3/2/2015: Campus Conversation” on rape response, 4PM today, Alumni Center.
I couldn’t make this, but the word from others is that this was a massive fail, with Coltrane getting called out repeatedly by the students for his lack of progress and efforts to pass off the blame.
2/27/2015: How much is the athletic budget contributing towards Miller Nash’s legal fees for defending basketball coach Dana Altman? Anything? I don’t know. Let’s find out:
On Friday Feb 27, 2015
Dear Ms Thornton –
This is a public records request for documents showing how much UO is paying the Miller Nash attorneys who are defending UO and Dana Altman against the lawsuit from the survivor of the alleged basketball gang rape.
Specifically, I am requesting documents showing how much has been spent so far, and how much of that has been paid for by general academic funds, athletic department funds, and other sources such as insurance, UO Foundation money, etc.
I ask for a fee waiver on the basis of public interest.
2/26/2015, 4:20PM: UO drops counter-claim, but still blames survivor for “damage to a good man’s reputation”, and claims *she* is discouraging rape reporting.
This is a first for Johnson Hall: admitting a mistake. It took “Sven Praoc” and 2100 petition signers to get them to do the right thing.
No news on when Coltrane will apologize for his prejudicial allegation of an “unlawful release” of UO Presidential Archives. Baby steps.
Josephine Woolington has the story in the RG, here. It appears Coltrane got some lousy legal advice, either from UO attorneys Doug Park and Sam Hill, or UO’s hired Miller Nash attorneys, Michelle Smigel http://www.millernash.com/michelle-smigel/ and Michael Porter http://www.millernash.com/michael-porter/:
Coltrane, however, criticized the online petition that characterized the UO as having filed a lawsuit against the victim, as opposed to responding to a lawsuit. He said he was advised by attorneys that it’s routine to counter a suit.
“Their suit would have us pay legal fees, and I was told it’s typical when you respond” to also file a counterclaim, he said.
… The UO’s updated response, however, still contends that Jane Doe’s attorneys “filed a lawsuit with unfounded allegations that damage a good man’s (Altman’s) reputation in an attempt to curry favor and gain traction in the media and create pressure for a public university to pay a hefty sum to (Jane Doe) even though it has done nothing wrong.”
The university argues that Jane Doe’s allegations threaten not only the UO and Altman, “but all sexual assault survivors in Oregon’s campus community.
“The publication of false allegations about Oregon’s handling of a report of an alleged sexual assault creates a very real risk that other survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment to Oregon,” which conflicts with the goal of a federal civil rights law, known as Title IX, the response said.
Say what? UO’s revised and sanitized response to the lawsuit is less intimidating to victims who might consider exercising their civil rights than was the previous version, though no less offensive:
Full docket w/ old and new language here, thanks to recapthelaw.org
Meanwhile, Coltrane and Bronet’s Campus Conversation and Progress Report on Addressing Sexual Violence is scheduled for Monday, March 2, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Ford Alumni Center Giustina Ballroom.
Petition protesting UO decision to sue victim has
550 signatures as of 1:00 PM 2/24 2100 signatures as of 4 PM 2/26. Many powerful statements, read them here.
2/25/2015 update: Did UO Strategic Communicator Tobin Klinger lie to the student newspaper about the counterclaim?
From the comments:
This is from the Emerald story: Toby Klinger said this: ““The university is not seeking court costs or attorney fees from a student.” Emerald. http://www.dailyemerald.com/2015/02/23/petition-against-uos-counterclaim-in-recent-sexual-assault-litigation/
Nonsense. From the Answer filed in court by lawyers for the University: “defendants are entitled to recover attorney fees from the plaintiff.” Paragraph 102.
And this also: “Oregon is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney fees from plaintiff, or in the alternative, from plaintiff’s counsel.” Paragraph 106.
Toby Klinger is lying. Why is this tolerated by Coltrane?
I sent Klinger an email yesterday asking him to clarify his statement, and I cced Coltrane’s Chief of Staff Greg Rikhoff. No response.
Another 2/23/2015 update: UO student reporter Francesca Fontana has some posts from the petition, some sophomoric BS from $115K Duck PR flack Tobin Klinger, and the cutting response from the plaintiff’s attorney, here:
Samantha Brace, a UO student, wrote, “As a person, I am appalled. As a female student at the University of Oregon, I am outraged. UO is putting them self on the wrong side of history, the student body does not support the legal actions being taken against this woman. Make it known.”
Alumna Diana Salazar wrote, “Stop victim blaming! As an alumna, Im ashamed to have gone here and will reconsider recommending folks to UO.”
