Former Gov. James Blanchard's firm to represent MSU in D.C.
MSU hired DLA Piper, former governor James Blanchard's law firm in Washington D.C., to represent the university before the federal government, according to a press release Monday.
The firm will represent MSU for inquiries from departments, agencies and Congress on Title IX and sexual assault policies.
The firm signed a one-year agreement that runs from Feb. 1, 2018 to Jan. 31, 2019.
Blanchard said in addition to working with the university on alumni and supporter relations, he will help direct inquiries for DLA Piper.
“That will be as an official lawyer-client relationship between our firm and MSU,” he said.
DLA Piper is a global law firm, with lawyers in 40 countries, according to its website. Blanchard joined as partner in 1996.
Blanchard said he reached out to the Board of Trustees to offer his help because he wanted to support survivors and work with his alma mater.
“I believe we need to honor the survivors by making sure there’s a full investigation and making sure something like this never happens again, and making sure we set the gold standard for behavior,” he said.
Blanchard served as governor from 1983-91 and ambassador to Canada from 1993-96.
In response to rumors about his name being considered for the interim president position, Blanchard said he does not think he was considered seriously. He said he may have accepted it if offered.
“I would’ve probably felt it was my duty, but the reality is I was not seeking it,” he said. “I did tell the (Board of Trustees) that I wanted to help in any way possible.”
Blanchard said he was not sure what specifically needs to be done at MSU, but encouraged a closer look at policies and procedures.
“I think every incident or complaint needs to be taken seriously,” he said. “My sense is the overwhelming number — I don’t know if it’s 99 percent or 98 but the overwhelming number — I think are, usually accurate and justified in terms of complaints. I know they have policies in place. The question is, why did they fail? How can this happen? … It’s our darkest hour.”
Some are questioning Blanchard's involvement. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, told the Detroit Free Press.
“You’re having to ask the question of whether Jim Blanchard’s law firm is making money on the investigation,” Dingell said. “The Michigan State community needs to have somebody who is strong, independent and non-political. No questions like this should come up ever.”
MSU is against that charge. MSU spokesperson John Truscott said it's common for lawyers and their firms who are involved with an institution to act as counsel.
“I don’t know where that comes from," Truscott said. "I certainly don’t see it. There are a number of, whether it be companies or government institutions, that have the internal government affairs folks doing both government affairs and working on legal issues and Congressional inquiries. This is actually really common so I don’t see where there would be any issues.”
Editor's note: this story was updated on Feb. 13 at 4:06 p.m.