The lawsuit former Penn State president Graham Spanier filed against Louis Freeh and his law firm is headed back to Centre County Court.
U.S. Middle District Judge Malachy Mannion on Wednesday ruled in favor of Spanier, who had argued the transfer of the case to federal court was premature.
Spanier contends the report Freeh issued after his investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case contained false and defamatory material about him. In July 2013, he filed a writ of summons, which alerts defendants that a full complaint may be coming, naming Freeh and his law firm, Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, as defendants.
Freeh had the case moved to federal court in July to avoid a one-year limit for such a transfer. Spanier opposed the move, claiming the removal could not occur until a full complaint had been filed.
That could be some time in the future because Spanier obtained a stay of all activity in the case pending the resolution of criminal charges against him in Dauphin County court arising from the Sandusky scandal.
Court decisions differ on whether the time limit begins with the filing or a writ or the complaint. Mannion refused Freeh’s request to say he could remove the case in the future after the complaint is filed.
The opinion notes that the unusual circumstances of this case have put Freeh and his law firm in a difficult position because, after a complaint is filed, a federal judge could rule that the one-year time limit for removal has elapsed.
Spanier also argued to remand the case to Centre County on the grounds that there was no diversity of citizenship that is required to be in federal court.
He maintained that one of Freeh’s law partners lives in Pennsylvania and, according to a news release, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan had merged with Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia law firm.
Freeh had countered that his firm’s website is out of date and the partner listed as a Pennsylvania resident resigned before Spanier filed a writ of summons in Centre County court to begin the litigation.
There also was an issue about whether the two law firms have merged or joined.
Mannion chose not to address the diversity issue, writing that there is no operative document from which the court can determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.