.

The second component of the case has moved back to New York County Court, headed by Judge Lynn Kotler, who made the June ruling that YU violated the NYCHRL. The court may hold a jury trial to decide what damages YU owes the four students who brought the suit.

“The courts have continuously held that YU must follow the same rules as all other major research universities in New York City, including basic civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination,” Katie Rosenfeld, the lead attorney for the Pride Alliance and a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, told The Commentator. “We will continue to litigate the case in the trial court pursuant to the First Department’s decision and order remitting the case back for discovery and trial.”

It is unclear when the court will hold a trial. It is currently in discovery, a pre-trial stage where both sides attorney’s meet and share information that will be admitted to court. A schedule for how long the discovery process will last will be made by Kotler at a preliminary conference between both parties. As of publishing, a conference has yet to be scheduled, representatives of the Becket Fund and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP told The Commentator.

Yeshiva University plans to continue appealing the case following discovery.

“Now, the parties will press forward with discovery,” added Baxter, “after which Yeshiva can appeal to the Court of Appeals and, if necessary, the United States Supreme Court.”

The four plaintiffs Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP represent are Molly Meisels (SCW ‘20), Doniel Weinreich (YC ‘20), Amitai Miller (YC ‘20), and a fourth student, currently in YU, whose name is listed as anonymous in court documents.


Photo Caption: New York State Supreme Court Courthouse

Photo Credit: Wally Bobetz / Wikimedia Commons