Federal judge chastises Baylor law firm in handling of sexual assault case

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A federal judge on Monday chastised the law firm hired by Baylor University to investigate the school’s response to sexual assault claims, saying that attorneys ignored a subpoena and discovery orders.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman is considering sanctions against the law firm, Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton, the Waco Tribune reported. Pittman held a 90-minute show-cause hearing in Austin on the failures of Pepper Hamilton and Baylor to produce materials for attorneys representing former Baylor students who have sued the school under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.

Pittman said the discovery process has dragged on for too long and called Pepper Hamilton’s decision to ignore requests for documents “risky” and “ill-advised,” the newspaper reported. The judge previously noted in an order that sanctions against the law firm are proper and he will rule on that question later.

Chad Dunn and Jim Dunnam, attorneys for the former Baylor students, have long complained that Baylor is stonewalling, the Tribune reported. Although Baylor certified to the court in September that it had shared all pertinent documents, attorneys for Pepper Hamilton later turned over additional material, including police recordings of interviews with plaintiffs.

“If not for subpoenas and the judge’s orders, none of these materials would have been produced,” the newspaper quoted Dunn as saying. “Today, we have had the fourth certification of these documents. Is this the one that is right?”

Pepper Hamilton, hired by Baylor in August 2015, issued findings that indicated an institutional failure to properly report claims of sexual assault, calling the school’s response a “fundamental failure.” That investigation led to the demotion and eventual departure of Baylor President Kenneth Starr, the resignation of Athletic Director Ian McCaw and the firing of football coach Art Briles.  

 

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