Penn State

Penn State, Freeh law firm must turn over documents after privilege appeal fails in Paterno lawsuit

There will not be a reconsideration of a stay on the privilege issue for Penn State and Pepper Hamilton in Pennsylvania Superior Court.

In documents filed Friday, the court formally issued an order denying reconsideration of the decision.

The most recent denial comes after after a long list of back-and-forth legal wranglings.

Potter County Senior Judge John Leete ruled on the last of the ongoing challenges from attorneys for Pepper Hamilton and Penn State in the lawsuit filed by the estate of Joe Paterno on May 5. On May 26, the appeal was filed in Superior Court.

Leete, specially presiding in Centre County Court, dismissed the claims of attorney-client privilege and work product that the university and the law firm have made repeatedly.

Pepper Hamilton, a large Philadelphia-based firm, became part of the case after merging with Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan. That was the firm of former FBI director Louis Freeh, who joined with Pepper Hamilton after delivering the report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, commissioned by the university, in July 2012.

Leete ordered that the Paterno estate’s discovery demands be accommodated within 30 days.

“Hearing that the Superior Court denied PSU and Pepper Hamilton’s appeal. If so Freeh docs here we come,” Scott Paterno tweeted at about noon Monday.

Penn State requested a stay from Superior Court after Pepper Hamilton filed the appeal. That was temporarily granted June 4, but the court vacated that stay on June 19.

This may not be the last time an appeal on the issue is filed because this is familiar territory. Pepper Hamilton entered the fray alongside Penn State after Leete ruled that the university could not assert attorney-client privilege, saying it rested with the law firm.

He then brushed aside Pepper Hamilton’s attempts to make those claims in October. The firm appealed in December. Then the Paternos asked the court to enforce their subpoena in January.

Leete wrote then that his court had no jurisdiction on the privilege arguments, and with no stay issued by the Superior Court “the status quo is to continue with the discovery process.”

The Paterno estate, along with former assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney, is suing the university as well as the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, and former executive committee chairman Ed Ray for breach of contract. The NCAA is also charged with tortious interference, defamation, disparagement and conspiracy.

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