Senior Potter Co. judge appointed to oversee Paterno suit against NCAA

By Jon Campisi | Jul 1, 2013

The state Supreme Court has appointed a retired judge from north-central Pennsylvania

to oversee the civil case brought against the National Collegiate Athletic Association by the family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno over the university’s sanctions arising from the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

John B. Leete, who currently serves as a senior judge for the 55th Judicial District in Potter County, has been tapped to preside over the case filed in late May against the NCAA.

Court records show that Thomas King Kistler, the president judge of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, filed a request the day after the suit’s filing for the Supreme Court to appoint an out-of-county judge to handle the Paterno matter.

On June 26, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille docketed an order assigning Leete to oversee the litigation.

According to a biography provided by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, Leete served as the president judge of the Potter County Common Pleas Court from 1988 to 2010.

He currently serves as a member of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, previously serving as chairman of the group’s Juvenile and Family Law sections.

Leete, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, is also a past member of the Juvenile Court Judge’s Commission.

The Paterno suit was filed on May 30 at the Centre County Court of Common Pleas by family members of the late head Nittany Lions football coach who died last year amid the Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.

Sandusky, who worked as the defensive coordinator for the football team under Paterno, was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation last summer.

In October, Sandusky was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in state prison for his crimes.

The Paterno complaint challenges the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State due to the university’s purported handling of the child sexual abuse scandal.

The sanctions included a $60 million fine, the taking away of past football wins, and placing future scholarship limits on the university.

The complaint accuses the NCAA, its president, Mark Emmert, and NCAA Executive Committee Chair Edward Ray of “improper interference in and gross mishandling of a criminal matter that falls far outside the scope of their authority.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett had filed his own suit in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg against the NCAA over the sanctions, but a federal judge ultimately dismissed the complaint, which accused the defendants of antitrust violations.

The Paterno suit contains state-law claims of breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, injurious falsehood/commercial disparagement, defamation and civil conspiracy.

The plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys from the Harrisburg firm Goldman Katzman, P.C., as well as Boston lawyers Paul V. Kelly and John J. Commisso, of the Jackson Lewis law firm, and attorneys from Washington, D.C.-based King & Spalding LLP.

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