Magistrate gives BU attorneys an ultimatum

(Baylor University photo/file)
(Baylor University photo/file)(KWTX)
Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 12:47 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

A federal magistrate on Tuesday ordered Baylor University to stop trying to “hide the ball” and turn over documents to attorneys for 15 Jane Doe plaintiffs who allege they were sexually assaulted and that the school was indifferent to the assaults.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin, in his order on Tuesday, wrote Baylor University has used documents produced by the Pepper Hamilton law firm, of Philadelphia, "as a sword and a shield," to refuse to turn over the firm's records to attorneys for 15 women suing the school.

Jim Dunnam of Waco and Chad W. Dunn of Houston, have repeatedly sought the release of “key documents” that were turned over to Pepper Hamilton investigators in 2016 during an independent review of the school’s handling of reports of sexual assaults involving athletes, on which Baylor spent at least $4.2 million according to an earlier filing.

On May 26, 2016 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.

He severed all ties with the university in August 2016.

In April 2017, the university announced that Dr. Linda A. Livingstone would become the school’s 15th president, and the first woman to serve as the university’s president in Baylor's 172-year history.

Austin, who was assigned by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman to manage the lengthy discovery process, now in its fourth year of litigation, set a July 15 deadline for compliance with his order or the university will “face sanctions.”

The 48-page order was a big win for the women who are suing the university, all of whom maintain Baylor’s policies in handling reports of sexual assaults were discriminatory and that those practices increased risks of sexual assault.

Austin's order, bluntly worded at times, warns Baylor turn over the Pepper Hamilton documents "in good faith" and to cease its efforts to withhold them.

"Finally, the court will not tolerate any more mis-readings of a court order," Austin wrote.

"Baylor has made a habit of avoiding discovery compliance by interpreting orders in its favor even when the order directs otherwise.

“On at least two occasions, Baylor has 'accidentally' failed to produce court-ordered production, both involving Pepper Hamilton materials,” the judge wrote.

“Last spring, after Baylor had certified complete production of all Pepper Hamilton materials, Baylor 'discovered' over a thousand documents just days before the Pepper Hamilton production deadline," according to the judge's order.

Baylor, through spokesperson Lori Fogleman, would not comment on the judge's orders.

The judge set no date for trial but did on Tuesday ask the parties to schedule another hearing for next week to talk about moving the cases forward.