Federal appeals court orders Baylor to turn over documents

(Baylor University photo/file)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The U.S. 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans on Monday ordered Baylor University to turn over more than 32,000 student’s records pertinent to the Title IX investigation of sexual assaults.

The circuit court acted Monday to deny a petition for writ of mandamus filed by university lawyers that would have protected the records.

A Writ of Mandamus: “is an order from a court to an inferior government official (or the judge of a lower court) ordering the party to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion,” the Wex Legal Dictionary online says.

In this case, Baylor asked the 5th Court to overturn U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman’s order that allowed for the production of those records.

The case relates to several law suits filed by “Jane Does”, each seeking relief against the university for supposed inactivity in investigating sexual assault complaints.

Most of the 32,000 records in question are related to students not involved in the Title IX issues, but plaintiff’s lawyers say what those records ill show is a discrepancy between how some students were treated when they came to the university medical center for help.

In a one-sentence order issued to Pitman Monday, the appeals court said: “It is ordered that the petition for writ of mandamus is denied,” which means Baylor now must turn over the records in question to plaintiff’s lawyers.

The original petition seeking mandamus was filed Nov. 11 and lawyers for both sides subsequently filed briefs on the issue, upon which the circuit court acted on Monday.

Had the circuit court granted mandamus, it would have ordered Pitman to revisit the question of releasing those records in hopes he would reverse his decision.

The documents requested in the discovery include thousands of pages of material that Baylor turned over to its law firm, Pepper Hamilton, and Baylor’s attempt at mandamus would have protected those records from release.

The scope of documents requested involves more than 450,000 pages of material turned over to Pepper Hamilton during their investigation that Baylor has sought to protect from disclosure.

The mandamus petition response filed by Baylor states the court erred and abused its discretion by “ordering disclosure of confidential communications in non-party privileged mental health records and in medical records.”

The 5th Circuit disagreed.

Plaintiff’s lawyers, in their response to the petition, said: “despite repeated reports and evidence to the contrary, administrators insisted that “sexual violence ‘doesn’t happen at Baylor.’”

That attitude, the petition says, prompted officials at the university to “(file) false reports with the U.S. Department of Education claiming “zero incidents of sexual assault took place on campus between 2008 and 2011.”

Yet further: “Baylor has conducted a massive public relations campaign to focus all wrongdoing on Football.

“Indeed the only individuals that were held responsible were four athletic personnel and President Ken Starr.

“Baylor cannot and does not meet this very high threshold for (mandamus) relief,” the response says.