Just over a year ago– Feb. 7, 2008 to be exact - The Chronicle (TC) ran a story headlined: “University hires lawyer for civil suit.” Here’s that TC in full with my comments following below the star line.
TC began - - -
Duke has hired former U.S. deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick to assist in the defense against the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by three unindicted members of the 2005-2006 men's lacrosse team, University officials confirmed Wednesday.
"At different times, we hire different attorneys depending on what skills we are looking for," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "Jamie Gorelick is one of the most respected lawyers in this country and having her on our team of lawyers working on this matter will be very helpful."
Professor of Law Thomas Metzloff said Gorelick will be able to help by sorting through the 379-page-long complaint and thinking through the "creative" civil rights theories it employs.
A partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Washington, D.C., Gorelick served as deputy attorney general from 1994 to 1997 and as vice chair of Fannie Mae from 1997 to 2003 and was also a member of the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the events leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"It is good to have that level of expertise to make sure you have a consistent and coordinated level of response," Metzloff said.
He added that the plaintiffs-senior Ryan McFadyen, Matt Wilson, Trinity '06, and former Duke student Breck Archer-have submitted "a lot of unusual claims under federal rights laws."
The lengthy suit alleges a "consortium" of more than 30 defendants, including President Richard Brodhead and other top administrators, Duke University Health System, former Durham district attorney Mike Nifong and the director of the laboratory that examined the DNA among others conspired against Duke students in prolonging the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case.
"'Consortium' is not a legal term to me," Metzloff said. "The average complaint is less than 20 to 30 pages, but it depends on the context of the complaint. I read thousands of complaints, and this one is significantly longer than any I have heard of."
McFadyen, Wilson and Archer claim they were "railroaded as either principals or accomplices" in relation to exotic dancer Crystal Mangum's rape claims in the March 2006 case against three lacrosse players.
Duke administration officials have said the lawsuit was misdirected toward the University-a sentiment Metzloff echoed.
"I'd like this whole thing to go away," he said.
My reactions reading the story today are the same as they were last Feb. 7: It’s very one-sided and fails to report what Gorelick’s hiring really meant.
I’ve no problem with TC’s repeated quoting of Professor Metzloff, beginning with his sneering reference to the complaint's "’creative’" civil rights theories[.]”
But why is Metzloff, who in TC’s story just echoes what we’d already heard from the Allen Building, the only attorney TC quotes?
Any candid attorney could’ve told TC what it should have told its readers: Duke’s hiring Gorelick meant Duke - - contrary to its dismissive public comments about the complaint - - realized it was in for a very tough battle defending itself against the complaint’s allegations.
But the story makes no mention of TC trying to get a reaction from anyone other than Metzloff and VP Burness.
I can understand TC placing early in the story Duke’s public explanation for hiring Gorelick:
"At different times, we hire different attorneys depending on what skills we are looking for," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "Jamie Gorelick is one of the most respected lawyers in this country and having her on our team of lawyers working on this matter will be very helpful."But TC failed its readers by not questioning Burness once he’d provided his bromide explanation.
The two most obvious questions TC should have asked Burness were: “Doesn’t hiring Gorelick mean Duke takes Eckstrand’s complaint very seriously?” and “Gorelick’s had very little, if any, experience litigating in the complex areas the Ekstrand suit involves. So why was she selected?”
I can't find anything in TC's story the Allen Building could complain about. On the other hand, TC readers were shorted.