University of Michigan replaces law firm in abuse inquiry

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan shows Dr. Robert E. Anderson. A University of Michigan hotline has received more than 100 “unique complaints” about Dr. Anderson, a late physician accused of sexual abuse by former patients, including athletes who encountered him as a team doctor, the school announced Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. He died in 2008. (Robert Kalmbach/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan via AP)

ANN ARBOR, Mich, (AP) — The University of Michigan said it is replacing the law firm pegged to lead the investigation into allegations a deceased team doctor molested hundreds of people after learning that some of its attorneys represented high-profile clients accused of sexual misconduct.

The Ann Arbor school will find another firm to continue the university's own investigation into claims against Dr. Robert E. Anderson after becoming aware that attorneys in another branch of the multinational Steptoe & Johnson firm "once represented prominent clients ... accused of sexual misconduct,” according to a Saturday statement from the university's board of regents and President Mark Schlissel.

“After consulting with survivors, we have determined that this could discourage survivors hurt by Dr. Anderson from coming forward," the university said.

The university said would announce a new law firm when it found one.

Steptoe & Johnson lawyers have represented Jeffrey Epstein, the financier who killed himself last year while awaiting on charges of sexually abusing girls, and director Roman Polanski, still wanted in the U.S. decades after he was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Among those criticizing the university's selection of Steptoe & Johnston was John Manly, who represents more than 50 Anderson accusers.

“The selection of a law firm that represents Polanski (and) Epstein to investigate Anderson (and) Michigan is breathtaking in its stupidity (and) insensitivity," he said, according to The Detroit News.

The university announced last month that it was investigation allegations of abuse against Anderson, who died in 2008. Numerous men have come forward publicly and in lawsuits to allege that Anderson molested them during medical exams during his decades-long career as a physician for the school's athletic teams and at the university’s health service.

The revelations at Michigan echo other high-profile allegations and investigations of sexual abuse made by patients of sports doctors at other universities, including Michigan State University, Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota.