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Corman Asks Court to Prevent NCAA Privilege Objections

by on November 11, 2014 11:50 AM

State Senator Jake Corman and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have reached "an impasse," and Corman wants the courts to intervene.

Corman and Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord sued the NCAA in commonwealth court last year in an attempt to force the NCAA to spend its $60 million against Penn State in Pennsylvania. The NCAA wants to distribute the funds nationally, and has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court towards that end. The parties have since gone back and forth in a legal dance across both courts.

This game of legal tug-of-war led to two legal hearings with two top NCAA officials last week. These commonwealth court deposition hearings focused on NCAA Vice President for Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon and NCAA Vice President of Communications Bob Williams.

Both men were subject to rigorous questioning about how the NCAA handled the Penn State scandal and the discussions that led to the sanctions against Penn State. The university signed a controversial consent decree with the NCAA in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, allowing the athletic organization to impose its fine and other sanctions. Commonwealth Court Judge Ann Covey has set a January trail date to determine if the consent decree is a legally valid document.

Last week's depositions were the first steps in examining the consent decree. In court documents filed Friday, Corman says these hearings were not very productive. 

"The NCAA... objected to almost every single question about the internal deliberative process at the NCAA that led to the consideration, drafting and adoption of the consent decree," the filling reads.

Over the course of Lennon's seven hour hearing, "counsel for the NCAA objected more than fifty-eight times" to questions asked of Lennon. The NCAA's lawyers objected because these questions would have revealed conversation with Donald Remy, who was both the NCAA's executive vice-president and chief legal officer at the time of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Because Remy served as legal counsel for the NCAA, its lawyers argued at the deposition hearings that any conversation involving Remy is subject to attorney-client privilege. This privilege prevents the contents of those conversation from being shared in court, the NCAA claims.

Corman and his lawyers disagree. In Friday's filing, Corman argues that Remy's involvement in a conversation does not necessarily mean that a conversation is privileged. Because one of Remy's two roles with the NCAA was not as legal counsel, only conversations that directly asked for legal advice should be considered confidential. All other conversations involving Remy should not be considered privileged, Corman argues.

Corman asks Commonwealth Court Judge Ann Covey to prevent these objections at future hearings.

"The NCAA's repeated objections on the basis of privilege must be quickly overruled if depositions of NCAA witnesses are to be productive and fruitful going forward," the filing reads.

The filing included transcripts of the NCAA depositions and numerous emails between top NCAA officials as evidence for Corman's argument. More detailed coverage of these documents can be read here.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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