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Volume 70, Issue 132, Tuesday, April 19, 2005

News

UNT law proposal clears Senate

Proposed public law school would be first in Dallas, North Texas

Cougar News Services

The state Senate approved a bill last week that would give approval for the University of North Texas to open a law school in downtown Dallas -- the first in the city and in the region -- by Fall 2009.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, authored the bill, which passed the Senate on a 27-3 vote and is now headed for discussion in the House of Representatives.

"When you begin to look at it, there is no public law school in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state," West told The Dallas Morning News. "We canit wait until we need it to begin planning for it."

There are four public law schools in Texas now, at UH, Texas Southern University, Texas Tech University and The University of Texas at Austin.

Two of the stateis five private law schools are in the Dallas area, at Texas Southern University in Dallas and Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

West said the UNT law school will likely enroll nearly 800 students. UHis Law Center counted 1,198 students in the fall.

Before the measure passed, an amendment was approved that transferred responsibility for conducting a feasibility study for the UNT law school to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. West initially gave UNT the task of conducting the study after the coordinating board opposed creation of a new law school in Dallas.

That prompted concern among some senators about a conflict of interest.

"This is like the fox guarding the henhouse," said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock. "I have a concern that weire going to appropriate money based on a feasibility study by the institution that stands to benefit and receive the additional money."

West later said the coordinating board wonit be able to derail plans for the school: "They cannot come back and say there should not be a law school in Dallas," he said.

The bill proposes allocating about $600,000 to UNT in the next two years to begin planning for the law school. The feasibility study will be due by June 1, 2006.
 

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