Potter County judge to preside over Paterno family NCAA lawsuit

mdawson@centredaily.comJune 28, 2013 

A judge from Potter County will preside over the civil lawsuit that pits the family of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno against the NCAA.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday assigned Judge John B. Leete, 67, of Coudersport, to the case. Centre County court officials requested a judge from outside the area to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because of their ties to Penn State.

The Paterno family filed the lawsuit in May seeking to void the harsh sanctions against Penn State. The lawsuit accused the NCAA’s top officials of conspiring to force university President Rodney Erickson to sign the consent decree, and it said the officials bypassed the organization’s rules for imposing penalties.

Joining the Paternos are members of the university’s board of trustees, professors, former football coaches and players.

The NCAA has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

Leete retired from the bench in Potter County at the end of 2008 after a 20-year career.

When the Paternos sued the NCAA at the end of May, it was the latest in a string of civil lawsuits that all resulted from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Penn State is negotiating settlements with Sandusky victims, but one of the men who testified at the trial last year sued the university, The Second Mile charity and Sandusky in federal court. Other lawsuits by men claiming they were abused by Sandusky have been delayed.

Former football coach Mike McQueary is trying to get punitive damages from Penn State. He sued last year, saying he was defamed by former university president Graham Spanier and that the university let him go because he cooperated with authorities who were investigating Sandusky

Gov. Tom Corbett sued the NCAA to overturn the sanctions, but a federal judge earlier this month dismissed that suit.

State Sen. Jake Corman also sued the NCAA to ensure that the $60 million fine Penn State is paying will not be spent outside Pennsylvania. The NCAA is fighting that suit and refused to enter into court-ordered mediation.

And the NCAA sued Corbett and other state officials to void a new law that requires the fine money be put into the state treasury. Corman sponsored the law.

Penn State is staying out of the lawsuits involving the Paternos, the NCAA and state officials, but the university sued an insurance carrier in March after it allegedly did not cover claims made by Sandusky victims.

On the criminal side, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Spanier still have not had their day in court on their obstruction of justice and perjury cases. Their attorneys are trying to have the charges dismissed even before a preliminary hearing, and they contend that former university counsel Cynthia Baldwin violated attorney-client privilege when she testified against them to the grand jury investigating the case.

Schultz filed a notice in Centre County court that he may sue Baldwin, but his lawyers have yet to file a formal complaint. The notice preserves his right to sue if he would decide to go that route.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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