Judge in Baylor Case Concerned with Discovery Compliance

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The federal judge presiding over the lawsuits filed by 15 former students at Baylor University is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday, at which Baylor University officials and the law firm Pepper Hamilton will have some explaining to do.

The Waco Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman filed a 37-page order, in which he calls out Baylor and Pepper Hamilton for violating court orders and failing to produce documents for the attorneys representing the 15 plaintiffs who accused Baylor of mishandling their accusations of sexual assault.

In response to the scandal, Baylor appointed Pepper Hamilton to conduct an investigation, the results of which were released in a summary by the university’s board of regents. The summary found that there was a “fundamental failure” in how Baylor handled sexual assault allegations, which ultimately led to the firing of football coach Art Briles and prompted the departures of university president Ken Starr and AD Ian McCaw.

However, Jim Dunnam and Chad Dunn, lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, are seeking more than the summary released by the board of regents — and that’s the cause of the legal kerfuffle.

Dunnam and Dunn have indicated to the judge that communications they’ve reviewed indicate that Pepper Hamilton may have produced a “final report” of its investigation — a report that Pepper Hamilton and Baylor dispute the existence of.

Pitman, in his order, writes “there is now a fact dispute about whether Pepper Hamilton ever prepared a ‘final’ or ‘internal’ report on the investigation that was delivered to Baylor in some form but never publicly released.”

Monday’s hearing is meant to reveal whether such a report exists. It’s also an opportunity for Pepper Hamilton attorneys to explain why the firm shouldn’t be held in contempt and fined for dragging its feet.

“This violation has caused three months of delay in a case that has already been pending for three years and forced the parties to revisit issues that should have been resolved two years ago when the subpoena was first issued,” Pitman wrote. “This conduct increases costs for all parties and wastes public resources that are meant for adjudicating good faith disputes.”

Meanwhile, Baylor finds itself in hot water for producing discovery materials late, increasing the burden on the parties involved. The Waco Tribune reports that the school supplied documents and other material to the plaintiffs attorneys after the 15 women were deposed — despite having given assurances that all of the materials related to the case were handed over prior to the deposition.

“Neither Baylor nor Pepper Hamilton have adequately explained when, how or why these documents were suddenly discovered,” Judge Pitman wrote. “The record suggests that Baylor may have withheld court-ordered production.”

This is a developing story.

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