Defamation, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Texas

Ousted Dean Might Sue Former Boss for Defamation

There’s a lot of SCOTUS attention today, but there’s still some doings in the law school world. Specifically, an ousted dean of a top law school is threatening a lawsuit against a regent.

Apparently, the former dean feels he was defamed when the regent in question started throwing around allegations of stealing from the law school.

Once more, the important life lesson is that if you’re going to defame someone and want to get away with it, don’t defame a lawyer…

Rewind a few years to the resignation of Lawrence Sager as the dean of Texas Law School in the middle of finals. At the time, we heard rumors of festering gender-based pay inequality. But the juicy, “we need you to step down immediately!” charge involved a $500,000 payout Sager gave himself. Sager described the payment as a loan agreement.

Texas Law Professor Lawrence Sager

Professor Larry Sager

This was not surprising. Sager was a professor at NYU while I went there and he probably learned the importance of using loans to sweeten compensation packages from the masters.

And as I said of the burgeoning NYU scandal, putting aside the use of charitable institutions, the mere act of compensating quality talent is how you build a law school. It may not be pretty, but it’s what you do in a competitive job market. Indeed, Elie said much the same thing about the Sager allegations back in 2011:

If anything the $500,000 doesn’t suggest any kind of actionable scandal, but it does go to the heart of the long term issues between Sager and [UT] President Powers: You have to pay a lot of top professorial talent.

Sager has moved the school up in the U.S. News rankings, and helped change the perception of the school from a regional powerhouse to a national player. He’s done that with money: Money he’s raised, and money he’s paid to top notch faculty. I would join many others in criticizing that system, but I don’t hate the player, I hate the game.

So fast forward to the present. University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, Jr. is getting impeached by the Texas House for micromanaging the system and launching “witch hunts.” The Texas House has plenty of time on its hands, because all the time-consuming fun in Texas takes place over on the Senate side. When facing a government probe, Wallace Hall did what absolutely no one would advise and gave a broad-ranging interview to the Texas Tribune. Hall called out the $500,000 loan:

All I have done, with the full support of the chancellor and the majority of the board, is to seek the facts, which have been in question from December of 2011. Almost immediately after the board was told of [University of Texas at Austin School of Law] Dean [Larry] Sager’s half-a-million-dollar concealed and unauthorized grant to himself, President Powers gave a statement to the press saying that “nothing illegal or improper” had taken place.

I think the validity of his statement is very much in question at this point. Once again, hardly a witch hunt. It would be irresponsible for this board to ignore this issue.

Unfortunately for Hall, some folks would disagree with that interpretation.

Like Professor Sager:

In an interview published by the Texas Tribune on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall made several demonstrably false and defamatory remarks regarding my actions during my service as Dean of the University of Texas Law School. In the interview, Mr. Hall said that I concealed an unauthorized grant to myself. Both assertions are demonstrably false. The compensation package in this connection was formally approved and awarded by the executive committee of the Law School Foundation, a group consisting of some of the most distinguished lawyers and business figures in the United States. Far from being concealed, the details of the compensation package were reported to the appropriate University officials.

Mr. Hall goes on in his interview to imply that the compensation package was “illegal or improper.” These, too, are baseless and injurious claims.

It is hard not to conclude that Mr. Hall has willfully and maliciously misstated these facts to serve some end other than the truth. His remarks are baldly defamatory and cannot go unchallenged. Legal action may be the only effective resort.

Sad trombone for Wallace Hall who may lose his job and get the bejeezus sued out of him.

Former UT Law School dean hints at legal action in statement [The Daily Texan]
House launches impeachment proceedings against UT Regent Wallace Hall [Dallas Morning News]
Wallace Hall: The TT Interview [Texas Tribune]

Earlier: University of Texas Dean Ousted As Rumors Fly
NYU Law’s Secret Slush Funds

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments