The first round of oral arguments has been scheduled in the case involving
the family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In an order released Aug. 21, Judge John B. Leete ordered that argument on all outstanding preliminary objections, except those relating to personal jurisdiction over defendants Mark Emmert and Edward Ray, would be held on Oct. 29 at the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
Relatives of Paterno, the iconic Penn State football coach whose legacy was tarnished by the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, are suing the NCAA, along with Emmert, who is its president, and Ray, the former chairman of the NCAA’s Executive Committee, over the sanctions levied against the university in the wake of the child molestation case.
The plaintiffs – they also include Penn State trustees, faculty members and former football coaches – contend that the NCAA improperly interfered with a criminal matter that falls outside the scope of its authority.
The lawsuit seeks to remedy the alleged harms caused by the defendants’ “unprecedented imposition of sanctions on Pennsylvania State University for conduct that did not violate the NCAA’s rules and was unrelated to any athletics issue the NCAA could permissibly regulate.”
Penn State was hit with a $60 million fine and other sanctions due to its handling of the Sandusky scandal.
Sandusky, who for years worked as the defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions football team, was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual abuse following a trial in Centre County last summer.
This past fall he was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in state prison.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the Paterno complaint allege that the NCAA breached its contractual obligations with Penn State.
In late July, attorneys representing the NCAA filed a list of preliminary objections in which it took issue with various claims in the litigation.
One such issue was the defendant’s contention that the plaintiffs failed to join an indispensable party to the suit, which in this case would be the university.
“Granting Plaintiffs’ requested relief would impair Penn State’s rights by voiding a contract to which it is a party,” Thomas W. Scott, an attorney from the Harrisburg firm Killian & Gephart, wrote at the time.
Scott’s reference of a “contract” refers to the consent decree signed by both Penn State and the NCAA that provides for the sanctions.
The parties in the litigation will have a chance to address that objection and others during the Oct. 29 oral argument session scheduled by Leete, a senior judge from Potter County who has been specially assigned to preside over the Paterno civil case.
In his scheduling order this week, Leete ordered the plaintiffs to reply to the defendants’ preliminary objections by Sept. 6, after which the NCAA and the other defendants would have an additional 20 days by which to file their response to the plaintiffs’ response.
The court would later set a separate schedule for the objections relating to personal jurisdiction, Leete wrote.