Utah AG responds to criticism from attorneys for family of murdered U student Lauren McCluskey

Student Lauren McCluskey was killed in a shooting on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Photo: University of Utah/Steve C. Wilson

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 27, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Attorney General’s Office has issued a response to criticism from lawyers for the family of murdered University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.

The criticism followed a motion filed by the Utah Attorney General’s Office to dismiss a lawsuit holding the university responsible for failing to protect Lauren despite the fact that campus police had been alerted to threats from her former boyfriend, Melvin Rowland.

Rowland, 37, shot 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey to death on Oct. 22, 2018, a few hours before taking his own life.

On Friday, the Utah AG’s Office released the following statement:

The Utah Attorney General’s Office would like to respond to a statement made by the McCluskeys’ attorneys and distributed on Sept. 20. In that statement, the McCluskeys’ attorneys criticized the University for filing the motion to dismiss. We disagree with their criticisms.  
 
The University of Utah and the Attorney General’s Office do not take the position in the motion to dismiss that “every concern expressed in Lauren’s McClusky’s complaint is without merit,” as the McCluskeys’ lawyers claim. Rather, the brief filed with the federal court explains that neither Title IX nor the U.S. Constitution permit lawsuits for money damages when campus police or staff do not prevent a student from being harmed by an intruder on campus. As the motion makes clear, the McCluskeys’ legal theories are unprecedented—no court has concluded that a school is liable under Title IX or the U.S. Constitution in these circumstances. As the University’s attorneys, the Attorney General’s Office is responsible for providing the University with the best legal defense possible. Filing the motion—a common response to a lawsuit in circumstances like this — is part of that defense.
 
This does not mean that the University did not listen to the concerns expressed by the McCluskey family, or that it is not taking responsibility for its students’ safety. Since Lauren’s death, University representatives have repeatedly met with the McCluskeys and many other campus constituents, and the University has taken specific steps to make the campus safer and to ensure its police officers are more responsive to potential relationship violence, including restructuring the campus police department and providing training to its police officers. The University’s actions show it has taken seriously the concerns raised by Lauren’s murder. 
 
Additionally, the motion repeated the allegations made in the McCluskeys’ complaint and the legal standards applicable to the two legal theories of the complaint. It was not meant to, and did not, blame the victim, dismiss the important issue of campus safety, or minimize in any way the terrible tragedy of Lauren McCluskey’s death. 
 
Filing the motion does not preclude the parties from engaging in further discussions to resolve the case. The Attorney General’s Office and the University look forward to continuing these discussions, while still meeting court deadlines, such as the deadline for filing a response to the complaint. 

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