• Court schedules Davis hearing for August 27

    After the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a temporary restraining order Friday, aiming to prevent UT from removing the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from their locations on the Main Mall, the group’s attorney said an injunction hearing is now scheduled for Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m.

    Kirk Lyons, the attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said a temporary restraining order hearing was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, but the two sides reached an agreement Tuesday, effectively eliminating the need for a restraining order hearing.

    "Since we already had the temporary restraining order, why did we need the hearing when we already had this?” Lyons said. “So the [University] lawyers agreed to a temporary injunction hearing."

    University spokesman J.B. Bird said the agreement to have one hearing instead of two separate ones does not change UT's plans. The University will wait for a court's decision before removing statues, according to Bird.

    "We are confident we will be able to move forward with the plans," Bird said. "Universities have the discretion under state law to relocate statues on their campuses."

    Lyons said each side will present six witnesses, and he expects more affidavits to be filed. One of his six witnesses will be David Steven Littlefield, a retired administrator from UT's School of Pharmacy and a third cousin to George Littlefield, Lyons said. George Littlefield, a Confederate veteran, former regent and donor to the University, had the original vision to place the Davis statue on campus.

    Last week, the task force commissioned by University President Gregory Fenves submitted options regarding the statues in the Main and South malls, mainly calling for the relocation of the statues on campus. President Fenves decided Thursday the Davis statue would be relocated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the statue of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson would be relocated elsewhere on campus.

    The University announced Friday that the statues would be removed from the Main Mall Saturday at 10:30 a.m. However, Friday afternoon, the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a temporary restraining order in district court, and the University agreed to not move the statues until a court reviewed the matter.

    In the complaint, Lyons said President Fenves does not have the authority to move these statues.   

    “UT cannot move the statues without approval from the Texas Legislature, Texas Historical Commission or the Texas Preservation Board,” Lyons said. “Fenves thinks he can act unilaterally and we beg to differ. We are going to court to let them make the decision instead of a non-elected bureaucrat.”

  • University delays removing Davis statue, waits for court to review request for temporary restraining order

    The University will not relocate the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from the Main Mall on Saturday as planned, after the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested a temporary restraining order in state district court Friday afternoon. The University has agreed to wait to move the statues until the court has a chance to look at the case next week.

    “President Fenves' decision to move the Jefferson Davis statue to UT's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is both the right course forward and consistent with the law,” the press release said. “We are confident we will move ahead with these plans.”

    Marshall Davis, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman, said the organization filed the temporary restraining order because of how quickly the statue relocation unfolded since a task force recommended it be relocated Monday.

    “Of course we want the Jefferson Davis statue to stay, but we filed this because of the hastiness of the decision,” Davis said. “In this order we wanted all the parties to look at the ramifications and the original intent."

    According to court documents, the Sons of Confederate Veterans said George Littlefield, a Confederate veteran and UT Regent, established a $250,000 trust fund that as part of it established the Littlefield fountain and the 6 statues in the Main Mall.

    The Sons of Confederate Veterans also said in court documents that the University cannot remove the statue without the approval of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Historical Commission, or the State Preservation Board.

    Following the Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary’s recommendations, University President Gregory Fenves announced Thursday that the University will relocate the Jefferson Davis statue to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Woodrow Wilson statue elsewhere on campus to maintain symmetry in the space.

    The statues were originally set to be removed Saturday at 10:30 a.m., according to an earlier University press release Friday.

    Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested a restraining order. The group requested a temporary restraining order.

  • UT System sues Attorney General Ken Paxton

    The University of Texas System has sued Attorney General Ken Paxton in an attempt to restrict access to records requested by the Austin American-Statesman.

    While the attorney general’s office determined some of the information could be released, the UT System said the information was protected under privacy laws, according to the UT System’s original petition, which the Dallas Morning News obtained.

    Paxton’s office ordered the release of information the UT System believes is protected by the constitutional right to privacy.

    The information in question is related to the Kroll report, an independent investigation of UT’s admissions policies released last year, which showed former President William Powers Jr. had admitted under-qualified students to the University.

    The lawsuit comes more than a month after UT System regent Wallace Hall filed a lawsuit against UT System Chancellor William McRaven in an effort to obtain information regarding the Kroll report.

    In a letter released in June, Paxton granted Hall the right to hire a lawyer and advised the Board of Regents to comply with Hall’s requests for records.

  • Task force announces recommendations for statues on Main Mall

    Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.
    Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.

    The Task Force for Historical Representation of Statuary recommended the relocation of Confederate statues on campus or the addition of explanatory plaques on the statues in its final report to UT President Gregory Fenves earlier Monday.

    The task force submitted five recommendations, four of which call for the relocation of various statues, including the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from the main mall. The recommendations call for the statues to be moved elsewhere on campus or to museums in Austin. One recommendation proposes leaving the statues but adding explanatory plaques.  No alternatives call for the removal of the statues from campus.

    “As we acknowledge contributions of those with Confederate ties, we should also strive to tell the complete history of Texas and the South,” the report read. “Doing so would enable tangible outcomes for ‘teachable moments’ like this current one.”

    The task force, which included UT students, faculty and staff members, looked at the intent of the statues in the Main Mall on campus, studied racial controversies surrounding the statues, and provided alternatives to leaving the statues as they are. In the report, the task force said it aimed to accommodate changing times, while not ignoring the past.

    “Rather than maintaining a one-sided interpretation of the past, UT Austin should take its cues from the various groups of students who attend this university and who want to ‘change the world,’” the report said. “The Confederate statues, therefore, are not only symbols of a now largely controversial neo-Confederate past; they are also powerful symbols of how that past continues to structure the present.”

    Fenves first announced the creation of the task force June 24, a day after the vandalization of the statues of Davis, Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnson.  

    The issue received renewed attention following the shooting of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu then released a petition calling for the statue’s removal.

    Click here to read the full report.

    This blog post has been updated since publication for clarity.

  • Attorney General Ken Paxton indicted in Collin County jail

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was officially booked in a Dallas-area jail on Monday morning for charges of misleading investors.

    Paxton was photographed and finger printed before being released with a bail totalling $35,000, according to the Collin Country court records. Paxton is facing two first-degree security frauds and a third-degree charge for failing to register with the state securities board, according to the indictment.

    According to CBS News, Paxton admitted to violating state securities law for not disclosing to regulators that he was receiving commissions for referring law clients to a financial planner.  Paxton paid a $1,000 fine and his aides said this was administrative oversight and the criminal investigation was a political hit job, CBS News reported.

    Following this incident, Texas for Public Justice filed a criminal complaint against Paxton with Travis County prosecutors.

    The case was eventually referred to the Texas Rangers where they have since found other security violations Paxton did not admit to in 2014, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    On Monday afternoon, Ken Paxton's attorney Joe Kendall released a statement saying Paxton will not plead guilty and will seek a trial by jury.

    "In the meantime, the Attorney General is returning to Austin to focus on his work on behalf of the citizens of Texas," Kendall said in the statement.

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