Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Paternos to court: Reject Pepper Hamilton ‘gambit’

The estate of longtime Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno is not giving up on subpoenaing documents from a law firm representing Penn State.

Last week, Pepper Hamilton, the Philadelphia-based megafirm that merged with Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan in 2012, filed documents in Centre County court detailing reasons it is appealing Judge John Leete’s ruling on the attorney-client privilege argument against complying with the Paterno estate’s subpoenas.

On Tuesday, the estate’s attorneys responded.

“This gambit should be rejected,” wrote attorney Patricia Maher. “There is nothing improper about a party taking steps to secure production of subpoenaed documents when the documents are not produced after objections have been overruled.”

Maher’s filing calls the university and Pepper Hamilton’s objections “an attempt to re-litigate” issues that Leete had already ruled on in September and November, and said Penn State “continues to resist disclosure at all costs to this day.”

The problem with that, she argued, is the “fundamentally flawed” Freeh report. Maher cited recent statements by university President Eric Barron in support.

“I have to say, I’m not a fan of the report. There’s no doubt in my mind, Freeh steered everything as if he were a prosecutor trying to convince a court to take the case,” Barron was quoted as saying in a U.S. News & World Report story from January.

In other Penn State court news, the federal lawsuit brought by former assistant coaches Bill Kenney and Jay Paterno, both also parties to the estate suit, also had new filings in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this week.

On Monday, the coaches responded to the university’s motion to have the pair’s first amended complaint dismissed.

“Despite Penn State’s effort to spin the facts and frame this case as being about plaintiffs’ alleged ‘sour grapes’ over not being retained by Penn State’s new head football coach, this case is not about anything so trivial,” wrote their attorneys.

Instead, the two say they are not protesting being released when Bill O’Brien took over the Nittany Lion program. They continued to assert that the problem was “Penn State’s abrogation of plaintiffs’ federal protected liberty interest in their reputation” when the university executed the consent decree, claiming that stigma implied they were part of a cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s child sex crimes.

To back that up, the attorneys cited Leete’s January 2014 opinion that Kenney and Paterno had “adequately pled a defamation claim” based on the same information.