A senior federal judge from Cincinnati will handle the mediation of two lawsuits filed against Ohio State by scores of men alleging the university ignored or failed to stop decades of sexual misconduct by a now-deceased team doctor.
After lawyers for Ohio State and the men couldn’t agree on a mediator, the suits were referred Friday to U.S. District Judge Michael R. Barrett by Judge Michael Watson in Columbus, who has overseen the cases.
Lawyers on both sides mostly shared little reaction Friday, saying simply that they look forward to working through mediation with Barrett.
One attorney for some of the plaintiffs, Jack Landskroner, said the decision provides “a strong and credible mediator” for the matter.
Barrett has been federal judge in the Southern District of Ohio since 2006. He previously worked as a litigator, an assistant county prosecutor and an administrative hearing officer for the state, and he has served on the University of Cincinnati board of trustees.
Watson’s order described Barrett as “exceptionally well-suited to resolve these cases” but didn’t elaborate further.
The plaintiffs’ suggested mediators had included people used in cases involving Michigan State and Penn State, but Ohio State said it wouldn’t agree to those because the handling of those cases led to controversy.
Ohio Staet had recommended a former federal judge or a federal appeals court mediator.
No one has publicly defended the doctor, Richard Strauss, who killed himself in 2005. His family has said only that they were shocked at the allegations, which span 1979 to 1997 and include athletes from at least 16 sports, as well as his work at the student health center and his off-campus clinic.
More than 150 former students have provided firsthand accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss. Many of those speaking publicly say they were unnecessarily groped during exams.
A law firm is investigating the allegations for Ohio State. Some Strauss accusers have questioned the independence of that investigation, but the school has insisted it’s committed to uncovering the truth.
Employment records released by the university reflect no major concerns about Strauss. But alumni say they complained about him as far back as the late 1970s, and Ohio State has at least one documented complaint from 1995.
The claims have spurred an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.