University spokesperson Tobin Klinger told the Emerald that the counterclaim is not directed at the plaintiff herself, but rather her attorneys.
“The university is not seeking court costs or attorney fees from a student. Rather, the counterclaim is directed at the Colorado-based attorneys. The goal is to hold the plaintiff’s attorneys responsible for their actions in bringing forth false allegations to leverage a difficult and unfortunate situation for their own financial gain,” he said in an email.
John Clune, the Colorado based lawyer representing the plaintiff responded to Emerald inquiries about the university response with the following statement:
“They need to just stop. This whole counterclaim was an ill-conceived PR move that has blown up on them. Since they are finding out that it looks bad to sue a rape victim, they are now saying that it was only intended for her lawyer. That is obviously not what the counterclaim says. We genuinely would like to help UO do a better job with responding to campus rape and would love to work together to achieve this but their behavior so far is not encouraging.”
2/23/2015 update: John Canzano calls out UO and Doug Park for “a brush-back pitch against all women on UO campus”, in the Oregonian here:
If you’re a student on campus at UO who reports an alleged sex crime, but the Lane County District Attorney doesn’t file charges, you now know you’ll potentially become a target of the university. You may get sued by UO. You may not be able to get standard care and services on campus. Even if the DA says he believes your account but couldn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, you’re potentially a target.
Think that fosters reporting? Think that makes women at UO feel safe?
The counter claim seeks legal expenses and a dismissal of the original lawsuit. It’s legal wrangling. Some would tell you this is standard practice in an attempt to have any lawsuit dismissed. But a move like this carries a bigger punch. The university must know that and should have been more responsible with the filing.
I don’t think the general counsel is acting alone here, either. I think Oregon took great satisfaction in throwing a legal haymaker at “Jane Doe” for the trouble she’s caused administrators and coaches. The counter claim is the equivalent of a brush-back pitch to all women on campus.
I’m not much for sports metaphors, but they’re probably the only thing the Trustees who now run our university understand.
In other news, Duck PR flack Jennifer Winters reports in “Around the 0” that Interim President Coltrane Coltrane wants to update us about his efforts to encourage reporting. Really:
The Campus Conversation and Progress Report on Addressing Sexual Violence is scheduled for Monday, March 2, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Ford Alumni Center Giustina Ballroom.
The forum will include an update from interim UO President Scott Coltrane about the university’s campuswide efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve support services for survivors and encourage reporting.
2/23/2015 update: Tyler Kingkade has a report in the Huffington Post, here:
The “publication of false allegations about Oregon’s handling of a report of an alleged sexual assault creates a very real risk that survivors will wrongly be discouraged from reporting sexual assaults and sexual harassment to Oregon, in direct contravention of the goals of both Title IX and Oregon,” the university’s lawyers wrote in their filing.
Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel for the Victim Rights Law Center, a nonprofit in Boston that provides free legal services to sexual assault survivors, disagreed with UO’s assessment.
“In fact, it’s always the contrary,” Bruno told The Huffington Post Monday. “These types of lawsuits help bring voices to some victims who feel wronged, but were not in a place to speak out about it. These lawsuits often help with reporting, and do nothing to discourage reporting. Furthermore, a university’s reaction like this could actually discourage reporting because the victims on campus do not feel protected by their university if at the first sign of problems, the university lashes out against the victim.” …
UO called Doe’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “unreasonable,” and said the allegations “threaten to harm not only Oregon and Altman but also all sexual assault survivors in Oregon’s campus community.”
John Clune, who is one of Doe’s attorneys and is involved in several high-profile campus rape lawsuits, said he has never seen a university use the type of language that UO did in its counterclaim.
… Other colleges have pushed back in lawsuits against sexual assault survivors, but it’s highly uncommon for schools to go as far as Oregon has and sue the alleged victim. …
2/23/2015 update: Who made the decision for UO to sue the alleged basketball rape survivor?
Looks like it was Interim General Counsel Doug Park, presumably with the consent of Scott Coltrane and his “Executive Leadership Team”:
Interim General Counsel
From the GC job description, here:
Description of Duties
… As the chief legal officer for the university, the General Counsel is responsible for managing the legal affairs of the university and overseeing the office’s provision of legal services across the entire spectrum of university life.
The GC advises the university’s senior leadership team, including the president, UO Board of Trustees, Senior Vice President and Provost, Vice President for Finance and Administration/CFO, and others, on the legal implications of strategy, business, and policy decisions.
The GC retains and supervises outside counsel when prudent. The GC works closely with the University Secretary on all matters with legal implications that come before the board.
This position supervises the office staff including five attorneys, one executive assistant/operations manager, and one legal assistant (all officers of administration).
