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Attorney Winston G. DeCuir Jr, LSU Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, answers questions during the Senate Select Committee's third hearing on how LSU officials have handled accusations of fumbling sexual misconduct complaints, etc. Thursday April 8, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

The Husch Blackwell report that examined LSU’s culture of downplaying – sometimes ignoring – complaints of sexual misconduct contained reckless statements that damaged the reputation of the Baton Rouge law firm that had represented the university for 80 years prior to the release of the report, the Taylor Porter firm alleged in April during an exchange of correspondence with LSU.

“It is unfortunate Taylor Porter has had to endure an unfair mischaracterization of its work and advice, as will eventually be proven in court,” Darrel J. Papillion, who represents Taylor Porter, said Tuesday in a statement about the two letters that LSU released the day before.

LSU parted ways with the law firm on April 23, after members of the Board of Supervisors questioned why they only learned of 2013 sexual harassment allegations against football coach Les Miles upon reading the Husch Blackwell report that was released in early March. Some supervisors put the blame on legal advice by Taylor Porter.

The law firm, which was founded in 1912, would have none of that and said so in an April 23 letter, sent hours after they received LSU’s letter calling for the return of 10 case files and terminating their legal services. LSU made public both letters at the request of The Advocate | The Times-Picayune.

“Husch issued a report that contained reckless and false statements about Taylor Porter, damaged its professional reputation, and injured its business without so much as the courtesy of asking Taylor Porter anything about the matter,” Papillion wrote April 23 to Winston DeCuir Jr., LSU’s general counsel. “Taylor Porter takes issue with Husch’s conclusion that the guidance offered by Taylor Porter was anything less than excellent legal advice.”

LSU leadership, including Board Chairman Robert Dampf and LSU President Tom Galligan, wouldn’t comment Tuesday, saying the letters could speak for themselves. Scott Schneider, the partner in Austin office of Husch Blackwell that led the investigation, said only: “We stand by the report.”

Back on April 23, Galligan and Dampf said both the university and the law firm were named defendants in a lawsuit by an LSU employee, Sharon Lewis, who claims she was retaliated against for trying to make public the reactions of some administrators to sexual misconduct claims. LSU, at the time, described the move as necessary because co-defendants often take conflicting positions and could end up pointing fingers at each other.

But Taylor Porter had been in the hot seat with LSU leadership since the Husch Blackwell report was made public on March 3.

Several members of the LSU Board of Supervisors on April 7 told The Advocate | The Times-Picayune that Taylor Porter had advised a small group of supervisors and university officials back in May 2013 to stay quiet about Miles’ alleged improper behavior with female students. It was advice that current board members said contributed to the university’s culture of covering up sexual allegations.

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Eight years earlier, the law firm met with only three of the 16 LSU board members — Hank Danos, Bobby Yarborough and Stanley Jacobs, none of whom is still serving — plus then-athletic director Joe Alleva and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar to review allegations of improper behavior lodged by two female students against Miles. They agreed on how to discipline Miles, who still maintains his innocence, and that the allegations should be kept quiet.

“Those present agreed that this was appropriate administrative action that could and should be taken without further review by the full Board,” stated the Taylor Porter memo of the meeting that was placed in the law firm’s files.

All the documentation about the allegations and settlement were kept at Taylor Porter to circumvent LSU, as a public entity, from having to release the information if asked under the state’s public records law.

Though all but one of the current LSU supervisors were appointed after 2013, they were getting blamed for the situation at LSU in April during highly publicized hearings at the State Capitol, which included emotional testimony from women who were assaulted and harassed as students on the LSU campus.

Portions of the two letters released by LSU were redacted on the grounds of protecting attorney-client privilege. One of the passages was marked out after the date April 9 – the day Taylor Porter and LSU executives met to discuss the future of their relationship.

"LSU told Taylor Porter that because LSU and Taylor Porter were both named as defendants in the Sharon Lewis lawsuit, LSU wanted Taylor Porter to stop handling certain matters, while it would continue to handle other matters,” Papillion said. “Unfortunately, LSU’s action in this regard created an irreconcilable conflict for Taylor Porter such that Taylor Porter could not represent LSU in any legal matter. Taylor Porter had no choice but to terminate LSU as a client in all matters.”

Much of the recent gossip in the Baton Rouge legal community is about who fired whom. The two letters don’t clear up that issue.

LSU General Counsel DeCuir wrote that he was providing “notice of termination of legal services” and asked for the return the files of 10 cases that were pending in court. Apparently, LSU left the firm with dozens of ongoing transactions, contracts, and other paperwork involving the university. The law firm responded that given the context, LSU had created a conflict of interest for Taylor Porter and the firm returned the files on the remaining matters, thereby ending the relationship that began in the 1930s.

“Although your letter only lists certain enumerated matters, it is important that LSU understand, as we have previously advised you and many members of the Board, as a result of this action, Taylor Porter can no longer represent LSU in any matter,” Papillion’s April 23 letter stated.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.

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