Penn State

Covey visits Centre County, talks about NCAA suit

Judge Anne Covey is running for Pa. Supreme Court. Covey speaks April 2, 2015 at the Centre County Republican headquarters in State College.
Judge Anne Covey is running for Pa. Supreme Court. Covey speaks April 2, 2015 at the Centre County Republican headquarters in State College. CDT photo

“For myself, it was always about the victims,” Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey said.

Covey, a candidate for the state Supreme Court, was at the Centre County Republican headquarters on Wednesday, talking to the media about the case that has made her name familiar to many following Penn State news, the lawsuit brought by state Sen. Jake Corman against the university and the NCAA.

“That case means a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” she said.

The lawsuit, which unfolded over two years, came to a head in the fall of 2014, when Covey’s rulings began to tumble out of the Commonwealth Court on a regular basis, most cutting against the NCAA, which wanted to have control over the $60 million fine it had levied against the university after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, and in favor of Corman, who was suing to keep the money in Pennsylvania after the passage of the Endowment Act, a law that required the funds to stay in the state.

The lawsuit snowballed when Covey opted to question the validity of consent decree, the document by which enforced the slate of punishments, including the stripping of years of football wins, handcuffing of scholarships and a ban on postseason play. The consent decree was repealed as part of the settlement of the lawsuit in January.

“We have individuals who never got to college because they didn’t have scholarships to attend college,” Covey said. “Unfortunately, the NCAA sanctions hurt a lot of individuals and punished them when they were in no way a participant in any of the crimes that Sandusky committed.”

Covey, who calls herself a “strict constructionist,” repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the Endowment Act and slapped down the NCAA, accusing it of “forum shopping” when it sought to have a federal court second-guess the Pennsylvania rulings.

“It’s also important to remember that an organization outside of Pennsylvania can’t come in and start dictating to Pennsylvania that they want their money to go outside because they say that’s how it has to happen,” she said.

She spoke about the rulings against the NCAA on the issue of releasing documents, saying “some of their discovery process was not in accordance with the law.”

“The law comes first,” she said.

That was one of the reasons she said she wants to be on the Supreme Court. Covey comes from a business and entrepreneurial background, something she said needs to be represented on the state’s top bench.

“They said I write well-reasoned, clear and concise opinions,” she said of the state bar association.

That came in response to a question about the organization’s failure to give her an endorsement. Covey and the state bar had a brief dust-up over that issue in February after the group issued its list of recommendations but did not list her at all.

After she brought the issue to the press, they issued a “not recommended” statement on her candidacy, citing comments Covey made when running for the Commonwealth bench, calling it “the height of irresponsibility.”

Covey, on the other hand, stands by the statements. In fact, she took the comments as a challenge.

“The bar association believed I shouldn’t be speaking and using my First Amendment rights. I believe in the Constitution and that we need to uphold our constitutional rights. The United States Supreme Court has held that judicial candidates have the right to freedom of speech,” she said.