Widener Law program will explore legal implications of the Jerry Sandusky scandal
Public Relations - Published: October 9, 2012

Associate Professor Michael R. Dimino Sr. speaking about plans for the conference

When Jerry Sandusky was arrested and accused of sexually abusing multiple children during his years as a Penn State University assistant football coach, it opened a floodgate of national discussion about his young victims and how to keep children everywhere safe from predators.

Now, Widener Law, the only law school in Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, will host a daylong conference exploring that question and many more.

“Legal Implications of the Sandusky Scandal” will be held Friday, Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in room A180 of the administration building on the school’s campus at 3800 Vartan Way, Harrisburg. It is presented by the school and its student-run Widener Law Journal.

The day will feature four panel discussions on topics that include:
  • 8:45 a.m. Understanding the vulnerability of child victims, which will include a discussion of the physical and psychological harm suffered by child victims and requirements that abuse be reported to authorities. Panelists include representatives of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and Pinnacle Health Children’s Resource Center, along with Widener Associate Law Professor Starla Williams, a former family law practitioner who served as executive vice president for child and family services at A Second Chance, Inc., servicing children and youth in foster care.

  • 10:30 a.m. Criminal law and child abuse, which will explore the criminal justice system’s process for investigating, negotiating and trying abuse cases. Panelists will include Dauphin County, Pa. District Attorney Ed Marsico.

  • 12:45 p.m. Responses to child abuse outside criminal law, which will explore civil liability of abusers and institutions and the role of the NCAA investigation in the Sandusky case. Panelists will include Widener Law Professor John G. Culhane who has studied and written extensively about large-scale victim compensation and Vermont Law Professor Brian Porto and who helps lead that school’s Sports Law Institute. Porto has written a book on the Supreme Court and the NCAA which calls for more due process in college sports.

  • 2:30 p.m. Ethical concerns in abuse cases, which will explore ethical concerns for attorneys representing victims, perpetrators or witnesses, along with ethical concerns in news reporting of high-profile cases. Panelists will include Patriot-News Editor Cate Barron. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Sandusky scandal.
Widener Law Dean Linda L. Ammons will also speak at the event. At the request of Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Ammons undertook an exhaustive review into the matter of Earl Bradley, the Delaware pediatrician who was convicted of sexually abusing more than 100 of his young patients. The Bradley and Sandusky abuses both went on for years despite concerns expressed about the men from people in their communities. Ammons’ work in 2010 led to a package of bills that passed the Delaware General Assembly unanimously, designed to strengthen that state’s reporting system and keep children safe.

Attorneys who attend the conference from Pennsylvania or Delaware will be eligible for six continuing legal education credits, including 1.5 ethics credits. The cost to attend for credit is $125. The cost for Widener Law alumni and government lawyers is $100 and is $50 for those who attend not for credit. The fee includes materials and lunch. To register, contact Sandra L. Graeff at 717.541.3965 or slgraeff@widener.edu.

Members of the media are invited and encouraged to attend at no cost. Reporters are asked to notify Widener Law Public Relations Officer Mary Allen in advance of their plans to attend, to help the school plan for space needs. Please phone 302.477.2175 or email mallen@widener.edu.