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Paterno Family Asks Judge to Reject Request to Delay Lawsuit

by on November 05, 2014 6:10 AM

The back-and-forth volley of legal motions continues in the Paterno family's lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State.

At issue are millions of documents that were gathered by Louis Freeh's organization. The Freeh Group was hired by Penn State to investigate the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The plaintiffs want access to documents from that investigation. However, Penn State claims those documents should not be released because they contain confidential messages between university attorneys and school officials.

In a Sept. 11 ruling the court decided that some communications -- directly between the Freeh Group and Penn State -- may have attorney-client privilege, but that protection does not extend to other documents collected during the Freeh investigation.

The ruling also noted only a small number of the approximately 3.5 million documents in question are relevant to the case, and only those documents need be produced.

Attorneys for Penn State have asked a judge to put the Paterno family's lawsuit on hold while they appeal that ruling, saying, "Without a Stay ... Penn State will suffer irreparable harm because the privilege cannot be recovered once documents are produced."

Pepper Hamilton LLP, a law firm that represents Penn State, has filed a brief supporting Penn State's position. Pepper Hamilton says a stay is needed while an appeal is considered -- otherwise, "the proverbial cat will have been let out of the bag," should confidential material be released.

In Tuesday's court filing, the Paterno Estate fired back asking the court to deny Pepper Hamilton's request for a stay. The latest motion says that Pepper Hamilton would not be harmed by producing documents because the court has ruled they are "NOT privileged."

Freeh's report found significant wrongdoing on the part of the university. The NCAA used the report as a basis for placing unprecedented sanctions on Penn State's football program. The sanctions included a reduction in football scholarships, a ban on bowl appearances, and the vacating of 111 wins under Paterno.

The lawsuit asks for monetary damages. It also asks the court to overturn the consent decree that Penn State signed, paving the way for the NCAA to impose those sanctions.

The lawsuit includes five allegations: breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, injurious falsehood and commercial disparagement, defamation, and civil conspiracy.

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of StateCollege.com. Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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