Penn State

Freeh’s firm continues to assert privilege in Paterno case

Lawyers from Louis Freeh’s law firm are reasserting an attorney-client privilege in a lawsuit brought by the estate of longtime Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno against Penn State and the NCAA.
Lawyers from Louis Freeh’s law firm are reasserting an attorney-client privilege in a lawsuit brought by the estate of longtime Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno against Penn State and the NCAA. CDT file photo

Lawyers from Louis Freeh’s law firm are reasserting an attorney-client privilege in a lawsuit brought by the estate of longtime Nittany Lion football coach Joe Paterno against Penn State and the NCAA.

Pepper Hamilton, the firm that merged with Freeh Sporkin and Sullivan in 2012, after Freeh issued his university-commissioned investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, filed documents Wednesday in Centre County court objecting to the estate’s request to enforce subpoenas, calling the move “an untenable and internally unreconcilable position.”

“Plaintiffs are asking this court to enforce the subpoena — entirely and as written — while even acknowledging that a live dispute over objections to the subpoena plainly remains undecided,” Pepper Hamilton attorney Thomas Zemaitis wrote.

In February 2014, the estate first filed an intent to serve subpoenas for documents from Pepper Hamilton. In an ongoing legal dance since then, Penn State and Pepper Hamilton have protested, and the Paternos have pushed back. In September, the court overruled the objections and in November denied Pepper Hamilton’s motion for a stay pending appeal.

Last week, Potter County Senior Judge John Leete ordered the firm to file a statement of errors complained of in the appeal.

In the new filing, Pepper Hamilton asks that the Paternos’ motion be denied completely for its prematurity, saying the plaintiffs failed “to make any effort to address Pepper Hamilton’s objections” and never met with the parties to discuss the court’s mandate.

If Leete fails to agree with that argument, the law firm is ready with another familiar one.

“If the court reaches the merits of the motion, which it should not, Pepper Hamilton alternatively raises an attorney work product objection to the subpoena, which the court should sustain,” Zemaitis wrote.

Pepper Hamilton said it provided documents that are not disputed, including “all identified communications between the Freeh Investigation team on the one hand, and the NCAA and/or the Big Ten Conference on the other hand.” The firm accuses the estate of “burying their heads in the sand” and being disingenuous.

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