Law school allowed to withhold applicants’ names
TEXAS–The University of Texas Law School may withhold the names and addresses of “white” and “non-preferred minority” applicants who were ultimately denied admission to the school, a state appellate court in Austin ruled in mid-December.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Chief Justice Jimmy Carroll ruled that the Texas Public Information Act’s litigation exemption prohibited disclosure because the request for the information was made by an attorney who was planning to contact potential plaintiffs in challenging the constitutionality of the university’s admissions policies.
Under the litigation exemption, an agency is justified in withholding documents when litigation is “reasonably anticipated.” The court ruled that the law school could reasonably have anticipated that litigation would ensue based on the attorney’s request letter stating his intent to organize a class-action lawsuit and the fact that he had filed three similar lawsuits against the school in the past.
The court also concluded that the information was “related to” litigation against the law school, as required by the Public Information Act. The names and addresses of rejected applicants were “inherently related” to the anticipated litigation because they identified the entire class of potential plaintiffs, the court ruled, even though at the time the information was requested no person had expressed an interest in the planned solicitation.
The school’s denial of the request came after the state attorney general had issued a formal opinion letter stating that the law school could withhold the requested names and addresses based on the litigation exemption. (University of Texas Law School v. Texas Legal Foundation, Counsel: S. W. Smith, Austin)