The Texas Supreme Court has settled a squabble over timing in the case of Wallace L. Hall Jr. v. William H. McRaven. The court on Friday granted lawyers for McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, extra time to respond to legal papers filed against the chancellor by Hall, a member of the system’s Board of Regents.
Hall wants the state’s highest civil court to review and overturn a lower court ruling in which he lost his bid to force McRaven to turn over documents, including confidential student records, from an investigation into favoritism in admissions at UT-Austin.
The Supreme Court previously said McRaven would have to respond no later than this coming Monday, Oct. 31. Lawyers for McRaven said they were swamped with other legal work and needed extra time. They got their wish; their response is now due no later than Nov. 10.
But the court added a warning, in bold-face type and all capital letters: “FURTHER REQUESTS FOR EXTENSIONS OF TIME WILL BE DISFAVORED.”
The case of Wallace L. Hall Jr. v. William H. McRaven has taken yet another twist — this time, a squabble over how quickly the latter must file legal arguments with the Texas Supreme Court.
To review: Hall, a University of Texas System regent, wants McRaven, the system’s chancellor, to turn over emails, notes and a host of other records from an investigation into favoritism in admissions at UT-Austin. McRaven contends that Hall’s demands do not meet the federal standard of “legitimate educational interest” to warrant granting him access to private student files collected in the investigation.
Hall’s request for state Supreme Court review, filed last month, contends that it would be “a dangerous precedent” to allow university officials to withhold information from regents sworn to oversee the school. The justices gave McRaven until midnight Oct. 31 to file a response.
In the latest twist, McRaven’s lawyers filed court papers Thursday asking for a new deadline of Nov. 11 “to prepare a thorough and helpful brief for the Court.” The reason for a delay: His lawyers must file briefs and participate in oral arguments in several other cases in the coming days.
Hall’s lawyers filed a counter-argument minutes later, arguing that any delay will increase McRaven’s chances of prevailing in the case “simply by running out the clock.” Hall’s six-year term as a regent expires Feb. 1, and the case presumably would become moot once he is off the board. The prospect of a ruling should not be jeopardized “just because at least one of respondent’s many lawyers is busy,” wrote Joseph Knight, Hall’s attorney.
A state district judge in Travis County threw out Hall’s lawsuit in December, essentially agreeing with the chancellor that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over this sort of dispute. In September, a three-judge panel of the state 3rd Court of Appeals sided with McRaven as well, ruling that the chancellor did not act outside his authority and that it was the Board of Regents that ultimately denied Hall access to the private student records. Hall then turned to the Texas Supreme Court.