Education Law

O'Melveny tapped to lead probe of University of Virginia's handling of sex-assault reports

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O’Melveny & Myers will investigate the University of Virginia’s handling of sexual-assault reports after a critical story in Rolling Stone about the school’s handling of a woman’s report of being gang raped at a fraternity house.

Among those on O’Melveny’s legal team are former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and former associate White House counsel Danielle Gray, who served on a White House task force to protect students from sexual assault, according to a letter (PDF) announcing the hiring of the law firm by the Virginia Attorney General’s office. The National Law Journal (sub. req.) has a story.

In the Rolling Stone article, a woman identified as “Jackie” said a member of Phi Kappa Psi invited her to a party at the fraternity house in 2012 when she was an 18-year-old freshman student at the university. Jackie’s date invited her to his room to get away from the noise, Jackie said, and when she accompanied him there she was raped by seven men, including a student from one of her classes. Afterwards, Jackie said, her friends discouraged her from reporting the rape. When she reported the rape more than a year ago to the dean who headed the school’s sexual misconduct board, Jackie was told she had three options: She could file a criminal complaint, could file a complaint with the misconduct board, or could resolve the matter informally by telling her attackers how she felt.

“Like many schools, UVA has taken to emphasizing that in matters of sexual assault, it caters to victim choice,” Rolling Stone wrote. “But in practice, that utter lack of guidance can be counterproductive to a 19-year-old so traumatized as Jackie was that she was contemplating suicide.”

After the Rolling Stone article, university president Teresa Sullivan suspended the school’s fraternities until Jan. 9 and asked Charlottesville police to investigate, Bloomberg News reports. Sullivan said in a statement that many details of the incident hadn’t been disclosed to the school.

O’Melveny was tapped after the Attorney General’s office announced it was hiring Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis to conduct the review, then quickly withdrew the appointment because Filip was once a member of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Illinois.

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