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Jury clears university of discrimination charges

After seven years of litigation and a weeklong trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a unanimous 10-person federal jury completely exonerated Cornell of charges by a former employee of age and sex discrimination. The jury returned its verdict in Cornell's favor on April 23.

The plaintiff, Margaret Sipser Leibowitz, claimed in her lawsuit that Cornell's ILR School, its dean and other school officials discriminated against her when the school decided in 2002 not to renew her contract as a senior extension associate. U.S. District Judge George Daniels had dismissed the lawsuit twice previously, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ultimately determined that a jury should consider the case.

Leibowitz had also filed claims against former ILR Dean Edward Lawler, former Associate Deans Ann Martin and Ronald Seeber, former New York City Metropolitan Office Director Esta Bigler and Professor Nick Salvatore; those claims were all dismissed before the beginning of the trial.

Cornell Deputy University Counsel Nelson E. Roth and Associate University Counsel Wendy E. Tarlow represented Cornell in the lawsuit, with the assistance of Kristin Burgos, a paralegal in the Office of University Counsel. James Hubbard and David Marek of the New York law firm Liddle & Robinson represented Leibowitz.

Cornell Counsel James J. Mingle said Friday: "Contending with long and contentious employment litigation of this sort requires resolve and perseverance, but we knew from the outset that the plaintiff's allegations were without merit. We are delighted with the jury's verdict."

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Simeon Moss