Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who Oregon Health & Science University tapped to conduct an investigation into the campus’ handling of sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints, told the school his hourly rate is $2,295 and his legal partner’s rate is $1,445 an hour.
Holder alerted the school in a March 30 letter, released by OHSU in response to a public records request by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Holder and his firm were hired to investigate the campus’ sexual misconduct responses in the wake of the high-profile harassment lawsuit filed against the school and former anesthesiology resident Dr. Jason Campbell, who became widely known as the “TikTok Doc” for his viral dance videos in hospital scrubs.
OHSU officials said they don’t know the total cost of the contract with Holder and his partner, former federal prosecutor Nancy Kestenbaum, but the university president called it a “significant investment.”
University President Dr. Danny Jacobs estimated the investigation would take at least six months by Holder, Kestenbaum and other lawyers at the Washington-based Covington & Burling firm. Holder said he agreed to “discount” the hourly rate by 10% for the university.
“Engaging Covington and undergoing this process is a significant investment, but we believe that the investigators’ extensive experience and expertise will result in a comprehensive and independent analysis that would otherwise be impossible,” Jacobs and OHSU board chair Wayne Monfries wrote to the school community on April 8.
“Overall cost is difficult to predict as it will be dependent on a number of factors including volume of community members who submit information to the Covington team,” said Tracy Brawley, an OHSU spokeswoman.
In February, a social worker at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center next to the OHSU campus filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging Campbell repeatedly sexually harassed her through texts and social media messages and assaulted her by forcing his body against hers in her office at the VA hospital last March.
The suit also alleged that several medical school professors failed to report the harassment for investigation after the social worker confided in them.
The social worker complained to OHSU about Campbell in early April 2020. An OHSU internal investigation concluded in August that Campbell violated the school’s harassment policy and code of conduct. He was allowed to resign in lieu of a dismissal hearing Oct. 23, according to the school.
The school’s lawyers have argued in court papers that the doctors identified in the suit aren’t subject to any of the suit’s Title IX allegations because the social worker didn’t have a direct connection to OHSU at the time of her interactions with Campbell.
Title IX is a 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools.
The university’s lawyers and lawyers for OHSU Dr. Esther Choo, who is not named as a defendant in the suit but is one of the doctors who the alleged victim said she reported the sexual misconduct to, have asked a judge to direct the plaintiff’s lawyers to halt from any personal attacks against Choo or other potential witnesses in the case.
“We are seeking that the court issue an order preventing plaintiff’s counsel from attacking the character and the credibility of individuals that work at OHSU and who might be witnesses, in this case,” said attorney Karen O’Kasey, for OHSU, during a hearing earlier this week.
O’Kasey said the Twitter messages from the plaintiff’s lawyers “have crossed over from fair comments within the rules of professional responsibility.”
Choo has retained New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is representing Mary L. Trump and writer E. Jean Carroll in separate suits against former President Donald Trump. A spokeswoman for Choo has argued that Choo wasn’t a mandatory reporter because the social worker wasn’t an OHSU student and Campbell wasn’t under her immediate supervision.
Michael Fuller, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff who filed the suit against Campbell, defended the social media statements he and his co-counsel Kim Sordyl have made.
“I’m advocating for a woman who was allegedly sexually abused and had that abuse systematically covered up by this hospital. And I’m saying what she would say, if she wasn’t proceeding anonymously,” Fuller told U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez in a hearing this week.
Fuller argued that social media won’t prejudice the defendants so far from a civil trial, but the judge noted that once something is up on social media it’s around for the long haul.
“I’m proud of the advocacy work that I’m doing judge. I understand that it rubs people the wrong way, and it rubs OHSU the wrong way,” Fuller said. “And I don’t take pride in the fact that it does, but I do take pride in the work that I’m doing and the results that it’s having in the community.”
The judge said he’d take the matter under advisement.
Further back-and-forth arguments between Choo’s New York lawyer and Fuller fill recent court filings. Kaplan had asked for assurances from Fuller in an April 14 call that any materials provided by Choo to the plaintiff’s lawyers would remain confidential, and when he wouldn’t agree to that, things went south, according to the records.
Fuller contends Kaplan “repeatedly raised her voice” during the call and wrote that it sounded like she was “going to cry” on the call.
Rachel L. Tuchman, an associate lawyer of Kaplan, Hecker & Fink, responded in a court filing: “The suggestion that Ms. Kaplan was close to tears is not only false, but suggests sexist attitudes about how women attorneys conduct themselves.”
— Maxine Bernstein
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