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NCAA Accuses Paterno Estate of Fighting Lawsuit in the Press

by on December 11, 2014 10:18 AM

The Paterno Estate is wrongly attempting to fight its lawsuit against the NCAA in the newsroom instead of the courtroom, or so the NCAA argues in a new Centre County Court filing.

The plaintiffs against the NCAA -- which includes the estate of former Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, former assistant coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney and former university trustee Al Clemens -- asked the court last month to modify a gag order that prevents them from releasing documents in the case to the public. The NCAA fired back on Wednesday, accusing the plaintiffs of making "absurd arguments" in an attempt to try the case in the court of public opinion.

"Plaintiff's Motion... is a clear request to disclose select pre-trial materials to influence public opinion and have this case decided in the media before it ever reaches a finder of fact," Wednesday's filing reads.

The NCAA asks the court to reject the plaintiffs' request and keep all pre-trial materials strictly confidential.

The Paterno estate and other plaintiffs sued the NCAA 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 Jay Paterno and Kenney to find work.

The current fight over releasing documents to the public is related to a separate lawsuit between the NCAA and Pennsylvania State Sen. Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord which was filed in Commonwealth Court last year. Several recent filings in the Corman lawsuit include hundreds of pages of documents and internal NCAA communications, including emails from 2012 in which NCAA officials refer to the threat of sanctions against Penn State as "a bluff" and question their authority to impose them.

The Paterno Estate argued that many documents in the Corman case will overlap with materials in its own lawsuit. The plaintiffs also point out that the NCAA has released documents of its own to the public and the media, "engaging in exactly the same conduct it successfully sought to preclude the Plaintiffs from engaging in."

The NCAA, in its new motion, argues that multiple court cases have decided that overlapping materials can be released in one case and withheld in another. The athletic organization also says it released only a small fraction of its Corman case documents, while Corman and McCord released hundreds of pages of materials.

"... continuous disclosures will further taint a jury pool and make it impossible to hold a jury trial in Pennsylvania," the NCAA says.

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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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