Penn State attorneys argue Paternos would use documents in lawsuit for ‘public relations campaign’

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 7, 2014 

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Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers, left, talks with Scott Paterno as they enter the courthouse. Lawyers for the NCAA, Paterno family and Paterno supporters were in Bellefonte, Pa., at the Centre County Courthouse, Tuesday, October 29, 2013, for a court hearing. The lawsuit brought by the Paterno family aims to wipe out the NCAA sanctions against Penn State University. Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark

NABIL K. MARK — CDT photo Buy Photo

Penn State attorneys are asking a judge to block the public release of documents they will hand over to Joe Paterno’s estate as part of the discovery process in the family’s ongoing lawsuit, citing concerns they will be used “to conduct a public relations campaign” in the case.

University lawyers made the argument in paperwork filed Thursday, the same day NCAA officials and the Paterno family submitted their own arguments about how a protective order should be handled. Penn State’s statement was not posted on the county’s website until Monday.

The lawyers said the Paterno family’s statements “make clear that (the estate) may either make these private emails and other documents public themselves or provide them to others to do so for reasons outside of the legitimate purposes of the litigation.”

Attorneys for the Paterno family argued in their filing on the protective order that “the public has both a keen interest in what happened in the investigations at Penn State and a right to access to the public process of court proceedings.”

They also suggested public scrutiny of the Freeh report — the internal Penn State investigation into how the university handled the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal — wouldn’t be favorable to the university and NCAA.

Statements in the filing confirm the Paterno family intend “to use documents and information obtained in pretrial discovery not merely to litigate claims and defenses in this case, but also to try to influence public opinion,” Penn State attorneys argued.

The lawyers contend case law holds that plaintiffs have no right to disseminate documents and information obtained during pretrial discovery and that the press and public have no right of access to discovery materials that aren’t made part of the judicial record.

The Paterno family argues that only discovery material that is ruled confidential should be excluded from the judicial record.

The sides could not resolve the issue on their own, and instead filed the latest round of court documents to explain their positions to a judge.

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

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