Make way for another out-of-county judge.
The lawsuit brought by former Penn State president Graham Spanier against former FBI director Louis Freeh will not be heard by a Centre County judge.
Spanier is suing the former federal judge for defamation arising from the Freeh report, the university-commissioned independent investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, and the published results.
Freeh’s conclusions named Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, former vice president Gary Schultz and late longtime Nittany Lions football coach Joe Paterno as being culpable in obscuring Sandusky’s behavior.
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On Thursday, the Centre County Prothonotary’s Office recorded an order from Judge Jonathan D. Grine dated April 29.
“This court recuses from this matter. Another judge will be assigned to preside over this matter,” Grine wrote.
A pretrial conference scheduled for May 13 was canceled and will be rescheduled once a new judge is assigned.
The move comes after a request from Freeh’s attorneys. Last month, they asked the court to appoint an out-of-area judge to hear the case, even going so far as to name their own choice, Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover.
Hoover has been the presiding judge in the perjury and conspiracy criminal proceedings that have been ongoing for years against Spanier, Curley and Schultz. However, on the same day Freeh’s camp made that request, an announcement came that Hoover was taking a medical leave of absence.
Freeh then retracted the specific request for Hoover but still asked that a non-Centre County jurist be appointed to preside over Spanier’s civil case.
In a memorandum opposing Freeh’s requests, Spanier’s side called the request “wholly unsupported.”
Grine has presided over the case since Spanier filed his first paperwork in July 2013.
“Defendants’ motion does not identify any conflict — real or perceived — that would prevent Judge Grine from presiding over this matter,” attorney Kathleen Yurchak wrote in the document filed Thursday.
The only possible relationship Spanier’s attorneys acknowledged was the fact that Grine is a Penn State alum.
Whoever the new judge is, he will join a long list of outside judges hearing high-profile cases in Centre County.
Judge John Leete, of Potter County, is hearing the Paterno estate’s lawsuit against the NCAA, President Mark Emmert, former executive committee chairman Ed Ray and Penn State. Judge William Morgan, of Warren and Forest counties, is presiding over the dissolution of assets for The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky started for at-risk youth, from which he pulled victims.
Judge Thomas Gavin, of Chester County, was brought in for former assistant football coach Mike McQueary’s whistleblower lawsuit against the university. Judge John Cleland, of McKean County, was just in Centre County Court again last week setting a schedule for Sandusky’s latest appeal.