Judge to rule on subpoena in Paterno family lawsuit vs. NCAA

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 19, 2014 

— A judge has heard arguments over whether Penn State can block a subpoena the family of Joe Paterno wants to serve on Louis Freeh’s law firm.

Monday’s court session has ended, and Senior Judge John Leete’s decisions will come later.

The Paterno estate’s subpoena makes 25 separate requests for documentation from Freeh’s firm, Pepper Hamilton. The millions of documents sought include those collected by the former FBI director in his review of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

Paterno family attorneys want the records as part of their lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State that seeks to have sanctions levied against the university overturned and the consent decree that authorized them voided.

Some of the subpoena requests include documentation about the decision to fire Paterno, documents to support a Freeh report reference that Paterno knew what was going on at Penn State football facilities and drafts of the consent decrees.

Penn State attorneys want to block the request, arguing in part that some of the materials are protected by attorney-client privilege, that the subpoena is overbroad and that most of the documents are irrelevant to the Paternos’ case.

The Paterno estate argues, in part, that the report was never meant to be kept confidential and was released publicly, and that Penn State gave up attorney-client privilege with multiple voluntary disclosures of Freeh information.

In April, a judge ordered Monday’s hearing, which began at 10 a.m. Monday in Centre County Court. Leete presided over the hearing in the Paterno family lawsuit.

The sides have traded back-and-forth court filings since then, the latest coming last week from Paterno family lawyers who argued the NCAA has openly threatened Penn State with additional sanctions if the university doesn’t “come to heel” and go along with the organization.

“In the face of those threats, Penn State has supported the NCAA and taken the position that there should be no discovery from the Freeh firm, asserting claims of attorney-client and attorney work-product privileges,” Paterno family attorneys wrote in the papers.

The Paterno lawsuit includes current and former trustees, former coaches and former players. They say the NCAA bypassed its own rules when it penalized the university for the Sandusky scandal after the Freeh report was released in July 2012.

The sanctions include a $60 million fine, toward which Penn State has paid $24 million. The university also saw a postseason ban and scholarship reductions, though the NCAA decided to incrementally reinstate some of the scholarships that were cut.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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