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Paterno Estate Accuses Freeh's Law Firm of 'Mischaracterizations'

by on March 04, 2015 7:00 AM

The Paterno estate has all but accused the law firm of Louis Freeh of stretching the truth in filings with the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

In new court documents filed Monday, lawyers for the estate of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno say they need to address “certain mischaracterizations” made by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton. 

The Paterno estate is trying to subpoena Pepper Hamilton (which acquired Freeh’s law firm through a merger in 2012) for a pile of documents gathered over the course of Freeh’s investigation at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The subpoena is part of the estate’s lawsuit against the NCAA in Centre County Court.

Pepper Hamilton claims the disputed documents are protected by legal tools known as attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine. The firm has fought tooth and nail to avoid turning the documents over, and now the Paterno estate has accused Pepper Hamilton of purposefully mischaracterizing the sequence of events that came after the subpoena.

Pepper Hamilton claims it filed a timely response to the Paterno estate’s subpoena, only for the Paterno estate to ignore its objections and ask the court to force Pepper Hamilton to comply with the subpoena. 

By contrast, the Paterno estate claims Pepper Hamilton waited three months to file a response while repeatedly asking the court to reconsider decisions it made earlier in the year as a stalling tool. The estate asks the court to force Pepper Hamilton to turn over the documents requested in the subpoena.

“Pepper Hamilton is brazenly continuing to deny its basic discovery obligations,” Tuesday’s filing reads.

The plaintiffs in the suit -- which includes the Paterno estate, former Penn State assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney and former university trustee Al Clemens -- first filed their suit against the NCAA in May 2013.

They argue that the NCAA overstepped its authority in the aftermath of the 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.

Pepper Hamilton is entangled in the case because it acquired the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan in 2012. Freeh and his team of investigators were hired by Penn State in 2011 to determine what actions or inactions allowed the Sandusky scandal to unfold. The Freeh Report was released in 2012, saying that top university administrators tried to cover up the scandal. The report ultimately formed the basis for the NCAA's punitive sanctions against Penn State.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for 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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