Sen. Jake Corman’s attempt at court-ordered mediation of his lawsuit against the NCAA was struck down Tuesday.
The Commonwealth Court denied his request to settle the differences over how state officials and the NCAA think the $60 million fine money from Penn State should be handled. State Treasurer Rob McCord is a plaintiff in the suit and also sought the court-ordered mediation.
President Judge Dan Pellegrini in a one-page order that the NCAA “is not willing to discuss let alone enter a process that could lead to a resolution” of the lawsuit.
The court’s decision was not unexpected, as the NCAA’s lawyer said at a court hearing last week that the organization would have nothing to do with settling the lawsuit. Instead, the lawyer said, the only settling was Penn State’s signing the consent decree that authorized the penalties such as the $60 million.
The consent decree says the money will be used to fund an endowment to benefit child abuse prevention and awareness services. Penn State pulled out the money for the first payment, $12 million, and has it in a separate account, but the payment will not be officially made until the lawsuit is litigated.
Corman’s lawsuit says the consent decree is not clear about who owns the fine money, and he is suing to have it deposited into the state treasury in accordance with a law he sponsored. The law would direct large fines against universities into the state’s hands.
The NCAA is fighting the lawsuit.
At a hearing last week, lawyer Everett Johnson Jr. said Corman’s law is unconstitutional and the state treasurer does not have the authority to collect the fine money. Instead, Johnson said the state’s attorney general is the authority who can go after the debt.
At the hearing, Pellegrini seemed to think that Corman’s suit would be better directed at Penn State, which is not a party.
Penn State was the trigger for Corman’s shot at court-ordered mediation. In a letter to lawyers for the NCAA and Corman, a Penn State attorney said the university was caught in the middle of the legal battle.
The university does not want to violate state law by not putting the money in the treasury, but it does not want to violate the consent decree by not making good on the payment, the university lawyer wrote.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane weighed in on the mediation issue, according to a letter to Pellegrini last week. Kane, who has prosecuted child abuse cases, said she supported a resolution that would keep the entire $60 million in Pennsylvania because prevention efforts are underfunded here.
And because Jerry Sandusky‘s crimes happened in Pennsylvania, it is “reasonable and logical” that the fine money be spent within the state’s borders, she said.
The NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said mediation will not settle the problems created by a law that is unconstitutional.
“If our agreement with Penn State is ultimately upheld, as we expect it to be, we intend to create an endowment to distribute the funds on a national basis, including in Pennsylvania, consistent with our role as a national association and our recognition that child sexual abuse is a national problem,” Remy said in a statement.
“Were it not for the creation of this law, the funds would be benefiting child abuse victims today.”
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.