District judge reopens Van de Velde suit

Former Saybrook College Dean James Van de Velde’s ’82 lawsuit against the University and the New Haven Police Department opened a new chapter yesterday, when Connecticut District Court Chief Judge Robert Chatigny reopened Van de Velde’s state law claims.

Yale officials said they plan to respond to Chatigny’s ruling by refiling their motion to dismiss the state law claims.

Van de Velde, who was the only suspect ever named in the 1998 murder of Yale student Suzanne Jovin ’99, filed the 2001 lawsuit against five NHPD officials, including former New Haven Police Chief Melvin Wearing. Van de Velde claimed the officials had wrongfully invaded his constitutional right to privacy and violated his right to be free from unconstitutional seizure, his liberty and property interests and his right to equal protection. He also claimed they had violated Connecticut law.

In 2003, Van de Velde added University President Richard Levin, Secretary Linda Lorimer, then-Dean of the College Richard Brodhead, University Spokesman Tom Conroy and Yale Police Chief James Perrotti to the suit.

In the endorsement ruling issued Dec. 11, Chatigny wrote that Van de Velde’s state law claims are reopened and that all parties will meet and set a schedule for continuing with the litigation. The ruling is a response to Van de Velde’s May 2006 motion to alter Chatigny’s April 2006 judgment, in which the judge had dismissed Van de Velde’s state claims. Chatigny wrote that his ruling dismissing the federal claims is still in effect.

“We are studying the court’s ruling to determine the appropriate response,” Van de Velde’s attorney, David Grudberg, said Tuesday. “While we are gratified that the court has made clear certain parts of the case remain alive, we believe that there is a very important loose end that remains to be addressed, namely our motion to reconsider the dismissal of our federal claims. That motion has still never been ruled on according to the court’s docket.”

A member of Chatigny’s staff said he was unable to comment Tuesday.

Yale Spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said Yale plans to refile its motion to dismiss Van de Velde’s state law claims.

Yale Associate General Counsel Harold Rose said the ruling appears to be a procedural clarification on the part of Chatigny. Rose said he plans to review additional cases that might be relevant to the lawsuit before refiling the University’s motion.

“We believe we have a very strong argument on the state law claims,” Rose said. “We said nothing that was false, and we said nothing with malice.”

He added that he will argue that Yale officials acted reasonably and did not intentionally inflict emotional distress.

Lorimer and Perrotti did not respond to requests for comment.

— Bharat Ayyar contributed reporting.

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