Salon, May 11:
“U.S. Olympic Committee’s controversial abuse investigator fails upward — to the federal courts,” https://www.salon.com/2021/05/11/us-olympic-committees-controversial-abuse-investigator-fails-upward–to-the-federal-courts/
Salon, May 22:
“Is the federal courts’ new ‘judicial integrity officer’ even a licensed attorney?”, https://www.salon.com/2021/05/22/is-the-federal-courts-judicial-integrity-officer-even-a-licensed-attorney/
by Irvin Muchnick
Here’s the fallout so far on the mysterious Michael C. Henry, formerly of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and now judicial integrity officer for the federal courts.
So, did Henry pass the bar exam anywhere?
The answer, almost certainly, is “no.” Following no response to multiple pre-publication queries, David Sellers, the public affairs officer for the federal courts’ administrative office, finally got back to us with an email saying that “as stated in the position announcement when the job was advertised, bar membership is not required.” Sellers does not deny that Michael Henry is a non-licensed juris doctor.
In the last section below, I’ll discuss why this matters. It has as much to do with the degradation of Henry’s current post as it does with the now redundantly documented sleaze at the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
To give this all a little context, Amy Starnes, public information director of the Texas State Bar, told me that a Michael C. Henry from Lubbock — the name of the person who graduated from the Texas Tech University Law School in 2012 — was issued a common “temporary ‘law student’ or trial bar card” at that time. Under the temporary trial card, which lasted from June 2011 through May 2012, “he would only be eligible to practice law in Texas, in a limited capacity, under the supervision of a licensed Texas attorney,” Starnes said. A trial card is the functional equivalent of a learner’s permit before you get your driver’s license.
The bar exam is administered by the Texas Board of Law Examiners, an arm of the state Supreme Court; so are the associated character and fitness tests for licensure. The board may have public records of whether Henry ever took the exam or applied for a license. I’ll be looking into that.
It should be added that in Texas, as elsewhere, there are lawyers who work as general legal counsels for entities, even though, strictly speaking, they are not practicing state law. I am less interested in playing “gotcha” with Henry’s credentials than I am in analyzing the meteoric career arc of someone, probably in his early or mid 30s, who did a miserable job fielding complaints of sexual abuse in our Olympic sports programs and yet now somehow has been rewarded with a plum job in the judicial bureaucracy, based on … who knows what.
Michael C. Henry may not have done much for abuse victims. But he has done very well for Michael C. Henry.
Henry’s LinkedIn page shows that his first job out of law school was with Texas Tech’s Title IX compliance department. From there, he became an investigator at the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM). His next stop was SafeSport.
(The Texas Tech Title X and president’s offices have not responded to our inquiries about whether the university ever represented or suggested that Henry was a working attorney. In a bio of Henry for a published paper on Title IX issues, he is said to have “experience
in civil litigation, as well as having worked in the Appellate Division of the Lubbock District Attorney’s Office.”)
I have already reported that, for a time, Henry hyped his SafeSport job title as “legal affairs director,” and even used that handle in official emails to complainants. Whether he was all that or, merely, in charge of “investigations and outcomes” (“Michael Henry was never the Center’s chief legal counsel,” a spokesperson says), he was handsomely compensated. In 2019, counting $69,985 for “bonus & incentive compensation,” on top of his base salary of $148,938, Henry was the highest-paid person at SafeSport.
(And why in the first place, I ask, is a nonprofit investigating claims of abuse by youth sports coaches in the business of doling out “bonus & incentive compensation”? Was the bonus for plowing through an exceptional number of cases? Or was it for making them go away or linger in administrative limbo?)
According to public records of the federal job posting, Henry must have applied to be Judicial Integrity Officer some time between July 21 and August 18 of last year. This was the period when pressure was mounting on Henry at SafeSport, which was going through, among other things, an as yet undisclosed scandal of a hack of its computer complaint database. Katie Strang of The Athletic would report the hack, plus Henry’s eventual resignation.
While waiting to hear on the federal courts job application, Henry parked himself back at the TNG consulting group, of which NCHERM, his earlier employer, is an affiliate. This is why I refer to the world of corporate abuse investigation and its legalistic kissing cousin, “risk management,” as the sexual abuse industrial complex.
How many others applied for Judicial Integrity Officer, and what were their comparative qualifications? During the interview process, was Henry ever asked about his title-hyping, the cyberhack, his deceit of SafeSport complainant Sarah Ehekircher, his bonus bonanza, or the other controversies of his professional history?
It looks like I’ll be forced to seek answers to these questions via Freedom of Information Act requests. Sellers, the courts’ public affairs officer, sent me a one-sentence email yesterday: “We have no further information to provide on this matter.”
What’s the deal with the Office of Judicial Integrity?
If, in their wisdom, the federal courts don’t want to require the administrator of abuse claims against judges to be a real attorney, that’s fine by me. I dropped out of Vanderbilt University a semester before graduating, yet my name still adorns the tastefully titled 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick.
The problem with Henry is the obvious gap in credentials — and more than that, gap in gravitas — between him and his predecessor Jill Langley, the founding judicial integrity officer. The office had been created in 2018 following the reports of the soon-retired Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski’s harassment of female clerks. You don’t have to work very hard to learn of anecdotes of widespread irregular office behavior by judges.
Whether or not Langley was effective during her two years in office, she was no Michael Henry. Langley had been a Congressional aide, a law firm associate working on securities litigation and appeals, and the director of workplace relations at the Tenth Circuit.
When Langley resigned last summer, the buzz in the activist community was that she was frustrated over not having been given the resources and support to make the judicial integrity office more than a sop to a supposed woke mob. At the time, Molly Coleman, the co-founder and executive director of the People’s Parity Project (which describes itself as “a nationwide network of law students and new attorneys organizing to unrig the legal system and build a justice system that values people over profits”), wrote: “In the nearly two years since the position of judicial integrity officer was announced, it has been clear that this was far from the robust position that was needed…. [And] there is no indication that the resignation of Langley is being used as an opportunity to recommit to the Office of Judicial Integrity.”
Coleman noted that the job posting had a tiny window, precluding a sincere and purposeful national search for an officer “both qualified and prepared.”