Philly Lawyers Lead the Baylor Investigation That Cost Kenneth Starr the Presidency

A look inside Pepper Hamilton's own "Starr Report."


Pepper Hamilton’s Gina Maisto Smith (left) and Leslie Gomez (right).

An investigation by two leading Philadelphia lawyers has resulted in top-level personnel overhaul at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Head Football Coach Art Biles has been “suspended with intent to terminate,” according to Baylor’s website. The university’s board of regents has also voted to remove Kenneth Starr as president. He will continue working as a professor at the university’s law school and transition to the role of chancellor. Starr is best known as the prosecutor whose investigation served as the basis for President Bill Clinton‘s impeachment in 1998

The school hired Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton, LLP last year to conduct an objective review of how the school handles sexual assault. This came in the wake of two high-profile convictions of former Baylor football players accused of sexual assault. Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, two prominent lawyers with a history of working with colleges and universities to evaluate how they handle accusations of sexual assault, were enlisted to conduct the investigation. Their findings have just been made public.

They found that Baylor’s student conduct processes were “wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response” to victims of sexual assault. The report also found that university administrators “directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes,” and even “constituted a retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.”

The report also found “specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership.” In addition to “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program,” the report found that the football program and Athletics department leadership “failed to take appropriate action” in response to numerous reports of sexual assault.

Smith and Gomez are both partners at Pepper Hamilton. Smith joined the Center City firm after working as a Philadelphia assistant district attorney and at the firm Ballard Spahr. Gomez’s career had a similar trajectory, working as an assistant district attorney for 14 years before moving to Ballard Spahr and then to Pepper Hamilton.

The duo has handled a number of other cases at high-profile colleges and universities, including Occidental College, Amherst College, University of North Carolina, University of California at Berkeley and the University of Virginia.

“We were asked to provide a thorough and candid assessment,” said Smith and Gomez in a statement distributed by Baylor. “We believe that the choice to share these findings of fact publicly and acknowledge past failures is an important step for the University as it implements the recommendations derived from these findings.”

The entire report can be found on Baylor’s website and below: