SAN DIEGO — A Superior Court judge has ruled that it would be an invasion of privacy for the court to order UC San Diego Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson to fulfill a promise to impregnate a former lover but said the woman could seek damages for infliction of emotional distress.
Lee Perry, a clinical psychologist and former professor at Harvard University, is seeking $2 million in damages stemming from Atkinson's refusal to impregnate her in 1978 while the two were engaged in a relationship. Her suit had asked Judge Arthur W. Jones to order Atkinson to comply with his promise, but Jones threw out that part of the complaint.
According to an eight-page ruling by Jones released Friday, on Aug. 28, 1977, Atkinson "agreed to impregnate (Perry) by sexual intercourse or artificial insemination."
Jones cited "undisputed facts" that Atkinson, now 56, entered into the agreement after Perry had become pregnant by him and agreed to an abortion. Jones said that Atkinson, who has been married for 33 years, entered into "a non-marital sexual relationship" with Perry, who is single, around June, 1977. It was not clear when the relationship ended.
Perry, 41, sued in 1981, claiming that Atkinson engaged in fraud and deceit when he failed to impregnate her after the abortion. At a hearing last week, Perry said that the abortion and Atkinson's broken promise caused her great emotional distress that led to a "post-abortive grief reaction." She described herself as "a mother deprived of a child by deceit."
The woman claimed that the broken affair left her greatly depressed, and that the depression led to emotional illness when Atkinson suggested that she commit suicide. Jones found that Atkinson suggested "in varying ways but factually in the same context, that she should or might commit suicide and (Atkinson) did not care."
Perry alleged that Atkinson also attempted to jeopardize her career by threatening to tell Harvard officials that she was emotionally ill.
Evidence of Trauma
Jones found that there was enough evidence that Perry suffered significant emotional trauma as a result of Atkinson's actions and Perry could sue for damages. The trial has been scheduled for Jan. 22.
In announcing that Atkinson's privacy would be violated if the court ordered him to impregnate Perry, Jones quoted from another case and said it would be "an unwarranted governmental intrusion."
In a previous court hearing, Marilyn Huff, Atkinson's attorney, had argued that state law prohibits anybody from having sex with another person against his or her will. But Perry, who acted as her own attorney, responded that Atkinson had given "his sacred word of honor on his mother's grave" that he would impregnate her by artificial insemination as an alternative and a sex act was not necessary.
This prompted the following response from Huff:
Order to Stay Away
"In a clever attempt (Perry) argues that artificial insemination is the answer . . . that it does not involve a sexual act . . . artificial insemination still requires a man to provide semen to a woman, and we allege that involves a sexual act."
On Friday, Jones also ordered Perry to stay away from Atkinson's office and home. Jones issued the order after Huff complained that in the past Perry had been caught entering Atkinson's home illegally and had been seen rummaging through his trash.
Perry called those actions "my unorthodox means for the discovery of documents."
Atkinson came to the UCSD campus on July 1, 1980, from the National Science Foundation. He is an experimental psychologist and an expert on applied mathematics. He could not be reached for comment Friday.