Court Dismisses Wrongful Termination Lawsuit; Psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee Sued Yale for Firing Her after Publicized Trump "Diagnosis"

September 1, 2022

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by a former Yale University psychiatrist claiming wrongful termination after she allegedly was fired over her public statements criticizing then-President Donald Trump and his inner circle.

Dr. Bandy Lee, an ex-voluntary, uncompensated Yale staff member, sued the university last March over breach of contract and lack of good faith, involving Lee’s academic freedom.

She claimed in the lawsuit that she was threatened to be fired by her department chair after Alan Dershowitz, a Trump lawyer and Yale law school graduate, wrote to the university in 2020.

Dershowitz had written to Yale officials stating that Lee “has publicly ‘diagnosed’ me as ‘psychotic,’ based on my legal and political views, and without ever examining or even meeting me.”

Lee became known nationally when she held a conference at Yale in 2017 about Trump’s mental state, which later led to a book speculating about the former president’s mental health, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

The department allegedly cited Lee’s lack of a formal teaching role as a reason to terminate, after Lee’s 17 years in the role. Lee’s lawsuit sought reinstatement to the faculty and damages from lost income, emotional distress and harm to reputation, among other damages she listed.

Lee said Thursday in an email statement responding to the ruling that she expected this outcome and she isn’t giving up, “since my reason for launching the lawsuit in the first place was for the public good.”

“After Yale’s first motion to dismiss was denied, the presiding judge was promptly replaced without cause or explanation,” she wrote. “Then, the case was stalled for more than eight months. Also, the argument is much like the distortion of the Goldwater rule itself — full of misleading plays on impression instead of investigating the truth.”

U.S. District Judge Sarah Merriam rejected Lee’s breach of contract claims Tuesday because, she wrote, there wasn’t any implied contract that Yale would automatically reappoint Lee to the faculty position, regardless of Lee’s qualifications.

“These three alleged generic expressions of ‘approval and appreciation’ or commendation are insufficient to even suggest a promise of continued appointment, much less support a contractual commitment,” Merriam wrote, referring to positive statements Lee claimed she received from Yale administrators.

Merriam wrote in her opinion that Lee’s “vague assertion” that the faculty handbook guarantees academic freedom was “plainly insufficient to show that defendant undertook a contractual commitment.”

Lee also sued the university under Connecticut’s employment law under a free speech statute, which the court also rejected because Lee wasn’t considered an employee of the university as an unpaid volunteer, according to legal interpretation.

“The question is not whether plaintiff was hired as an independent contractor or an employee,” Merriam wrote. “Rather, the question is whether plaintiff was hired at all.”

Even though Lee was not paid, she claimed she had access to employee-only resources on campus, but the court ruled that they were inefficient to establish an employer-employee relationship.

In her complaint, Lee restated a characterization she made of Dershowitz in which she alleged “he has wholly taken on Trump’s symptoms by contagion” and referred to “shared psychosis.”

Dershowitz said at the time that Lee “attributed to me a lot more power than I think I actually have. All I did was alert the Yale authorities to her unprofessional conduct. The facts are the facts,” and said he had never met Lee.

He said he called for Yale to investigate Lee’s conduct. “I think that Yale was right to look into it and then it’s their decision,” he said at the time.

Source: Chatwan Mongkol, “Court dismisses ex-Yale psychiatrist’s lawsuit alleging wrongful firing over Trump criticism,” The Hour, Aug. 31, 2022, URL:  


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