(Editor’s note: The author of this article and NonDoc Media are plaintiffs in the lawsuit referenced below.)
When covering civil lawsuits, it is typically considered a journalism best practice to publish a defendant’s answer if you have publicized the petition.
On July 26, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents answered NonDoc’s lawsuit seeking the release of the two investigatory reports produced by the law firm Jones Day regarding OU’s misrepresentation of financial data and alleged sexual misconduct by former President David Boren.
“The allegations in this lawsuit are nothing more than inflammatory assertions based on articles without a basis of support beyond said articles,” wrote Mike Burrage, a former federal judge with the law firm Whitten Burrage. “In fact, five of the referenced internet articles supporting the allegations are plaintiff NonDoc’s own articles.”
The OU Board of Regents has retained Burrage, J. Renley Dennis (also of the firm Whitten Burrage) and Drew Neville (of McAfee & Taft) to defend itself and the university in the lawsuit, which asks a judge to order OU to release the Jones Day reports.
Citing three exemptions within the Oklahoma Open Records Act, OU denied NonDoc’s request for the documents in May 2019.
An OU attorney had previously said releasing the investigatory reports would only “serve the public’s curiosity — not its interest.”
In OU’s answer to the lawsuit, Burrage offers 10 affirmative defenses.
“The Jones Day reports are covered by attorney client privilege and excerpts have not been supplied to anyone without an agreement of confidentiality that protect’s the university’s privileges,” Burrage wrote in his second affirmative defense.
The fifth affirmative defense expands on the concept.
“Any communications between Jones Day and the university and/or any representatives or employees of the university is protected by the university’s attorney-client privilege,” Burrage wrote.
In the next phase of the case, referred to as discovery, information and evidence will be exchanged between NonDoc and OU to prepare for trial. The case has been assigned to Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley.
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