Breaking: Talbot out at MSU, university cites ‘scheduling conflicts’

Hannah Administration building | Michael Gerstein

Retired Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Michael Talbot is no longer assisting Michigan State University with its transition to new federal Title IX standards, according to a statement from MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant.

“In February, the university engaged retired Court of Appeals Judge Michael Talbot to help with the hearings and set up our procedures, with our eventual goal of transitioning the hearings to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules [MOAHR],” Guerrant wrote on Tuesday in response to an email inquiry from the Advance.  

Michael Talbot | Michigan Court of Appeals photo

“We appreciate the time and help Judge Talbot has given MSU the past few months as the university works through these complicated changes to sexual misconduct matters. Due to the pressing scheduling of such matters, we will be transitioning quicker to MOAHR.”

Speaking to the Advance, Guerrant said that “scheduling was becoming an issue” with Talbot as deadlines for various investigations by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity began to pile up, and that his employment ended effective April 19.

Talbot was hired by the university in February on what Guerrant described as an “ad hoc” basis to help with that transition, which requires universities to allow the cross-examination of students who claim to have been sexual assaulted. According to the university, Talbot was to help develop the procedures and rules by which a neutral party would determine the result of such an investigation.

Talbot was appointed to the bench by GOP former Gov. John Engler. Before Talbot’s hiring by MSU, Engler had already stepped down in January as the university’s interim president. That was after Engler’s comments regarding sexual assault survivors of former university Dr. Larry Nassar.

Talbot is the chair of the Detroit Archdiocese Board of Review, where he’s served since 2002 reviewing sexual assault investigations, and briefly in 2018 served in a similar capacity for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.

His appointment at MSU became the subject of a political controversy almost immediately after it was reported, when Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel retweeted a critical comment regarding his hiring from an activist and survivor of the Nassar sexual abuse scandal, Amanda Thomashow.

State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) then accused Nessel of “anti-Catholic discrimination” against Talbot and others and of saying “that a judge cannot do his job because he is Catholic.” Nessel had previously spoken critically about about the Catholic Church’s handling of its sexual abuse scandal, the state investigation of which she now oversees.

Dana Nessel, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

When Talbot was hired, Nessel spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney said that the Attorney General’s office had “deep concerns about [his] appointment.” That was referring to a grievance filed by the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office during his tenure with the Diocese of Saginaw that “his behavior – which included veiled threats and a demand to shut down the office’s investigation into clergy abuse in the Diocese – was inappropriate and bordered on obstruction of justice.”

Rossman-McKinney could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Talbot told the Detroit News earlier this month that the claim was “flat out false” and said that the grievance was later dismissed.

University spokesperson Guerrant denied that Talbot’s departure had anything to do with the political controversy surrounding his hiring or his alleged previous conduct.

Advance reporter Michael Gerstein contributed to this report.

Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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