The sexual abuse and assault attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC are proud to represent 8 victims of Bruce Conforth, a retired University of Michigan professor. We filed a formal lawsuit February 1, 2022 to hold Conforth and the institution that protected and enabled him accountable.
During his 16-year career at U-M, Conforth taught classes on blues music and American counterculture. While lecturing, he would often dive into spirituality and share his experiences with psychedelics. He also told tales of working with famous stars, such as Bob Dylan, B.B. King, and Allen Ginsberg. All this quickly made him into one of U-M’s most popular professors. His fame on campus became so widespread that many of his victims first heard of him during freshman orientation.
“Conforth was a celebrity-like presence at the University of Michigan, and his classes were sought after, and there were often lengthy waitlists to get on,” said Attorney Nolan L. Erickson. “Yet it appeared that he was able to select students to attend his classes if he was interested in that.”
As Grewal Law PLLC’s personal injury law team leader, Attorney Erickson is one of the main plaintiff’s attorneys in the Conforth sexual abuse lawsuit. He joined two survivors and clients in a formal press conference to announce the recent litigation against U-M.
One of these survivors, Katherine McMahan, was the first to file a complaint against Conforth, which she did promptly after graduating in 2008. But U-M failed to take action against Conforth, even though Conforth himself corroborated the account. He was allowed to continue teaching at U-M for years. In 2012, a whole four years later, he was even voted teacher of the year.
About Conforth’s Alleged Sexual Abuse at U-M
“[Conforth] used his authority and the resources provided by the university to engage in inappropriate and abusive relationships with students, grooming them and goading them into intimate, sexual, and abusive relationships,” Attorney Erickson said, echoing the allegations in the formal lawsuit. “This appears to have spanned nearly his entire time at the University of Michigan.”
Since there are several survivors in the lawsuit, allegations against Conforth range from grooming and manipulation to unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances, to forcible kisses, to completed rape on and off campus.
In addition, two survivors and former U-M students alleged that Conforth claimed to be part of the “Order of the Illuminati”—a secret society that became popular among conspiracy theorists after Dan Brown’s fictional novel, “Angels and Demons,” was published—to coerce them to have sexual relations. They both received numerous anonymous emails instructing them to “service” Conforth, or, as the emails called him, the “Chosen One.” The author, purportedly Conforth himself, signed off the emails as “Grandmaster Setis” and other occult leaders.
“He broke me down through encrypted aliases, increasingly requiring that I report anything I did with outside friends, scorning me for it, and then requiring that I service [him] sexually as a way to redeem myself,” said Isabelle Brourman, one of the two survivors at the press conference. “I grew scared, fearful to take missteps, to lose my life. … I came to the university to learn and grow and instead one of the most popular professors used his knowledge, authenticated and raved about by the university, to stunt my growth, violate my body, and attempt to ruin my life out of jealousy—his words, not mine.”
Many of the survivors were too scared to report the abuse at first. McMahan, for instance, did not want Conforth to get in the way of her plans for graduation. That’s why she waited until after she graduated to do anything. Other survivors, like Brourman, did the same.
“We were trying to protect ourselves in ways where we didn’t have to insult him, we didn’t have to fight him,” Brourman told reporters for The New York Times.
U-M Fails to Act, Gives Conforth a Quiet Retirement
After more complaints were filed in 2016, Conforth was forced to retire in 2017. Still, the complaints were left unresolved; U-M did not even conduct an investigation into the matter. To make it worse, Conforth was allowed continued access to his office on campus. He was also able to continue using his university email.
In other words, Conforth did not face any real consequences for the alleged sexual abuse of his students.
The attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC will not stand for this gross injustice. We are fighting to hold Conforth liable for sexually abusing his students, as well as to hold U-M liable for not intervening. U-M had a responsibility to protect its students, and the administration failed by allowing Conforth to escape accountability— time and time again.
To learn more about the Conforth sex abuse case, watch the press conference here.
Standing Up for Survivors of Sexual Abuse at U-M
Have you or someone you love been harmed by Bruce Conforth? Our trauma-informed attorney team is here to advocate for you.
Grewal Law PLLC has taken on U-M in previous sexual abuse and assault cases. We recently helped negotiate the $490 million settlement for the survivors of former U-M team physician Robert Anderson. Let our Michigan trial team fight to get you the compensation, closure, and justice you deserve.
As Attorney Erickson said, “If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, please know that you are not alone. There are people who will listen to you and believe you.”
Call (888) 211-5798 or contact us online to speak with a compassionate attorney in a free, confidential consultation. There are no strings attached.