Penn State

Gag order at issue in Paterno suit against NCAA

Potter County Senior Judge John Leete exits the Centre County courthouse after a hearing involving attorneys for the NCAA, Penn State and the Paterno family. Friday, February 6, 2015
Potter County Senior Judge John Leete exits the Centre County courthouse after a hearing involving attorneys for the NCAA, Penn State and the Paterno family. Friday, February 6, 2015 CDT photo

The Paterno estate on Friday renewed its arguments to lift a protective order in its lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State.

In oral arguments before Potter County Senior Judge John Leete, attorney Patricia Maher laid out her case to have the order lifted, allowing the parties the freedom to make public documents from discovery that had not been labeled “confidential” or “attorney eyes only.”

The point, she said, was that the NCAA already had the opportunity to fully publish documents obtained in the lawsuit filed by state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and former state treasurer Rob McCord.

Maher illustrated her point with a giant prop, a large blow-up of a screen shot of the NCAA’s website. The Nov. 14, 2014, post titled “Documents clarify Penn State consent decree — NCAA sets the record straight” shows excerpts from some documents and links to others.

The protective order agreed to by the two sides in the estate’s case prevents that kind of release of information. With the settlement of the Corman-McCord suit, the flood of information pouring out in court documents has effectively stopped.

Maher wants her clients to have the opportunity to refute the information still available on the NCAA’s website, giving the Paternos their own chance to “set the record straight.”

“There is no doubt in the court’s mind that the NCAA is tooting its own horn and putting its best foot forward for the benefit of the NCAA,” Leete said.

The NCAA, on the other hand, argued that the Corman-McCord case shows why the order should remain, claiming that once documents prejudicial to their side were published, they had no choice but to put their own documents out.

“Aren’t we entitled to the same?” Maher responded.

The two sides took shots at each other over the virtue of the release. The NCAA said they only published their own documents, not those acquired through discovery. The estate said the Corman-McCord camp never published the documents on a website, only including them as exhibits attached to court filings.

Penn State chimed in, arguing that making the documents readily available now would jeopardize the integrity of documents already provided, for which the university had been promised protection.

And then there was the issue of the jury pool. The NCAA claimed making the documents available could further tarnish the opinions of prospective jurors.

“That taint has already happened,” Maher said.

The judge has not yet made a decision on the arguments.

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