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Paterno Estate, NCAA Both Come Out On Top In Judge’s Ruling

By Michael Martin Garrett

You win some, you lose some.

Potter County Senior Judge John Leete issued a ruling Monday that represents a victory and a defeat for both sides of the ongoing Paterno-NCAA lawsuit.

The ruling comes in response to a hearing held in February, when attorneys for the NCAA and the estate of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno went toe-to-toe over several hotly disputed issues.

The NCAA claimed that the Paterno estate has no legal standing to sue the athletic organization for a ‘breach of contract” in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The NCAA also argued that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit — which includes former assistant coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney and former university trustee Al Clemens — were wrong to ask the court for permission to release court documents to the public.

And on both those points, the court agreed.

The breach of contract allegation was based around alleged violations of the NCAA’s bylaws — if the NCAA was conducting an investigation into the Sandusky scandal (which the plaintiffs argued was clearly happening), then the NCAA violated Joe Paterno’s contract by not giving him an opportunity to respond to allegedly defamatory statements made by the NCAA. But Judge Leete said this argument was an attempt to “resurrect a claim on which this court already dismissed,” and sustained the NCAA’s objections to this claim.

The Paterno estate also wanted to release documents obtained from the NCAA to the public. They pointed out that similar releases had been made in the recently-settled lawsuit between State Senator Jake Corman and the NCAA, and that the NCAA had released documents of its own from that same case.

“Plaintiffs are arguing that… the NCAA is selectively releasing documents in an attempt to sway public opinion,” Leet’s ruling reads. “While the court has no reason to doubt this, it is insufficient to justify changing the protective order.”

But the Paterno estate had a victory of its own.

In December, the plaintiffs announced their intention to subpoena five university presidents from across the country who served on the NCAA’s executive committee in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. The NCAA strongly opposed the request, arguing that the Paterno estate was jumping the gun by ordering subpoenas when it could focus on obtaining information in other ways.

“[The NCAA] stated that they believed Plaintiffs should depose others before the subjects of the subpoenas… however, they offered no authority to support such a claim,” Leete writes. “…Therefore, Plaintiffs will be permitted to conduct depositions as they see fit.”

The Paterno Estate, Clemens, Paterno and Kenney sued the NCAA in Centre County Court last year for alleged conspiracy and defamation. The plaintiffs argue that the NCAA overstepped its bounds in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, ultimately decreasing the value of the Paterno Estate and making it more difficult for Paterno and Kenney to find work.

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