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Court names mediator in Strauss case

Richard Strauss, a former wrestling team physician and an assistant professor of medicine, is being investigated by Ohio State on allegations of sexual misconduct. Credit: Lantern file photo

After Ohio State and accusers of sexual abuse from former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss missed a March 12 deadline to agree upon a mediator, the court appointed one on Friday, according to court documents from the Southern District Court of Ohio.

In an order filed on Friday, Judge Michael H. Watson named Judge Michael R. Barrett as mediator and gave both parties to April 1 to contact his chambers for scheduling purposes.

“The Court gave the parties multiple opportunities to confer and agree upon a mediator, but on March 12, 2019, the parties filed a joint notice indicating that they are not able to reach an agreement,” the order said. “Therefore, the Court appoints a mediator that it believes is exceptionally well-suited to resolve these cases.”

Both Ohio State and the plaintiffs had provided lists of mediators they preferred to be chosen for the case, but Barrett appeared on neither party’s list.

Barrett has served as a United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio judge since 2006. Prior to that he worked in the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office form 1978 to 1984 before entering the private sector.

The plaintiffs and the university could not decide on a mediator leading up to the March 12 deadline as the plaintiffs sought someone with experience handling similar cases and suggested Kenneth Feinberg who mediated the Penn State sexual abuse claims against former football coach Jerry Sandusky, and U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, who handled the Michigan State case involving Larry Nassar.

Ohio State rejected the plaintiff’s suggestions citing the controversy of the Penn State outcome — but not blaming Feinberg — and looking for someone with a “fresh perspective” in regards to Phillip’s involvement with Michigan State. The university’s own suggestions were rejected by the plaintiffs for lacking the requisite experience.

Rex Sharp, who represents the class action plaintiffs, said, the plaintiffs “look forward” to receiving the Perkins Coie report and working with Barrett.

Ohio State’s investigation into sexual abuse claims against Strauss began in April 2018. Strauss worked at the university from 1978-1998 and the alleged abuse occured during his role as team physician and while he worked as a doctor at student health services, as well as at an off-campus clinic from 1996 to 1998.

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

Porter Wright was appointed to serve as Ohio State’s legal counsel for the investigation by then-attorney general Mike DeWine, and originally hired Bricker & Eckler to lead the investigation, but a legal conflict led them to turn to Perkins Coie.

Ohio State’s special counsel Mike Carpenter said the university appreciates the court’s “careful consideration of this matter,” and look forward to working with Barrett.

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