U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled Thursday that Pepper Hamilton LLP must turn over materials tied to the law firm’s 2015-16 investigation that led Baylor University regents to report the school had fundamentally failed in its Title IX implementation duties.
Though lawyers who worked for the firm at the time would have based their findings on thousands of documents, the order only applies to materials Baylor does not have and materials not already produced in related Title IX lawsuits filed by 15 former students who allege Baylor mishandled their reports of sexual assault.
“The significance is we are continuing to get to the bottom of who, what, where and when in regard to the failures at Baylor,” said Jim Dunnam, a Waco attorney who represent the 15 plaintiffs. “And until we get all the facts forward, those responsible will continue to not be held accountable. This is a very significant and meaningful step toward real transparency about what the reasons are for the failures at Baylor.”
Pitman ordered Pepper Hamilton to turn over its investigation materials by April 11. It is unknown how much of the material could later become public in federal court proceedings, which could eventually include a trial.
Pepper Hamilton officials did not return a message left Thursday, and a Baylor spokesperson declined comment.
Dunnam and his co-counsel, Chad Dunn of Houston, filed a wide-ranging subpoena in March 2017 seeking materials from Pepper Hamilton. In June, Dunnam and Dunn filed a motion to compel the firm to comply, and Pepper Hamilton did not respond to the request.
“Silence does not substitute for a responsive filing,” Pitman wrote in his ruling.
Baylor regents released a summary they created based on Pepper Hamilton’s findings in May 2016. Officials later said Pepper Hamilton lawyers presented their findings verbally and did not produce any written report.
When regents released their 13-page summary, they also fired Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach. Ian McCaw resigned as athletics director days later, and lawsuits and outside investigations ensued.
For well over a year, developments in the federal Title IX suit have centered on discovery disputes. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have generally accused Baylor of dodging document requests, and the university has responded that it has complied while following student privacy regulations.