The Work

November 10, 2011 11:02 PM

Reports: Ousted Paterno Contacts King & Spalding Partner Sollers

Posted by Brian Baxter

CORRECTION: 11/11/11, 1:15 p.m., EST. A previous version of this story misspelled Sollers's name. We regret the error.

News outlets reported late Thursday that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno—fired Tuesday night by the university's board of trustees as a result of a growing sex abuse scandal involving crimes allegedly committed by a former top assistant—has reached out to King & Spalding partner J. Sedwick Sollers III, past chair of the firm's special matters and government investigations practice group.

Advisers close to Paterno contacted Sollers on Thursday, according to late day reports by NBC News and the New York Daily News. Paterno, 84, reportedly has yet to meet with Sollers and a retainer agreement has not been signed. Sollers did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent to him by The Am Law Daily on Thursday night.

One of Paterno's three sons, G. Scott Paterno—an attorney and political consultant in Harrisburg who once worked at Duane Morris, the firm that was once the professional home of Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwinsaid via Twitter Thursday night that his father had not retained a lawyer. "To be clear, no lawyer has been retained," the younger Paterno tweeted shortly after 8 p.m. "Not sure where that report originated."

Dan McGinn, a crisis public relations specialist with TMG Strategies that Joe Paterno hired to help cope with the media onslaught unleashed by the Sandusky scandal, said in an e-mail to The Am Law Daily that no attorney had yet been retained.

The Am Law Daily reported Wednesday on the growing number of lawyers advising various parties involved in the fallout from a 23-page grand jury report released by Pennsylvania prosecutors over the weekend charging longtime Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky with 40 counts of sexual abuse in connection with his alleged assaults on eight boys over a 15-year period. Two Penn State administrators—athletic director Tim Curley and vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz—have been accused of covering up Sandusky's alleged crimes. All three men have insisted they are innocent and have pledged to fight the charges.

While Paterno is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing, he could face a slew of lawsuits by some of Sandusky's alleged victims and their families. Paterno is also likely to require the advice of counsel given that Pennsylvania prosecutors consider him a cooperating witness in their case against Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz.

Joshua Lock, a partner at Goldberg Katzman in Harrisburg, has been identified in news reports earlier this week as advising Paterno. But Lock is also representing former Penn State president Graham Spanier, who, like Paterno, was fired by the university's board of trustees Tuesday night.

Sollers knows a thing or two about unceremonious departures. Earlier this year, Sollers took the blame over the sudden resignation of King & Spalding appellate star and former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, who was upset when the firm dropped its representation of the House of Representatives in defending a section of the Defense of Marriage Act. Sollers had played a key role in recruiting Clement back to the firm from public service in November 2008.

Along with the late Griffin Bell, Sollers once represented former President George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra scandal. He currently serves as managing partner of King & Spalding's Washington, D.C., office.

More storied than Sollers's legal career is Paterno's history of prowling the sidelines of Happy Valley. The coaching legend's career at Penn State began in 1950, and he became the football team's head coach on September 17, 1966. Paterno made history two weeks ago with his 409th career win at the school, which saw students riot upon the news of his abrupt firing Tuesday night.


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