Judge sets deadline for Baylor law firm to turn over documents

(Baylor University photo/file)
By  | 

WACO, Texas (KWTX) A federal judge has set a hard deadline for the law firm whose scathing review of Baylor’s handling of sexual assault cases rocked the university in 2016 to produce or to detail objections to production of documents sought by attorneys representing 10 Jane Doe plaintiffs who allege they were sexually assaulted and that the school was indifferent to the assaults.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman’s order Thursday directs the Pepper Hamilton law firm either to “complete production in response to the subpoena…or file a motion with this court detailing any objections to production and requesting specific relief" by March 15.

“To be clear, the court advises the parties that other than the redactions and omissions approved by the court for (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act )-protected materials, Pepper Hamilton may not withhold any other materials based on FERPA objections,” Pittman said in the order.

"Additionally, the Court ADVISES all parties to avoid speculating about opposing counsel’s motivations, and instead brief the court with factual information and specific requested relief," Pittman wrote in the order.

The order comes almost two years after attorneys Jim Dunnam of Waco and Chad Dunn of Houston filed a subpoena seeking documents or records or communications relating to Pepper Hamilton’s work for Baylor beginning in 2015 including all information obtained from the Advocacy Center of Waco; all information obtained from the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office; all information obtained from Waco Police Department; all information obtained from the Baylor Police Department; all information obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department; all information obtained from Cenikor; all information obtained from Baylor University and all information obtained from any other third party.

On May 26, 2016, following a nine-month investigation by the Philadelphia based law firm, Baylor regents released a 13-page findings of fact statement and a list of 105 recommendations from the law firm, and announced the firing of head football coach Art Briles, the reassignment of Chancellor and President Ken Starr, and the suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw.

Four days later, on May 30, McCaw resigned saying he needed to step down in order to help the university heal and move forward.

McCaw is now the athletic director at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Va.

Starr resigned from his position as chancellor on June 1, saying it was a “matter of conscience,” and he wanted to be able to speak freely, though as KWTX learned, he did have an agreement with Baylor not to disparage the university as terms of his settlement.

He severed all ties with the university in August 2016.

A lengthy KWTX investigation revealed that the law firm fumbled in its investigation, according to university insiders and secret recordings of meetings with athletic staffers obtained by KWTX, which suggest that the firm’s investigators came to Waco with an agenda to purge members of the football program and had a racial undertone in their line of questioning.

KWTX first reported, and the board later confirmed that no Baylor football players were interviewed in the months-long investigation.

The university had rejected repeated demands to release full details of the report, despite calls from the Executive Committee of The Baylor Line Foundation and the alumni group, Bears for Leadership Reform.

Pepper Hamilton reviewed more than a million pieces of evidence including documents, data, and interview lists, but produced only the 13-page Findings of Fact that didn’t identify any specific cases or cite any individuals by name.

The law firm reported its findings to the university’s Board of Regents orally.

Baylor had maintained that attorney work product privileges applied in the case and that all the work product produced by the firm should be protected from discovery.