Jones Day Sued by Ex-Michigan State Football Staffer Over Probe

June 8, 2020, 3:54 PM

The law firm Jones Day, two of its attorneys, and Michigan State University’s former football coach face a federal suit by a former team staff member over their investigations into alleged sexual assaults that occurred in 2017 involving MSU football players.

Curtis Blackwell, who worked as director of college advancement and performance, alleges he was fired for exercising his First Amendment right not to speak with the school’s Office of Institutional Equity, the MSU police department, and Jones Day about allegations of assault against three football players.

Jones Day’s written report “falsely concluded that plaintiff violated” the school’s policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct by not reporting the alleged assault, the complaint filed Jun 6 in the Eastern District of Michigan also says.

The finding was “false and defamatory” because the policy as applied to Blackwell violated his First Amendment right not to speak, the complaint alleges.

Jones Day conducted an independent investigation of the MSU football program’s response to allegations of sexual assault in connection with incidents that occurred in January 2017 involving the three MSU football players. The inquiry also included an April 2017 alleged assault involving a former MSU football player.

Jones Day foundthe program appropriately responded to the incidents.

The complaint also names as a defendant Mark Dantonio, who resigned as head coach of the MSU football team earlier this year for unrelated reasons.

Cause of Action: First Amendment retaliation under 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Relief: Damages, declaratory relief, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Response: Jones Day didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Attorney Andrew A. Paterson Jr. represents Blackwell.

The case is Blackwell v. Jones Day Law Firm, E.D. Mich., No. 20-cv-11493, 6/6/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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