Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Hearing date set on venue for Spanier defamation lawsuit

A judge has scheduled a Nov. 14 hearing in Scranton on whether the suit former Penn State president Graham Spanier filed against Louis Freeh and his law firm meets the criteria to be in federal court.

U.S. Middle District Judge Malachy E. Mannion Tuesday set the date in an order in which he said submissions by the parties do not satisfy a jurisdiction issue.

Spanier wants Mannion to remand the case to Centre County Court, claiming there is no diversity of citizenship, a requirement to be in federal court.

He maintains one of Freeh’s law partners lives in Pennsylvania and, according to a news release, Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, has merged with Pepper Hamilton, a Philadelphia law firm.

Freeh counters his firm’s website is out of date and the partner listed as a Pennsylvania resident resigned before Spanier filed a writ of summons in Centre County Court to begin the litigation.

Also at issue is whether the two law firms have merged or joined, according to Mannion.

The judge gave Spanier the right to conduct limited discovery on the diversity issue that must be completed by Oct. 31.

Spanier filed a writ of summons against Freeh and his law firm in July 2012. Later court documents allege Freeh, in the report he prepared into Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse matter, included false and defamatory material about him.

Freeh attempted to force the filing of a full complaint but Spanier won a stay so all activity in the case ceases pending the resolution of criminal charges against him arising from the Sandusky investigation. Freeh and his law firm this July removed the case to federal court claiming diversity of citizenship. They oppose a remand to Centre County.

One of the disputes is over a one-year limit to transfer a case from state to federal court. Spanier claims the period does not start to run until a complaint is filed while Freeh cites court decisions that state it begins with a writ of summons.

Freeh has expressed concern if the case was remanded, he might lose the right to return it to federal court after Spanier files his complaint.

He attempted to obtain a declaration from Mannion that he would have a year after the complaint is filed but the judge dismissed the motion as moot because the case already was in federal court.

Freeh has appealed that decision to the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals.