During a pretrial hearing in a $380 million sex abuse lawsuit against Yeshiva University, a federal judge has ordered Rabbi Norman Lamm, former president of Yeshiva University, to undergo an independent mental health examination.
Judge John Koeltl ordered the evaluation of Lamm’s mental health, possibly as soon as this week, in response to Lamm’s lawyer’s claim that Lamm suffers from dementia and is therefore unfit to be deposed in the lawsuit, the Jewish Daily Forward reports.
Lamm, described by the Forward as perhaps the “most revered” living rabbi in Modern Orthodox Judaism, was Yeshiva’s president from 1976 to 2003. During this period, dozens of students at Yeshiva-run schools claim they were abused. Lamm retired in July from the post of chancellor of Yeshiva University.
Last December, in an interview with the Forward, Lamm said that he dealt with credible allegations of improper behavior against staff by quietly allowing them to leave and find jobs elsewhere. But an investigation commissioned by Y.U. found that until 2001, “there were multiple instances in which the University either failed to appropriately act to protect the safety of its students or did not respond to the allegations at all,” according to the Forward.
The New York statute of limitations prevents abuse victims bringing claims after they turn 23, but lawyers for former high school students argue that the statute of limitations does not apply in this case because Yeshiva fraudulently covered up the abuse.
Lawyers for alleged victims want to interview Lamm as soon as possible, in case his mental health deteriorates, but Lamm’s lawyer says his mental health has already deteriorated too far. Judge Koeltl said he ordered the evaluation to make sure that Lamm’s testimony would be reliable and that being deposed would not traumatize him or “bring on untoward medical consequences.” If Lamm is found fit to be deposed, the judge said he would be “inclined to grant the [deposition] request,” the Forward reports.