DETROIT, MI–On August 3, 2022, U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts issued an Order granting final approval to the settlement of the class action lawsuit against the University of Michigan arising out of UofM campus sexual misconduct. The settlement resolves a class action lawsuit filed in 2021 on behalf of current and future UM students led by senior Josephine Graham against the University of Michigan for its handling of allegations of sexual abuse against late former doctor and athletics program physician, Robert E. Anderson. Graham’s suit is a companion to a suit filed in March 2020 by survivors of Dr. Anderson, and is aimed at enacting sweeping policy changes to prevent and improve university responses to sexual violence on campus against students. In comments from the bench, Judge Roberts called the settlement an outstanding outcome that she hopes is emulated around the country.
“We are proud of this Settlement,” notes Lieff Cabraser senior partner Jonathan D. Selbin, who represents the plaintiffs in the case. “The decades of abuse by Dr. Anderson are a dark stain on the history of the University of Michigan. With this settlement, it takes one critical step toward taking accountability for that period and writing the next chapter in which it will become the Leader and Best in preventing and addressing sexual and gender abuse and violence on campus.”
“We commend the University for doing so.” Selbin concluded, “This settlement also shows the unique power and role class actions can play in making our country and institutions better. We also want to thank our client, Josie Graham, for her vision and courage in stepping forward to improve a university she loves.”
A key part of the settlement includes the creation of a Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) for U of M, a multidisciplinary standing committee made up of independent experts such as Title IX and campus sexual misconduct experts and representatives of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office and SafeHouse Center, students, survivors, community members, and select members of the administration and faculty.
CCRTs are widely recognized by experts on sexual misconduct prevention as an indispensable tool to achieve comprehensive prevention of campus sexual violence. They have been adopted by colleges and universities throughout the country, including the University of South Florida and the University of California. The 2017 Report by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault identified CCRTs as the first of six primary elements of a comprehensive sexual misconduct prevention plan, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women requires colleges and universities to establish CCRTs to receive funding under its Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program.
This working group will bring transparency and diverse perspectives to the University’s response to sexual misconduct to ensure it is driven and considered by all community stakeholders – not just the administration. The CCRT will have a leadership team comprised of three co-chairs which includes an outside expert, and a robust team of members selected from the on-campus and surrounding communities. This group of campus and community stakeholders will be tasked with, among other responsibilities:
- Engaging stakeholders on all aspects of campus prevention and response to sexual violence;
- Developing, reviewing, and advising on policy and practice improvements;
- Educating the community about issues related to sexual violence;
- Regularly meeting with the University President; and
- Providing public updates on its efforts, including the University’s response to the CCRT’s recommended reforms, to provide accountability through transparency.
Jonathan D. Selbin
Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP
The Miller Law Firm, P.C.
Sauder Schelkopf LLC