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Text messages further illuminate judge’s involvement in Silent Sam deal

Text messages between the attorney for the UNC Board of Governors and the judge who approved its controversial Silent Sam settlement with the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans show communications well before the deal lawsuit was settled or the board of governors approved the terms of the deal.

As first reported by WBTV Tuesday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour had at least three phone conversations and two in-person meetings with Ripley Rand, the former U.S. Attorney who represented the UNC System and its board of governors, beginning on November 18 and continuing to November 27, when the suit was filed and settlement approved within an hour.

Judge Allen Baddour presides over a December hearing on the Silent Sam settlement.

As Policy Watch previously reported, Baddour acknowledged the meetings in a December hearing at which the judge said he would further examine the standing of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“In an effort to resolve these matters, I was approached by the lawyers in the case prior to the filing of the lawsuit,” Baddour said. “We all know this occurs in cases of many types — and I met with the lawyers in this case.”

Rand and Baddour were also law school classmates at UNC.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under law, which represented the UNC students and faculty who sought to intervene in the case, is appealing Baddour’s ruling barring their intervention. One of their chief arguments was that there had been no real adversarial process in the settlement, which was arranged ahead of time by both parties with the help of the judge and without input from students, faculty and UNC community members who would be most impacted.

Earlier this month, The DTH Media Corporation, the nonprofit that operates UNC-Chapel Hill’s Daily Tar Heel  independent student newspaper, sued the UNC Board of Governors over the controversial Silent Sam settlement.

The suit, alleges that the board violated North Carolina Open Meetings Law in the way it approved the $2.5 million deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which also included a $74,999 payment to assure that the group would not use Confederate flags in on-campus protests.

Baddour has had at least two of his judgments in favor of UNC in separate cases reversed on appeal — one involving DTH Media Corp. Another is pending in the state Court of Appeals.

In 2015, the Court of Appeals reversed Baddour’s ruling in Frampton v. UNC, finding that the university had to pay a tenured professor put on leave after a 2012 arrest on drug smuggling charges in Argentina.

In 2018, the Court of Appeals again reversed Baddour in DTH Media Corp v. Folt, finding that the university could not deny public access to public records involving sexual assaults on campus.

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Text messages further illuminate judge’s involvement in Silent Sam deal