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Penn State Maintains Opposition to Proposed Subpoena in Paterno Lawsuit

by on May 11, 2014 11:25 AM

Penn State continues to fight a proposed subpoena the family of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno wants to serve against the university and its legal counsel.

The university filed yet another motion last week reiterating its objection to the Paterno family's desire to issue a subpoena to the NCAA and Penn State. The disputed subpoena request asks for a slew of documents from the Louis Freeh investigation regarding how Penn State handled Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The Paterno family is seeking the subpoena as part of a lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State. In the suit, the family asks for damages related to the unprecedented sanctions the NCAA leveled against Penn State's football program following the arrest of Sandusky, who is now a convicted pedophile. It also asks the court to overturn a consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA that allowed the NCAA to impose the sanctions.

The pending subpoena targets the Pepper Hamilton law firm, the successor to Freeh's original law firm.

Penn State objects to the proposed subpoena saying the request for such documents and other information, including phone records and emails, violates attorney-client privilege as well as other privileges.

Additionally, the university says the demands are unrealistic and overly costly. During the Sandusky investigation, the Freeh firm collected more than 3.5 million emails and other documents, according to the university.

Penn State says the Paterno family "is asking the court to determine, in a vacuum, that all of the documents the Freeh Firm collected, analyzed and created in the course of its investigation are relevant and that none of these documents are privileged. Penn State maintains, in contrast, that no blanket waiver of any privilege or other applicable protection occurred, the vast majority of the documents Paterno seeks – literally millions of records – are not relevant to any issue in the litigation, and in any event, all of these issues need to be determined on a document by document basis."

Penn State also says many of the documents requested are already part of public domain and therefore plaintiffs should be able to access them on their own.

Penn State also asked the court not to approve any subpoena until after the court issues a protective order related to the documents.

The Paterno family has argued Penn State's objections "lack foundation;" the work of the Freeh report is not a protected work product; Penn State's objections are "improper;" and that Penn State did not properly assert attorney-client privilege.

A hearing on the matter is slated for May 19 at the Centre County Courthouse before Potter County Judge John Leete, who is specially presiding over the case.

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

The Paterno family is joined in the lawsuit by multiple members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, former Nittany Lion football players, and university faculty members.


Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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