HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) -– The man named Tuesday as the founding dean of High Point University’s planned law school is a former jurist of renown who, according to the New York Times, worked behind the scenes to help former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

HPU named Mark Martin, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, to head the law school it plans to open as soon as it is approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the school announced.

Former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark has been named as founding dean of High Point University’s planned law school. (HPU)

Martin was named in a report by The New York Times as being part of a “team of lawyers with close ties to the Trump campaign” and to being part of two controversial legal maneuvers that Trump used in his failed attempt to reverse his loss to President Joe Biden and remain in office.

In the in-depth report of the back story behind Trump’s maneuvering on and around Jan. 6, 2021, the Times said Martin worked behind the scenes in drafting legal opinions to support Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud.

First, the Times reported, Martin was an author of the lawsuit in Texas that attempted to overturn Biden’s electoral victories in Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. That was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Then, the Times said, Martin reportedly advocated for what has become a pivotal issue in the run-up to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021: that Vice President Mike Pence could reject any state election returns and set aside the electoral votes.

That was a perspective that Trump and his allies pursued with Pence, leading to Trump’s publicly assailing Pence and, on Jan. 6, to calls from the mob of his supporters that invaded to Capitol to “hang Mike Pence.”

“At one point, Mr. Trump told the vice president that he had spoken with Mark Martin, the former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who he said had told him that Mr. Pence had that power,” the Times reported. “Mr. Pence had assured Mr. Trump that he did not. Mr. Trump made the vice president defend his rationale in a meeting with lawyers whom Rudolph W. Giuliani had helped line up.”

Martin has not responded to questions from media outlets seeking his comment on the report.

WGHP reached out to HPU spokesperson Allison Lightner about what consideration this role might have played in Martin’s selection to run the law school and asked if Martin would like to respond to the questions. She responded first by emailing the list of supportive comments by legal officials that had been included in the announcement of his hiring.

“We hope you were impressed by the variety of legal authorities and other leaders who admire Mark Martin as HPU’s choice for founding dean,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “Speculation about what may have happened between a lawyer and client is just that – speculation.”

‘Distinguished judicial career’

HPU’s release richly detailed Martin’s extensive and lauded record in the legal and judicial systems and his work in developing Regent. It also includes numerous comments from legal luminaries who support Martin.

“Chief Justice Mark Martin has led a distinguished judicial career in North Carolina, and he’s demonstrated tremendous results as a law school dean,” HPU President Nido Qubein said in the release. “We welcome him to HPU and look forward to his extraordinary partnership as he champions HPU’s newest professional program.”

Martin in the release did say that “words cannot adequately express my appreciation to Dr. Qubein for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I look forward to working with a broad array of extraordinary legal scholars and leaders to build a law school of distinction, one with a national reputation for excellence.”

HPU’s School of Law was announced earlier this spring as part of a $400 million academic expansion plan.

Perspective on role

Former colleagues such as retired judge Robert Orr and former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell have said that even if you disagree with Martin’s opinions, that doesn’t mean he did anything illegal or unethical.

But Rich Eisen, an expert on law and legal corruption at the Brookings Institution – and one of the authors of the “Trump On Trial” report issued this week – told The News & Observer in Raleigh last year that Martin’s actions, as described in the Times’ report, should be subject to legal review.

“All the lawyers who whipped up Trump’s followers into a frenzy based on the completely baseless belief that the election had been stolen must bear a share of the responsibility for what happened on Jan. 6,” Eisen, a special counsel in Trump’s first impeachment, told the N&O.

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol will begin public hearings on Thursday night. On Monday five members of the Proud Boys were indicted for “seditious conspiracy” for their roles in staging the insurrection.

Martin, who at the time was dean of the regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is not known to have been called as a witness by the committee, and he has not responded to questions about his role as an adviser to Trump.