If you thought the Graham Spanier lawsuit against former FBI director and federal judge Louis Freeh was making progress, well, so did the judge.
“I thought we were all on the same train headed toward the same station,” Lebanon County Senior Judge Robert Eby told the attorneys in the case Monday in Centre County Court.
Eby was hearing arguments regarding former Penn State president Spanier’s first amended complaint in his ongoing case against Freeh, the man hired by the university to conduct an independent investigation of what went wrong regarding the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal that exploded in 2011 and ended Spanier’s employment.
The arguments themselves were the legal version of a football instant replay. Did this document do its job in exactly the way it was required? Was it too long? Were there not enough paragraphs? Was everything inside the lines so the chains could move forward for the next play?
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But Freeh attorney Michael Kichline, of Dechert LLP in Philadelphia, was claiming more than just technical issues, saying Spanier’s complaint was “scandalous and impertinent,” “bloated and frankly overheated” and “calculated more for media consumption than the court.”
Eby tended to agree, frequently commiserating over the 110-page, 300-plus paragraph document, and calling it “absurd” that the case had dragged on for years.
Spanier attorney Andrew Phillips, of Clare Locke LLP in Alexandria, Va., replied that much of the excess information objected to in the document was there to prevent the defense from arguing against its inclusion later.
“It goes to actual malice,” he said.
The document includes references to Freeh cases other than the Sandusky incident, including investigations of world soccer organization FIFA, Wynn Resorts and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup. Phillps said the idea of preconceived storylines was part of the malice argument.
Eby said he would address issues with the defense as they arose but pushed the plaintiffs to boil down their document.
“If that’s the elephant we have to start eating, let’s start chewing at it,” he said.
Eby ordered Phillips to produce a second amended complaint within 60 days, granting preliminary objections by Freeh’s camp without prejudice.