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Why have UO’s lawyers got off scot free? (updated with RG story)

That’s the question the Register Guard is wondering about, on the editorial page here:

The University of Oregon is getting mixed signals from authorities charged with enforcing codes of professional conduct. In June, a division of the Oregon State Bar found that UO lawyers did nothing wrong in 2014 when they obtained the records of a student who claimed to have been raped by three members of the university’s basketball team. On Sept. 25, the state Board of Psychology Examiners recommended that the director of the UO’s Counseling & Testing Center be fined for providing the records.

The inconsistency is jarring. The lawyers who made the request are in the clear, but the counselor who complied with it faces a $5,000 fine and a mandatory ethics class. The psychology examiners’ recommendation will be appealed to an administrative law judge, but in the meantime the UO can resolve the uncertainty by ensuring the primacy of confidentiality of student medical and counseling records.

The case has been a painful one for the UO, in no small part because of its own missteps. The victim of the alleged rape sued the university, claiming it had mishandled her case. Among her complaints was that the UO had given her counseling records to its lawyers without her consent.

The UO clumsily responded with a countersuit, arguing that the alleged victim’s legal claims would deter victims of sexual assault from coming forward. The argument was preposterous — any deterrent effect would stem from the university’s own disregard for confidentiality. The UO eventually dropped its suit and settled with the alleged victim for $800,000 plus full tuition, room and board. …

“Outsider77” starts off the RG readers’ comments:

My gut wrenched when reminded that the scum lawyers were adjudged by their professional organization as lily white with zero ethical lapse. It was they who initiated this transgression yet they are not held responsible for an ethical lapse. I feel for the he director of the UO’s Counseling & Testing Center. Had she refused for “ethical” reasons she may have been fired causing completely unacceptable damage to family and life. Asking an employee to defy their employer’s instructions in a legal gray area is irresponsible in that it ignores the truly grave consequences that defiance can have not only on the employee but family and dependents. The initiators, the lawyers, were let off scot free. If we want to hold people responsible, it should be the initiators, i.e. the lawyers.

Actually, my understanding is that the Bar’s decision not to pursue an ethics complaint against UO lawyers Doug Park and Sam Hill is still under appeal. But the real worry for UO’s lawyers would seem to be a follow-up in state court to the federal Bowl of Dicks retaliation lawsuit. The Oregonian first reported on this from court, and James Cleavenger’s attorneys seem pretty confident that Interim UO General Counsel Doug Park was part of the illegal retaliation scheme that has already cost UO $755K in damages and probably $500K in legal fees. Add that to the $800K for Jane Doe and another $200K or so in legal. And the buyout for Archivist James Fox, and the legal costs for that. $500K? And the potential retaliation lawsuits from the brave Counseling Center employees Jennifer Morlock and Karen Stokes, who reported the actions of CTS Director Shelly Kerr and Doug Park and Sam Hill. UO’s legal insurance paid for much of these costs, but of course rates will now rise.

Not a good year for UO’s General Counsel’s office. Fortunately UO’s new VP and GC Kevin Reed is already cleaning things up, as Diane Dietz reports in the RG:

University of Oregon President Michael Schill acts on student confidentiality

New UO General Counsel Kevin Reed helps

New University of Oregon General Counsel Kevin Reed — before he even got to campus — helped write new protections for the privacy of student therapy records at the campus counseling center.

UO President Michael Schill adopted the new policy on a temporary basis to protect students until the university crafts the final policies and practices, according to an Oct. 1 memo obtained by the blog …

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