May 2, 2008

Alum Files $10 Mil. Lawsuit Against C.U.

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The alumnus who sued Cornell last year for defamation and libel has filed additional litigation against the University. In a $10 million lawsuit filed April 8, Kevin Vanginderen ’83 alleges that Cornell published libelous information, placed him in a false light, publicly disclosed private facts about him and intruded into his private affairs.
Some of Vanginderen’s latest complaints relate to a 1983 Cornell Chronicle article — digitized and placed online last year by the University — that described his involvement with several thefts on campus. After finding the article online last year through Google, he sued the University for libel and defamation for the first time.
Most of Vanginderen’s latest charges against Cornell, however, accuse the University and one of its attorneys, Bert Deixler, of misconduct since the original litigation was filed.
Vanginderen said that the University and its lawyers tried to bully him into dropping his original libel suit and threatened to publicize the case if he continued to pursue the legal action. He said that the University placed a wide range of records relating to his indictment of and confession to thefts in 1983 into the court record with the intent that the information would be published on the Internet.
Cornell filed these records in court last year in order to defend itself against Vanginderen’s original libel charge. However, he wrote that the records “are inadmissible on grounds of privacy, attorney client privilege and lack of authenticity and/or relevance.”
Vanginderen said the actions of the University and Deixler represent an intentional effort to destroy his reputation and business.
“[The University] has decided to go to war with me,” he said. “They are trying to do as much as possible to embarrass me and smear my name on the Internet.”
Deputy University Counsel Nelson Roth called Vangindern’s latest case “completely without merit” and “frivolous.”
Roth said that he indicated to Vanginderen in September the University’s desire to resolve the situation privately and without litigation.
“We will take all appropriate steps to defend the University,” now that Vanginderen has brought two lawsuits against it that total $11 million, Roth said.
“We are not going to write Mr. Vanginderen a check,” he added.
While Vanginderen claims that Cornell deliberately intended for this case — and related police records — to appear online, namely on the legal website, Roth said that the University did not issue a press release regarding either of Vanginderen’s lawsuits, nor is it trying to publicize the cases.
Vanginderen’s original lawsuit last year raised legal questions about the digitization of historical records and garnered some attention from websites like
Written arguments in the first case from both Cornell and Vanginderen were submitted to Judge Barry Moskowitz in December, who has yet to render a decision on whether the case can proceed. Because Vanginderen’s most recent lawsuit is related to the one he filed last year, Cornell is advocating for it to be reviewed by Judge Moskowitz as well. Cornell has yet to file an official response to Vanginderen’s second complaint and the case is pending in United States District Court.