2/22/2015 update: Sign petition protesting UO and Altman’s decision to sue alleged rape survivor
The University of Oregon has become the first institution in higher education to sue a rape survivor pursuing her rights under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act — all after violating medical privacy laws by seizing her counseling records from the campus health center, and asking campus counselors to give her substandard care.
It has nearly 200 signatures as of 4:30PM, and many very powerful comments.
Obviously some of the facts are still in dispute, and I don’t know who is circulating this petition, but signing it seems like a good first step towards telling Scott Coltrane and his lawyers that they aren’t speaking for UO when it comes to this dishonorable decision.
Keep in mind that while the Lane County DA did decline to prosecute, saying he didn’t doubt the events but didn’t think he could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, UO eventually expelled the three perpetrators for non-consensual sex, and banned them from campus for 10 years. Coach Dana Altman has all but admitted he did not do his due diligence in investigating why Providence had banned one of them from playing basketball for a year (initially he’d been banned from campus as well) when recruiting him for UO. The UO administration’s own hand picked “Presidential Review Panel” has called for recruiting reforms. And UO is now claiming that the survivor’s lawsuit is “frivolous”?
2/19/2015: Dana Altman and UO file counterclaim against alleged basketball rape survivor
Of course the reason Canzano wrote his “Every Day with Dana Altman is Another Day in the Muck” column and the reason for the hundreds of other news reports, columns, blog posts, and angry letters to President Mike Gottfredson was not the survivor’s purported efforts to manipulate public opinion through the press, it was the UO administration’s efforts to cover up the allegations and UO’s inept handling of them, once they finally became public.
And now UO and Dana Altman are, literally, blaming the victim. And suing her.
On top of that they are claiming that the reason they are suing her for their attorney’s fees is because they think her lawsuit will discourage civil rights claims and rape reporting, and because they think she has “damaged a good man’s reputation.” I’m sorry, but this is bullshit. Watch Dana Altman’s news conference. The damage to this Eagle Scout’s reputation, and to UO’s, was entirely self-inflicted:
Timeline and links to the docket and filings here.
So who is footing the bill for the Miller Nash attorneys who filed this nasty counterclaim? It looks like UO is. With student tuition money? By raising the mandatory fee UO students pay for football and basketball games?
When the University of Oregon can’t rely on the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office to fight students like the young woman who claims she was raped by basketball players, it goes to a Portland law firm that serves business and industry. There it finds lawyers whose careers and high incomes are based in large part on blocking lawsuits by university and school students, faculty, employees, and whistleblowers.
These are the lawyers defending UO against the lawsuit by the young woman, with a list of some of their cases defending universities and schools:
Michelle Smigel – http://www.millernash.com/michelle-smigel/
Emeldi v. University of Oregon (2014).
Michelle successfully represented the University of Oregon in the jury trial of a Title IX claim . . . .
Norman G. Lewis v. Washington State University, et al. (2014).
Our client, a state university, won a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which held that a tenured professor failed to establish a constitutionally protected property right to continue as Project Director of a federal grant. . . .
Sibley v. Portland Public School District (2011).
Our client Portland Public School District won a jury verdict after a four-week trial, defeating claims by a former administrator who alleged “whistleblower” retaliation, defamation, “false light,” battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress when her position was eliminated after she raised concerns about safety in special education programs.
Disability Discrimination and Whistleblower Jury Verdict.
Obtained jury verdict in favor of employer in lawsuit asserting disability discrimination, workers’ compensation discrimination, and violation of whistleblower statute.
Michael Porter – http://www.millernash.com/michael-porter/
Dismissal of Instructor Free Speech and Discrimination Claims.
Obtained . . . ruling dismissing case by university instructor in which court determined that in-class speech was not protected under the Constitution . . .
Disability Discrimination and Whistleblower Jury Verdict.
Obtained jury verdict in favor of employer [against] lawsuit asserting disability discrimination, workers’ compensation discrimination, and violation of whistleblower statute.
Judgment for School District in Constitutional Due Process Case
Obtained summary judgment in favor of school district and administrators [against] student-athlete’s claims of Constitutional procedural and substantive due process [violations] . . . .
Free-Speech Claim Dismissal.
Obtained dismissal of lawsuit by college instructor concerning comments made to media.
Judgment on Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims.
Represented medical office [against] claims of sexual harassment and retaliation . . . .
Student First Amendment Claims.
Represented school district in First Amendment claims arising out of discipline of student who made . . . statements about others on Web site; student represented by American Civil Liberties Union.
Represented school district [against] religious-freedom claims brought by student . . .