U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman delivered a substantial ruling late Wednesday within a Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor University, ordering the school to produce original documents, not summaries of sexual violence and harassment reports from all Baylor students since 2003.
The ruling comes in the lawsuit brought by 10 unnamed “Jane Doe” alleged sexual assault victims who claim that a wide range of university officials did not respond to their reports between 2004 and 2016.
Baylor previously offered to release general information behind every alleged sexual assault reported to the university since 2003, but Pitman said that offer “would almost completely undercut the documents’ value.” He then ordered Baylor to produce the original documents of the reports, adding that “it would be fundamentally unfair to allow Baylor” to release the information as the school proposed.
“The judge is again exhibiting that he’s very thoughtful and deliberate in his decisions,” said Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who represents the plaintiffs. “We’re glad that we get to move forward now, hopefully getting meaningful information.”
Baylor released the following statement on Thursday: “We are aware of the judge’s ruling, and anticipate there will be additional discovery-related motions and rulings as this case continues to evolve.”
Pitman also ruled the settlement agreement between Baylor and former President Ken Starr is to be included in discovery, but it will not be public. Starr was fired in May 2016 after the much-discussed Pepper Hamilton LLP investigation found that the university failed in responding to reports of sexual assault. Starr later resigned from his other university roles, including chancellor and law school faculty.
Finally, Pitman ruled that a controversial 2009 email of then-regent Neal “Buddy” Jones “may be relevant to Plaintiffs’ claims.” Released on June 30, the email shows Jones calling students he suspected of drinking “perverted little tarts,” “very bad apples” and “the vilest and most despicable of girls.” The messages were sent to Tommye Lou Davis, who was an associate dean and faculty adviser of the girls’ sorority at the time.
At least one of the girls should have been expelled, wrote Jones, who was named chairman of the board two years after sending the emails.
“The actual reason he suggests expulsion is unclear,” Pitman wrote, adding that he is “satisfied that the (unredacted) email may lead to relevant evidence.”
The developments of the lawsuit in recent months have focused on whether materials collected in the Pepper Hamilton investigation into sexual violence response at Baylor are protected by attorney-client privilege. Pitman indicated on Thursday that he will address the plaintiffs’ motion to compel these materials in a separate order.
The parties will meet at a Friday afternoon hearing to discuss a Baylor motion voicing confidentiality concerns. On July 19, the university argued that subpoenas and discovery from the alleged assailants in the lawsuit could violate the men’s rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Baylor proposed sending the 11 accused “John Does” a copy of the lawsuit with the discovery request and FERPA notice in order to prevent confusion. It is unlikely that any of the alleged assailants know they are involved in the lawsuit, according to the motion.
The university also wants to ensure such documents are labeled as both “classified” and “for attorneys’ eyes only.”
In his ruling, Pitman wrote that privacy concerns “weigh heavily on nearly every decision made by the Court in this and related cases.”