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Hopkins picks legal counsel from University of Minnesota

The Johns Hopkins University has named University of Minnesota veteran Mark B. Rotenberg as its new vice president and general counsel.

Mark Rotenberg

Mark Rotenberg

Rotenberg, who has spent the last 20 years as the University of Minnesota’s chief legal officer, will start at Hopkins June 3, according to a statement posted on the university’s news network. He replaces Frederick G. Savage, who has served as JHU’s interim general counsel since Stephen S. Dunham left for Pennsylvania State University last year.

“I’ve spent a number of years working in a large Midwestern public university, and the opportunity to work at a private elite institution such as Johns Hopkins is very exciting and intriguing,” Rotenberg said from Minnesota. “Hopkins offers many diverse and distinctive challenges.”

Dunham, who had been at Johns Hopkins since late 2005, is now vice president and general counsel at Penn State. Dunham took over during turbulent legal times at Penn State last summer after its former general counsel resigned in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

Rotenberg, a Minnesota native, was chosen after a nationwide search and will provide legal advice to the university’s board of trustees, faculty, deans and staff, Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement.

“I have no doubt our university community will find Mark as I’ve found him: professional and energetic, with a strong legal mind and impressive leadership qualities,” Daniels said. “He will be a welcome addition to our senior leadership team.”

Hopkins declined to further comment on the new hire, a university spokeswoman said.

Rotenberg said one of the biggest differences will be moving away from a school in the Big Ten Conference with an $80 million sports budget. He said he will no longer be negotiating multimillion-dollar coaching contracts or be criticized for coaches’ buyout packages.

“That’s partly tongue in cheek and partly not,” Rotenberg said. “We often refer to the athletic department as an entertainment subsidiary. We have hundreds of millions in revenue in the Big Ten with television and radio broadcast rights, and I don’t think Hopkins will have that type of challenge.”

Rotenberg said he was looking forward to the different legal issues he would tackle with Johns Hopkins’ health sciences schools and international programs.

“I’m excited by the new challenges that I haven’t faced at Minnesota,” Rotenberg said. “The international stuff we don’t have quite the same level of activity with the global research and teaching and so forth.”

And then, there is always the weather. Rotenberg said he is already anticipating tossing out several overcoats and snow shovels.

“I was just [in Maryland Tuesday,] and it wasn’t snowing,” Rotenberg said. “I’m looking out my window now and there is snow on the ground.”

Rotenberg took on a number of high-profile cases and negotiations while at Minnesota, which credits him with helping recover $580 million for the university during his time there.

Rotenberg won the university’s first U.S. Supreme Court case in 2001, which dealt with the federal government’s power over discrimination claim deadlines in state court. He lost a 2011 decision, when the Supreme Court ruled against the university in a debate over the taxation of medical residents.

Rotenberg was also involved in negotiating with TCF Bank for a naming and sponsorship agreement for the university’s football stadium. He also negotiated a lease with the Minnesota Vikings to play games at the campus’ football field after the Metrodome roof collapsed in 2010.

Rotenberg handled many cases before the Minnesota Supreme Court, including two last year.

He won a case brought by a student who argued her First Amendment rights were violated when she was punished by the university for posts she wrote on Facebook. The state Supreme Court also overturned a $1 million award against the university in a case brought by a man who said the head basketball coach failed to follow through on a job promise in 2007.

Rotenberg also played a key role in smoothing over an academic fraud scandal under head basketball coach Clem Haskins in the late 1990s. In the aftermath, the university credited Rotenberg with building up its athletic compliance office, which has resulted in no major NCAA infractions against the university in more than a decade.

Rotenberg was also a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and an adjunct professor at the university’s liberal arts college.

“Mark has epitomized the kind of integrity and accountability that all public institutions like ours strive for,” University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said in a news release. “His record of success spans the legal spectrum from litigation, to transactional matters, to building one of the finest offices of general counsel at any university in the country. I will miss his legal acumen and his deep knowledge of the University of Minnesota.”

Before coming to the University of Minnesota, Rotenberg practiced employment litigation and labor law at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Minneapolis, according to his profile on the university’s website. Before that, he gave legal counsel to the president, White House staff and the heads of federal departments and agencies while working at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. He also clerked on the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Rotenberg attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., for his bachelor’s degree and Columbia University in New York for a law degree, a master of philosophy and a master of arts.

Rotenberg was also a visiting professor at The Hebrew University Law School in Jerusalem and is a member of the American Law Institute.