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Judge Gives Go-Ahead for Hearing in Wallace Hall Suit

After weeks of legal filings and procedural moves on both sides, a judge has given the go-ahead for a hearing in the lawsuit between University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven and Regent Wallace Hall.

UT Regent Wallace Hall on April 28, 2014. Lawmakers admonished and censured Hall, who was waging a personal investigation into lawmaker influence in the UT-Austin admissions process.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated to include response from Wallace Hall and his attorney. 

After weeks of legal filings and procedural moves, a judge has given the go-ahead for a hearing in the lawsuit between University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven and Regent Wallace Hall.

Hall is suing McRaven to gain access to records used by Kroll Associates to compile a report that found that at least several dozen students with powerful connections were admitted to UT-Austin even though they didn't appear to be qualified. The report didn't identify those students, or say who may have helped them get in.

The hearing, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19, could provide opportunity for a confrontation in the long-running dispute between Hall and UT System leadership. Both sides are calling for the judge to rule on the legitimacy of McRaven’s claim — that state and federal privacy laws prevent him from giving Hall access to certain records. And both sides will have the opportunity to call witnesses to the stand.

"I am eager to hear the chancellor’s attempt to justify in court his continued cover-up and refusal to make critical information available to any member of the UT Board of Regents," Hall said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we will likely only hear pretexts grounded in the false narrative that I have violated privacy laws."

McRaven could not immediately be reached for comment. The chancellor, who is being represented by UT System lawyers, had asked to delay the case. But state District Judge Tim Sulak denied that motion Friday. 

Hall hasn't said why he wants the documents, and the UT System has cited student privacy laws in denying the request. Attorney General Ken Paxton previously weighed in on the issue, saying Hall should be given access to the records. But McRaven and the UT System have resisted, saying they are worried that the information could be made public. In July, the full Board of Regents passed a resolution expressing support for McRaven and asking Hall to drop his suit.

Hall’s attorney, Joseph Knight, said he believes it is “likely” the judge will come to a final decision on the scope of the privacy laws in question based on the results of the hearing.

“Clearly, I hope the outcome of the hearing is that the judge will reject Chancellor McRaven’s argument that privacy laws require him to prevent the regent from examining records of the very system he is sworn by law to oversee,” Knight said. 


Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 



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