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University of Michigan hires new law firm in doctor abuse inquiry

Attorney John Manly speaks about former University of Michigan doctor Robert E. Anderson when victims spoke to the news media in Ypsilanti on March 5. Survivors of abuse by ex-Michigan State doctor Larry Nasser, Sterling Riethman, left, and Kaylee Lorincz, give their support to Anderson’s victims. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP)

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan has hired a new law firm to lead the investigation into allegations a deceased doctor molested hundreds of people.
Meanwhile, attorneys for some of the men accusing the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson of sexual abuse say they are continuing to communicate with current and prospective clients in regards to their in- and out-of-court disputes with the university.
The school said Tuesday that WilmerHale has replaced Steptoe & Johnson, which it cut ties with two weeks ago after learning some of the firm’s attorneys represented high-profile clients accused of sexual misconduct.
WilmerHale is also handling Michigan’s investigation into sexual misconduct allegations made against Martin Philbert. He lost his job as chief academic officer, but is still on the school’s payroll as a faculty member with tenure protection while the investigation continues.
“The university is fully committed to allowing WilmerHale to conduct vigorous and independent investigations in both matters,” regent Denise Ilitch said in the school’s statement.
The university announced more than a month ago that it was investigating allegations of abuse against Anderson, a L’Anse native who died in 2008, and it offered counseling to anyone affected by the alleged misconduct.
WilmerHale will conduct its investigations with attorney-client privilege to protect the confidentiality of all sexual misconduct survivors and witnesses, the school said.
That stance did not sit well with attorneys for Anderson’s accusers, who want the school to accept state Attorney General Dana Nessel’s offer to investigate the matter. She said her office will only do so, though, if the school waives all privilege and hands over any documents or information requested.