16.40 – Legal Matters

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Scope: NMSU System

Source: ARP Chapter 16 | Safety and Risk Management

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Last Updated: Not Available

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Revision History:

04/10/2018 Ammendments approved by Chancellor
2017 Recompilation, formerly Rule 2.40

PART 1:  ROLE OF UNIVERSITY GENERAL COUNSEL


The office of University General Counsel (UGC) serves a risk management function for the university by providing leadership in legal compliance initiatives, policy development, and management of third party legal claims and complaints.

Although attorneys may work for NMSU in other departments, the attorneys in the UGC office are the only attorneys authorized to take a legal position or otherwise represent NMSU.  The UGC’s client is the institution, by and through its governing body, the Regents of New Mexico State University (NMSU), rather than the individual board members, administrators or employees.

UGC coordinates, directs and reports on all legal services provided to NMSU.  Any NMSU entity which seeks legal assistance from an outside attorney must coordinate that effort through UGC.  NMSU maintains a list of law firms contracted to provide outside legal services to NMSU.  The list is available for review by any NMSU administrator.

 

PART 2:  ACCEPTANCE OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS


Only the attorneys in the UGC office are authorized to accept service of legal process in the form of summons and complaints, subpoenas, writs, agency charges, and similar official legal documents.  Any NMSU personnel who are asked to sign for such documents should decline to accept, and instead direct the courier to the office of UGC.  In the event that such items are received in error, the University employee accepting such documents, or their supervisor, should notify UGC immediately and deliver all original documentation to the UGC office.

 

PART 3: LIABILITY COVERAGE


NMSU maintains liability coverage against many legal claims through the State Public Liability Fund administered by the N.M. Risk Management Division (RMD).  The General Counsel is NMSU’s single point of contact with RMD regarding these claims.  (The NMSU EHS & RM Department is the RMD point of contact for all internal property claims.)

 

PART 4:  LEGAL REPRESENTATION


UGC is authorized to provide representation and defense for NMSU officials, employees and volunteers who may be named in a lawsuit or other legal proceeding which results from the performance of their official duties for NMSU, and to the extent authorized by state law.  For covered liability claims, RMD will appoint outside counsel to represent NMSU and any NMSU officials, employees and volunteers named as defendants based on their performance of official duties and responsibilities for NMSU.  Representation is provided for individuals named as defendants in both their individual and professional capacities as long as the general counsel or RMD, as applicable, determines that they were acting within their official duties and responsibilities for NMSU.

 

PART 5:  SIGNATURE AUTHORITY


No university employee has authority to sign any agreement or contract with an external entity except as explicitly authorized by the Regents or the Chancellor. UGC will maintain written signature authority documentation as evidence of such authority, and will make that documentation available on the university website.  For any type of document or agreement for which no signatory is specified in the signature authority document, UGC is authorized to designate the appropriate signatory.

Irrespective of signature authority, official contracts or agreements should have the approval of the UGC as to form prior to signature.  Contracts, agreements and other documents requiring signature should be routed through the relevant NMSU entities for review and comment, using a contract routing approval form.  Such documented routing allows the ultimate signatory to see that the relevant units have reviewed, approved or expressed a concern, and are prepared to fulfill the obligations as set forth in the document.

 

PART 6:  ACCESS TO UNIVERSITY LEGAL COUNSEL


UGC resources are directed primarily to advising the Board of Regents, the chancellor and NMSU administrators who represent the institution’s management.  The members of the University Administrative Council may call UGC directly to make appointments for legal consultation or document review, or may email inquiries to gencounsel@nmsu.edu. Other university employees who wish to discuss official university business with an attorney in UGC may, with the concurrence of appropriate department head/director and dean/vice president, email the inquiry or request for an appointment to gencounsel@nmsu.edu, with a copy to the immediate supervisor and the cognizant dean, vice president or associate vice president.  The UGC attorneys do not provide personal legal advice to NMSU employees or students.  NMSU managers and employees should not refer students and employees who have claims adverse to NMSU to UGC, but rather to the appropriate administrative office unless the individual has retained legal counsel, in which case their legal counsel should be referred to UGC.