University | 7:24 pm | August 15, 2013 | By Julia Zorthian

New York court throws out Dongguk lawsuit

A New York federal appeals court threw out the lawsuit against Yale from the South Korean Dongguk University on Thursday, marking the latest development in the five-year legal proceedings.

Dongguk University first sued Yale in 2008, claiming the University ultimately cost the Korean school over $50 million in donations, government grants, as well as irreparable damage to its reputation by incorrectly confirming  that Jeong ah Shin received a Yale degree. Shin’s employment at Dongguk led to a widely-reported scandal, often referred to as “Shin-gate” by South Korean media.

The Thursday rejection of the lawsuit aligns with a Connecticut court’s July 2012 decision to dismiss the case.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed the District Court’s decision to grant judgment for Yale in the suit brought by Dongguk University,” University Spokesman Tom Conroy told the News in a statement. “The case was baseless and should never have been pursued.”

According to the court decision, when Shin applied for a position at Dongguk University in 2005, she presented an art history Ph.D. certificate bearing Yale Associate Dean Pamela Schirmeister’s signature. The lawsuit also claimed Schirmeister sent confirmation over fax that Shin received a Yale degree, when in fact Shin fabricated the document.

U.S. Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes concluded that Dongguk University couldn’t prove whether any individuals at Yale, including Schirmeister, acted with malice during the error and resulting investigation.

“[W]e conclude that Dongguk has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact with regard to actual malice,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes in his opinion.

Dongguk uncovered the truth about Shin’s pedigree after two years, when administrators contacted Yale to investigate claims that Shin plagiarized her dissertation and the Yale library had no record of her work. Shin stepped down from the Dongguk faculty that June, but served as the source of further controversy for Dongguk University when reports of her affair with presidential aide Byeon Yang-kyoon surfaced.

Dongguk, founded in 1906 and located in Seoul, is a prominent Buddhist-affiliated university.

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