Transparency committee hires experienced attorney in regent investigation

Jacob Kerr

The House Select Committee for Transparency in State Agency Operations hired Houston attorney Rusty Hardin to aid its investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall. 

Hardin, known for defending high-profile clients such as baseball player Roger Clemens, will act as special counsel in an investigation that may result in Hall’s impeachment. Brad Beers, a former law firm partner of Hardin’s, said the committee likely chose Hardin because of his experience and independence in the courtroom.

“Rusty is very well known and has experience of handling matters involving investigations and prosecutions, including matters involving public officials,” Beers said. “He’s well regarded and viewed as being independent. He’s willing to take on popular or unpopular causes.”

Beers also noted Hardin’s recent work as special prosecutor in the Williamson County court of inquiry that found former District Attorney Ken Anderson withheld evidence in the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. Because of Anderson’s actions, Morton spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife before being released earlier this year. Hardin, who worked as an assistant district attorney in Harris County before going into private practice, also worked as chief trial counsel under Bob Fiske and Ken Starr in 1994 on the Whitewater Independent Counsel’s Office investigation into
Bill Clinton.

Transparency committee co-chair Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, explained the hiring in a statement.

“The serious nature of this investigation requires the use of a respected, accomplished attorney like Mr. Hardin,”
Alvarado said.

During the legislative session, state legislators accused Hall of participating in a “witch-hunt” to remove UT President William Powers Jr. after Hall made several large open records requests to the University. In May, The Texas Tribune reported Hall did not mention several lawsuits he was involved in on his regent application. In June, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, gave the transparency committee the task of investigating Hall by expanding its jurisdiction to include executive appointees.

If the transparency committee determines Hall’s actions warrant impeachment, Hardin will help draft the articles of impeachment and present them before the House of Representatives. If a majority in the House votes in favor of charging Hall with impeachment, it would be up to the Senate to conduct a trial and remove Hall by another two-thirds vote. Hall would be the first state appointee to be impeached in the state’s history.

Hall did not comment on the transparency committee’s decision to hire Hardin.

The committee indicated it would begin conducting hearings in September. Committee co-chair Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said Hall would likely be one of the first witnesses called to testify before the committee.