Saint Louis University's Office of the General Counsel provides legal counsel, litigation management, contract drafting and review and a wide variety of preventative advice.
It serves as an advisor, as well as educational function, providing training to deans, chairs and managers in matters presenting potential legal risk to the University. The Vice President and General Counsel provide counsel in decision making for the board of trustees, the president, vice presidents, deans, directors, faculty, supervisors and other managers.
The office represents the University, including University officials acting in their official capacities. The OGC does not represent individual faculty or staff members in personal legal matters outside the scope of their work for the University. Additionally, this office does not provide personal legal services to students of the University.
The Office of the General Counsel works with departments and outside third parties during external audits, investigations and other compliance reviews.
The Office of General Counsel reviews, drafts, negotiates and enforces legal documents such as contracts, conveyances, construction contracts, internal policies and procedures, licenses, articles and bylaws, and other miscellaneous contracts. The office has also developed certain form agreements for use by University personnel.
The Office of the General Counsel advises and assists with property matters, labor relations, personnel and EEOC matters, insurance claims, tax and business issues, and patent, trademark and copyright issues.
Student and Staff Matters
The Office of the General Counsel manages all litigation in which the University is a party. In addition, the University manages all malpractice litigation. The OGC does not provide personal legal services for Saint Louis University employees or students.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act relates to the confidentiality of students records. Information about students or former students will not be released without the consent of the student other than in the exceptions stated in the Act. FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their education records.
The attorney-client privilege protects the confidentiality of communications between attorneys and their clients. With certain limited exceptions, the courts cannot require a party to disclose communications that are protected by the attorney-client privilege. The purpose of the privilege is to encourage individuals and organizations to seek legal advice and to ensure that they communicate forthrightly with their attorneys. The attorney-client privilege applies to any communication that is:
- between an attorney and client,
- for the purpose of soliciting or receiving legal advice, and
- made in confidence and kept confidential.
Discovery is the process by which relevant information is exchanged between parties in a lawsuit.
- Subpoena to Appear as Witness
If you have been subpoenaed to provide testimony either at trial or during a deposition in connection with your duties or activities at the University, contact the OGC for further instructions.
If you have been subpoenaed in a matter unrelated to the University, you should consult your personal legal counsel.
- Subpoena Seeking Production of Documents
In general, you should not receive a subpoena requesting the production of documents for litigation pending against the University. These requests will typically be directed towards the OGC or the University's outside counsel. If you do receive a subpoena, however, for a matter in which the University is a named party, contact the OGC immediately.
It is not unusual for the University to receive a subpoena requesting the production of documents (and even testimony) relating to litigation in which it is not a named party. Although the University is not a party to the litigation, it may still have an obligation to respond to a subpoena. In the event that you or someone in your department receives a subpoena directed towards the University, the following steps should be followed:
- Make a notation of the date the subpoena was received and the identity (including job title) of the person to whom the subpoena was delivered.
- Contact the OGC and provide a copy of the subpoena to the OGC for review.
- Do not automatically respond to the subpoena request. The OGC will review the subpoena to determine if any of the requests are overly broad or unduly burdensome to the University. The OGC may also object to the subpoena if it was not properly served or if the requested response time is inadequate. The OGC may also require the requesting party provide and necessary waivers to ensure compliance with FERPA and/or HIPPA.
The OGC may also be able to require that the requesting party pay certain production costs in addition to a witness fee.
All medical records requests should go through Carol Viamontes.
If you are contacted by law enforcement officials, including the FBI, the police or other enforcing agencies seeking access to University records and files or requesting to interview University faculty or staff regarding University matters, you should politely inform the officer that the University will generally cooperate but only in consultation with its legal counsel.
Request a copy of any subpoena or search warrant produced by the officer and contact the OGC immediately for further instructions.
As soon as a lawsuit or charge is filed or if litigation is reasonably anticipated, the University has the obligation to preserve all evidence. This is often referred to as a "litigation hold." The OGC should be involved as soon as possible.
Types of actions that might trigger a litigation hold include, but are not limited to:
- Administrative claim or charge
- Legal action
Evidence can include, but is not limited to:
- Hard copy and electronic documents (including drafts) on desktop and laptop computers
- Email (University and private accounts)
- Website contents/blogs
- Telephone records/voice mail (including cell phones)
- Database contents
- Text messages/Instant messages
- Blackberry devices
All employees should be familiar with the University's record retention policy, including Sections A.5 and C, Preserved Record Handling and Sanctions, respectively.
Once the OGC has been notified of a new lawsuit or threat of litigation, the OGC will:
- Create a list of all persons with knowledge of the alleged or threatened claims.
- Send a Preservation Notice to each identified witness with an Electronically Stored Information ("ESI") Questionnaire and specific instructions to preserve any paper documents or ESI.
- Ensure that each witness must complete and return the ESI Questionnaire to the OGC within five business days.
- Provide copies of the completed ESI Questionnaires to ITS. ITS will contact each witness to schedule a time to capture evidence, provide any necessary support, and help the University comply with its continuing obligation to preserve evidence.
If you are identified as a potential witness in a litigation matter pending against the University, the OGC and the University's outside counsel may contact you at various points during the course of the litigation.
A typical case filed in federal or state court will take at least 18 months from the date of filing to reach trial.
An attorney from the OGC will contact you early in any litigation to ensure that all relevant documents are preserved.
- Witness interview: If necessary, an attorney from the OGC and outside counsel may ask to schedule a meeting with individuals that have information about the case to conduct a witness interview. This is generally an informal meeting designed to provide the attorneys an opportunity to understand an individual's involvement (if any) in the case.
- Deposition: If an individual has significant information related to the litigation, that person may be asked to provide testimony at a deposition. A deposition provides opposing counsel the opportunity to ask you questions under oath with a court reporter present. The court reporter transcribes each question again to prepare prior to the deposition (e.g., review relevant documents). After a deposition is complete, the witness is given the opportunity to review the transcript and correct any transcription errors before signing/notarizing the transcript.
- Trial: If the case is not resolved prior to trial, outside counsel will meet with witnesses again to prepare for trial. This will likely involve reviewing any prior testimony and the issues remaining in the case. In general, a witness will need to be available during the entire trial. If you have a scheduling conflict, it is important to let counsel know as soon as possible.
Any staff member or attorney at OGC may accept service, properly made, on behalf of the University. Employees of the University who are sued in their individual capacities typically must be personally served.
A Notice of Garnishment is a notice that a Missouri court has required Saint Louis University to withhold a certain amount of an employee's wages, to be paid toward a debt owed by the employee - often, child support. Such notices are mainly handled by Human Resources.
The Saint Louis University Marketing and Communications Division can assist you in using the University name and logo.