Attorney General Ken Paxton has once again thrown his support behind University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall’s efforts to receive records, including confidential student information, from an investigation into favoritism in admissions at the Austin campus.
Paxton recently filed a brief asking the 3rd Court of Appeals to reinstate Hall’s lawsuit, which was thrown out by a Travis County judge in December, prompting an immediate appeal by Hall. Paxton also asked the appeals court to order UT to provide the records to Hall.
“A regent’s access to university records must be absolute,” Paxton said in the friend-of-the-court brief filed last week but made public Tuesday.
The 3rd Court of Appeals has not yet determined whether it will decide the case based solely on briefs or if it will schedule oral arguments, which both sides have requested. That decision could come at any time, court records show.
Paxton’s latest action followed an attorney general’s opinion, sought by Hall and issued last May, in which Paxton concluded that the UT System cannot bar a regent’s access to records, even if protected by federal privacy laws, that are necessary for evaluating a state-supported education program.
And in June, Paxton sent a letter informing UT Chancellor Bill McRaven that his agency was granting Hall’s request for an appointed lawyer — paid for by the UT System — to help in his legal fight for the records. In the letter, Paxton also repeated his belief that the regents could not bar access to records that Hall “believes are necessary to fulfill his duties as a regent.”
Paxton’s appeals court brief was the latest turn in Hall’s efforts to review emails, interview notes and other records from an investigation conducted for the UT System by Kroll Associates Inc. A 107-page summary by Kroll concluded that former UT-Austin President Bill Powers sometimes ordered the admissions office to accept applicants with subpar academic records who had been backed by legislators, regents, donors and other influential people.
McRaven has refused to grant access to the records, saying they are off-limits due to federal and state privacy laws and arguing that Hall was seeking to improperly reopen a closed investigation.