Friday, September 27, 2013

NCAA Takes Umbrage at Paterno Suit

No surprise here.
I've sentenced programs younger than you to the gas chamber.
Didn't want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.
How about a Fresca?

The NCAA seeks to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Paterno Estate, and a handful of trustees, faculty members, former playrs and former coaches.  The NCAA calls the suit "misdirected."
The filing in Centre County court said the suit contains "sundry misdirected complaints" and argued that the plaintiffs don't have standing to challenge the consent agreement between the NCAA and Penn State over the child molestation scandal involving ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"Plaintiffs resort to tortured interpretations of the NCAA bylaws and the case law in an effort to obscure two inescapable facts: they are the wrong plaintiffs and they have sued the wrong defendants," the NCAA wrote.

"Plaintiffs are obviously deeply disappointed with the consent decree and its effect on the legendary football program that they love," the NCAA wrote. "But plaintiffs cannot cobble together a sustainable lawsuit from their sundry misdirected complaints, however sincere their disagreement with the agreed resolution of the Jerry Sandusky matter."

If the lawsuit succeeds, the NCAA said, it would make it impossible for the organization to ever enter into a consensual resolution of a rules infractions matter, even if the university and the NCAA agreed on it.
Where do we even begin?

In saying that the plaintiffs are disappointed by the effect the consent decree has had on the football program, aren't they in essence admitting that the consent decree has had an adverse effect?  Wouldn't that effect harm former players, current faculty, and ex-coaches?  How does it not affect the estate and reputation of Joe Paterno?

And they are worried that it would make it impossible for the NCAA to enter into consent decrees in the future?  Is that a bad thing?  This Consent Decree did not deal with a rules infraction matter, so how would that impact future consent decrees that actually DO deal with infractions?

Let's examine what a CONSENT DECREE is?

According to Wikipedia
A consent decree (also referred to as a consent order or stipulated judgment or agreed judgment) is a final, binding judicial decree or judgment memorializing a voluntary agreement between parties to a suit in return for withdrawal of a criminal charge or an end to a civil litigation. In a typical consent decree, the defendant has already ceased or agrees to cease the conduct alleged by the plaintiff to be illegal and consents to a court injunction barring the conduct in the future.  Consent decrees are used most commonly in criminal law and family law. They are frequently used by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They are sometimes used in antitrust law and labor law.

So I am a little confused here.  No criminal charges were withdrawn, and no civil suits against Penn State were ended (see red text above.)  Even if we interpret criminal activity to be NCAA infractions, we still don't have a case here, since Penn State did not violate any NCAA rule.  Apparently this interpretation of a "consent decree" has been construed above and beyond a normal legal definition to suit the purposes of the NCAA.

Let's be perfectly honest here.  The NCAA basically had no jurisdiction in this matter, created a punishment to which Penn State agreed (at the time based on mis-information in the form of public opinion and the Freeh Report), and now relies soley on this consent decree document to justify the continued punishment.

The courts must allow outside parties to contest this, because outside parties are affected by the outcome of this document.

For instance, if you sign a "consent decree" with your neighbor to absolve him of killing your spouse (hiring a hit man so to speak) and both parties agree, that does not make it legal.  The NCAA had no authority to absolve Penn State of any litigation or criminal conduct, and they certainly weren't absolving them of any infractions--in fact they were punishing them when no infraction had occurred.

Can the governor of a state enter into a consent decree with the president and agree to fine the state's taxpayers for a potential violation of a federal statute?

I'm sorry, but the fact that Penn State--and in particular a few members of the administration acting on behalf of the institution--and the NCAA entered into this agreement, does not mean that it should not be analyzed in a court of law.

State College businesses are suffering because of the bowl ban, particularly travel related industries.  Former coaches are having trouble finding jobs because of the stigma of implied guilt due to acceptance of this decree.  Professors may also find employment opportunities vanish because of this stigma.  And no matter what anyone does, the damage to Joe Paterno's reputation is permanent.  Writers/journalists/reporters are never going to retract the vile commentary or public perception of Paterno they created.

And the NCAA does not care, as evidenced by the trite comment about Paterno's family being unable to unload some signed footballs after his death.  Such comments are insensitive and certainly do not belong in a legal brief.

Maybe the Paterno lawsuit isn't the best way to correct this injustice.  But right now, it appears to be the only way.  Let's move this to discovery and let the courts decide whether the NCAA was acting in good faith when it circumvented it's on protocols, punished a memeber school for no actual infractions, and then hides behind a consent decree that is not the normal legal standard for this type of situation.

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