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UT report: Charge against Hall is legally ‘absurd’

By   /   January 14, 2014  /   No Comments

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HALL: A UT lawyer called it ‘absurd’ to accuse a man of a crime for sharing a document with his attorney.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

HOUSTON – Legal counsel for the University of Texas System submitted a report Tuesday finding “no credible evidence” that Regent Wallace Hall violated a state law protecting confidential information or “any other state or federal law.”

Attorney Philip Hilder’s letter to a legislative committee investigating whether or not to recommend Hall’s impeachment came in response to a request by state Rep. Ferdinand “Trey” Fischer, who has accused Hall of breaking the law by showing his attorney e-mails regarding special treatment for certain applicants to the University of Texas.

“Those e-mails may not even be subject to FERPA (a federal student privacy law) given the purpose and content of the communication,” Hilder wrote.

Even if they are covered, Hilder wrote, “FERPA clearly allows for disclosure to ‘school officials,’” which include Hall, so long as they have a legitimate educational purpose.

“Regent Hall had a legitimate educational purpose for possessing the alleged FERPA email(s) because it/they raise concerns about possible favoritism in the U.T. Austin admissions process,” Hilder wrote. That alone “justified retaining the documents,” he wrote.

Hilder’s review found that “no one has ever been prosecuted for violating” the state law that Fischer accused Hall of breaking, and that “no appellate court has held that release of student records” violates that law, either.

The idea that it’s illegal to share records with your attorney in the face of prosecution or litigation is simply “absurd” under Texas law, Hilder wrote. If it were criminal to do so, you’d have defendants required to share documents with plaintiffs as part of discovery, but facing criminal charges for sharing them with their own attorneys, he wrote.

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

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Jon Cassidy