Victims of sexual abuse from Dr. Richard Strauss and Ohio State have struggled to find a mediator for a pair of pending court cases, according to court documents from the Southern District Court of Ohio.
In Brian Garrett et. al, v. Ohio State and Steve Snyder-Hill et. al, v. Ohio State, the plaintiffs recommended two mediators with experience handling other large-scale cases. Former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, who handled the Michigan State mediation involving the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, was named, as was Kenneth Feinberg, whomediated the sexual abuse cases at Penn State University involving Jerry Sandusky.
Ohio State opposed both Phillips and Feinberg handling the mediation.
“Survivors deserve to have a mediator well versed in handling sexual abuse cases,” Brian Garrett, a Strauss accuser and lead plaintiff in one of the two cases, said in a statement. “For OSU to oppose two nationally known mediators with extensive experience in helping institutions do the right thing for sexual abuse victims is insensitive. We look forward to the court once again providing OSU with guidance on the right path for survivors.”
Against Phillips, Ohio State argued that there needs to be a “fresh perspective to the unique facts and circumstances of this litigation” in the case, and someone who handled the Michigan State situation is not the mediator to do that.
Against Feinberg, Ohio State said the handling of the Penn State case “resulted in controversy and issues after the settlement had been reached,” though it noted the university did not blame Feinberg for those issues, court documents said.
Ohio State recommended James F. Holderman, a former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, to serve as the mediator in the case, court documents said. It noted Holderman has resolved several class actions and mass tort lawsuits.
Paul Calico, chief mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District since 2010, was listed as the alternative to Holderman by the university.
The plaintiffs argued against both, saying neither has the experience handling sexual abuse mediations in the past.
“It is puzzling that OSU refuses to consent to the only two mediators suggested that have both sex abuse mediation experience and have ever reached a mediated settlement in a university sex abuse class case,” court documents read.
Ohio State had filed motions to have both lawsuits dismissed, but a court order from Judge Michael H. Watson to seek mediation put both the motion to stay discovery and motion to dismiss on hold.
“Our guiding principle since the first survivor came forward in April has been to lift up and support our community while we pursue the truth through an independent investigation,” Chris Davey, Ohio State spokesman, said in a statement. “As the investigation reaches its concluding phase, we believe it is important to offer counseling services. We continue to urge anyone who has information that could aid in the investigation to come forward and provide it to the independent investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Strauss, a doctor at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998, is accused to have sexually abused both former student-athletes and students during his time as a team physician and employee at Student Health Services. Ohio State also said investigators are looking into claims that he might have abused students at a private clinic after leaving the university.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.
A mediation will begin within 30 days after the initial court order came in on Jan. 17. Court documents said “the parties recommend the scheduling of an initial mediation conference involving only counsel and the mediator sometime during early February.”