Survivors of systematic sexual abuse are owed three things above all else: transparency, accountability, and justice. Today, sources are reporting that the University of Michigan will not invoke attorney-client privilege as an outside law firm investigates the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations against the disgraced former doctor, Robert Anderson.
Attorney-client privilege refers to a legal privilege that works to keep confidential communications between an attorney and his or her client secret, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
When Larry Nassar’s systematic sexual abuse was investigated at Michigan State University, the university has invoked its attorney-client privilege to disallow the Michigan Attorney General from reviewing thousands of critical documents needed to conduct a thorough investigation. The AG suspended its investigation in December 2019 because of MSU’s lack of cooperation and transparency. Due to this experience with MSU, the Michigan AG recently announced her office would not conduct an independent investigation of the University of Michigan’s handling of the Robert Anderson case, unless the university agreed to diverge from the path MSU took, and agree not to invoke attorney-client privilege.
Today’s news signals hope that the University of Michigan will handle things differently than their counterparts in East Lansing. By agreeing to allow investigators full access to relevant documents, regardless of whether privilege exists or not, the university is affording a level of transparency survivors at MSU have yet to experience.
Although the university has purportedly agreed to waive privilege, its contract with the same outside firm, WilmerHale, who is also investigating sexual abuse allegations against UM Provost Martin Philbert, indicates the work in that matter will be conducted under attorney-client privilege. Actions speak louder than words; and only time will tell if the university is truly committed to affording transparency, accountability and justice to survivors.
Grewal Law PLLC will continue to follow this matter closely as we continue to fight and advocate for over 100 survivors of Robert Anderson’s abuse, whom we have the honor to represent through our team of world-class litigators.
Kelly R. McClintock joined Grewal Law in 2019 to help establish a human trafficking litigation division and to assist Grewal’s already successful practices, including sexual assault litigation, and family law.