Baylor rejects claim questions ‘belittle’ Jane Doe plaintiffs

(Baylor University photo/file)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Baylor University, in a court filing Monday, rejects claims by an attorney who represents 10 Jane Doe plaintiffs who allege they were sexually assaulted and that the school was indifferent to the assaults that the women are being subjected to questions during depositions that “belittle, harass, and further traumatize.”

The claims were included in a response filed on April 9 by Waco attorney Jim Dunnam to a Baylor motion that argues that the plaintiffs have not been forthcoming in the discovery process.

Dunnam claimed that during the depositions, university attorneys have asked the women about such things as the depth of penetration and, “how the shorts that you were wearing fit you.”

“Baylor certainly does not desire to make the litigation experience unpleasant for any plaintiff, and it has conducted the depositions as sensitively as possible,” the university’s attorneys said in the filing, most of which dealt with issues related to the discovery process,” the university’s attorneys said in the filing Monday.

“However, Baylor respectfully disagrees that it is responsible for sexual assaults committed by third-party students, and it has a right and responsibility to learn the circumstances behind plaintiffs’ allegations,” the filing says.

Plaintiffs are asking Baylor to pay substantial damages. Whether and how the alleged assaults occurred and whether they were reported to Baylor are at the heart of plaintiffs’ case. Because some plaintiffs never pursued complaints with Baylor or the police, these depositions are Baylor’s first opportunity to learn what allegedly happened,” the filing says.

Baylor also rejected Dunnam’s claim that “each Jane Doe is enduring 10 to 12 hours sitting through depositions and breaks,” saying that , “no plaintiff has endured more than seven hours of questioning.”

“Baylor has treated plaintiffs with respect and will continue to do so,” the university’s filing says.

The back-and-forth in the motions filed in the ongoing lawsuit hasn’t escaped the notice of U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman, who cautioned attorneys in an order Tuesday in response to a university motion to compel discovery.

“The court is aware of the highly sensitive nature of discovery in a case concerning sexual assault. It is critical that depositions are conducted with decency,” Pittman wrote in the order.

The court will entertain requests for relief if that is not the case.”

“However,” Pittman wrote, “the court will not permit the parties to use court filings to deliver material to the news media that is irrelevant to the immediate issue before the Court. If either party files briefing in the future that is not directly responsive to the motion pending or otherwise relevant to the requested relief, the Court will take appropriate measures.”

Pittman, in a separate order on Tuesday, ordered the university to produce five specific emails between school officials and Ketchum, Inc., the respected global public relations firm the university hired in September 2015 at around the same time the Pepper Hamilton investigation began.

The emails involve advice about an official’s testimony before the Texas Legislature the impact of media communications on anticipated litigation, a response to a media inquiry, factual inaccuracies in media coverage and a prayer vigil organized for victims of sexual assault.