VP of Legal Affairs at MSU resigns in the wake of more Nassar-related lawsuits

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 6:04pm

Michigan State University is facing three new lawsuits as of Saturday with regard to the handling of the sexual assault allegations against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor and MSU sports medicine doctor, according to the State News on Tuesday

Michigan State University is facing three new lawsuits as of Saturday with regard to the handling of the sexual assault allegations against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor and MSU sports medicine doctor, according to the State News on Tuesday Buy this photo
Amelia Cacchione/Daily

Michigan State University is facing three new lawsuits as of Saturday with regard to the handling of the sexual assault allegations against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor and MSU sports medicine doctor, according to the State News on Tuesday. Just days after these lawsuits were announced, Bob Noto, MSU vice president for Legal Affairs and General Counsel, announced his retirement in a press release. Former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Robert Young will now coordinate the legal team managing these lawsuits. 

Katherine Gordon, one of the victims of Nassar’s abuse, spoke at Nassar’s trial in Ingham County in January, where he received 40 to 175 years for sexual assault. She is now the first to sue MSU, the university’s Board of Trustees and various MSU officials and members of the medical staff including Nassar, William Strampel, the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and MSU athletic trainer Destiny Teachnor-Hauk and more. The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 17 by the law firms Manly, Stewart & Finaldi in California and Drew, Cooper & Anding in Grand Rapids.

The second and third lawsuits, which were filed on Sunday, are represented by Louis Corey of the Corey Law Firm and were filed on behalf of Jane Doe 01 and Jane Doe 02, minors who were reportedly abused by Nassar. These lawsuits both name MSU, the Board of Trustees, Nassar, MSU Sports Medicine Clinic and USA Gymnastics, Inc. as defendants.

In a comment in the State News, the Corey Law Firm said the two cases are seeking compensation for the “acts, conduct, and omissions” by Nassar, MSU and the other defendants.

All three lawsuits are reportedly requesting a trial by jury.

In addition to the recent lawsuit announcement, Noto’s retirement is coming on the heels of MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam’s calling for Noto to resign from his position last month. Mosallam tweeted demanding Noto resign and called for “an independent review of the legal department’s handling of the Nassar matter,” after a copy of the Title IX report filed against Nassar published online seemed to implicate MSU and Noto in hiding details about the case and the university’s knowledge of the abuse.

In the wake of Noto’s retirement announcement, Robert Young, former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, has been named lead counsel by the university to coordinate the legal team representing the university in these recently filed lawsuits and the other Title IX suits pending against MSU.

In the press release, Young said he and interim MSU President John Engler, who took over the position after former President Lou Anna Simon resigned last month, will cooperate with all Title IX lawsuits filed against the university.

“I am pleased to assist the university in addressing its multiple challenges,” he said. “President Engler has made it clear that MSU is cooperating fully with the various investigations and that will be an ongoing priority for me.”

According to the Detroit News, Young is also representing Gov. Rick Snyder in a lawsuit to force Snyder to oust current MSU trustees as of last week.

Kristine Zayko, a former deputy general counsel for the university, will temporarily fill the position of vice president for Legal Affairs effective March 5. Zayko will serve in the role while the university searches for a permanent replacement.

In the press release, Noto did not mention his specific reasons for leaving the position but instead heralded the university’s values and said he hopes the university will continue to serve Michigan and the country.

“It has been my privilege and pleasure to build and lead MSU’s legal team, in which I have great confidence,” Noto said. “I am proud to have Kristine Zayko as acting vice president for legal affairs and general counsel. I am deeply committed to the university’s land-grant mission and have worked with colleagues and clients to help MSU serve our state and nation. I am fortunate to have devoted my career to these goals and principles.”