The Work

November 11, 2011 8:06 PM

The Score: King & Spalding's Sollers to Represent Paterno as Penn State Launches Internal Inquiry

Posted by Brian Baxter

CORRECTION: 11/14/11, 12:00 p.m., EST. The sixth paragraph of this story has an updated title for King & Spalding's Sollers. We regret the error.

Add two more lawyers to the horde already attending to the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal roiling Penn State University.

The Am Law Daily reported on the attorneys hired by various parties connected to the unfolding drama at the school, where state prosecutors charged former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky with 40 counts of sexual abuse and university officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz with covering up his alleged crimes. And that was before the university's board of trustees—which includes several lawyers—fired football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State president Graham Spanier.

On Friday, the trustees named Penn State alum Kenneth Frazier to lead an internal investigation into why the allegations against Sandusky—who is accused of abusing eight boys over a 15-year period, at least some of them in university athletic facilities—weren't reported to the proper authorities. Frazier is the CEO of Merck, having been promoted to the position last year after serving as the company's general counsel for many years. He was previously a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath.

Frazier and Pennsylvania secretary of education Ron Tomalis, both of whom are members of the board of trustees, will head the special committee tasked with conducting the inquiry. The trustees said in a statement that the panel would have full investigative powers, including the ability to hire independent counsel.

A call to a Penn State spokeswoman about whether the school has retained outside counsel to assist in the inquiry was not returned. Penn State general counsel Cynthia Baldwin, who became the school's first-ever in-house legal chief last year after leaving Duane Morris, also did not respond to an e-mail from The Am Law Daily on the subject.

Friday also brought news that Paterno is now being represented by King & Spalding's J. Sedwick Sollers III, the managing partner of the firm's Washington, D.C., office and past chair of its special matters and government investigations practice, according to a statement issued by G. Scott Paterno, one of the legendary coach's three sons and a former Duane Morris lawyer. (The Am Law Daily reported Thursday that Sollers had been contacted about representing the elder Paterno.)

"On behalf of my father, I have retained Wick Sollers at the law firm of King [&] Spalding," the younger Paterno said. "My father's desire is for the truth to be uncovered, and he will work with his lawyers to that end. [Sollers] has directed my father, our family, and everyone associated with us to make no further public statements and to respond to no media inquiries. We will honor this request."

A 23-page grand jury report outlining the allegations against Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz reveals that current Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary came to Paterno in 2002 after allegedly seeing Sandusky rape a young boy in a clubhouse shower.

What exactly McQueary told Paterno is still to be determined, but unlike Paterno and Spanier, the assistant coach remains on the Penn State payroll, a fact that some news organizations reported Friday was due to state whistle-blower laws that protect those who come forward with information on misconduct. McQueary, who testified in grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz, was placed on administrative leave Friday by Penn State.

Some of Sandusky's alleged victims are already considering their legal options. The Philadelphia Business Journal reported Friday that local plaintiffs firm Kline & Specter has been contacted by one alleged victim. Shanin Specter, the son of former U.S. senator Arlen Specter, is a name partner at the firm and an adjunct law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Arlen Specter is also an adjunct at the school.

In other news from the intersection of sports and the law...

NBA Ball Bouncing Toward Decertification or Deal?

Dewey & LeBoeuf global litigation chair Jeffrey Kessler had a rough week. Kessler, who cochairs Dewey's sports litigation group and helped guide NFL players through their midsummer labor lockout, has been on the frontlines of the NBA's arduous collective bargaining negotiations.

The Am Law Daily reported in September on the legal fees incurred by Dewey over the firm's years as counsel to the players union, which is now fighting to hold on to a certain percentage of basketball-related income and other salary benefits that NBA owners and league management want to rein in.

Presented with an ultimatum by commissioner David Stern to accept a deal by Wednesday or receive a harsher proposal, Kessler lashed out in an interview with The Washington Post, saying Stern was treating the players like "plantation workers."

Stern responded by calling Kessler "the single most divisive force in our negotiations." Kessler quickly apologized, as a mini-media firestorm over his comments ensued, and the two sides got back to the bargaining table. Owners presented a revised offer to players, who broke off talks Thursday to evaluate their options, one of which includes decertification, which could put the entire season in jeopardy.

Conference Realignment Heads to Court

In September we reported on the lawyers embroiled in a legal squabble over Texas A&M University's exit from the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference. In the two months since, the landscape for college sports conferences has shifted even more.

West Virginia University sued the Big East Conference in October for the right to get out of a 27-month waiting period and join the Big 12 in 2012. Representing the university in the suit, filed in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County, West Virginia, is Jackson Kelly partner Stephen LaCagnin in Morgantown.

Not to be outdone, the Big East countersued WVU in the Superior Court for the State of Rhode Island, Providence County. Lining up for the Big East are partners Joseph Cavanagh, Jr., and Stephen Reid, Jr., of Providence's Blish & Cavanagh, and Covington & Burling partner Benjamin Block in Washington, D.C. (Click here for the Big East's suit and here for WVU's complaint, both courtesy of CollegeFootballTalk.)

Covington corporate partner Peter Zern in Washington oversees the firm's work for the Big East, which has included handling expansion negotiations with Texas Christian University last year and television contract matters for the conference. Alas, TCU told the Big East in October it was joining the Big 12 instead.

Around the Horn

Out of Major League Baseball since 2002, former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette is back, having been hired by the Baltimore Orioles this week as the team's new head of baseball operations. Helping Duquette return to the game: Anthony Froio, managing partner of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi's Boston office. Froio told The Berkshire Eagle that he has represented Duquette since the latter's stint as BoSox GM from 1994 until early 2002, and has served as general counsel for the Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.

The Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned franchise in the NFL, are planning their first stock sale since 1997, Bloomberg reports. A November 3 letter from the Utah Division of Securities to Foley & Lardner corporate partners Terry Nelson and Patrick Quick—counsel to the team—grants the waiver of certain regulations for the sale of Packers stock, which cannot be sold and whose value does not change. Also named on the letter is Packers general counsel Jason Wied, who took a leave of absence from the team this week. The Packers remain the only undefeated team in the league this season, and we know some Am Law 100 partners that hold stock in the franchise are excited about a possible return to the Super Bowl.

Elsewhere in the NFL's Black and Blue Division, a possible public ownership option for the Minnesota Vikings—the team is seeking municipal funding for a new stadium—has been scuttled because it would flout league rules adopted after the Packers joined the league, according to ProFootballTalk. The Am Law Daily reported in September on the three firms—Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Faegre & Benson, and local shop Best & Flanagan—that are advising the Twin Cities franchise on its quest for a new stadium.

Lawyers have been working hard to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles, a potential new locale for teams like the Vikings and San Diego Chargers seeking shiny new stadiums. The mayor of San Diego met this week with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss new stadium options for the Chargers. The team employs Mark Fabiani, the so-called "Master of Disaster," as special counsel in its quest for new digs.

Another NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens, received good news this week from a federal district court judge in Baltimore, who ruled the Ravens can continue using their "Flying B" logo if the team reaches an agreement with an amateur artist who designed it. The suit was sent back to U.S. district court last year after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled the Ravens had violated the copyright of Frederick Bouchat, a former security guard represented by Howard Schulman of Baltimore's Schulman & Kaufman, who has been involved in a long-running dispute with the team over the logo. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan's Robert Raskopf is representing the Ravens in the dispute, while the NFL has turned to Mark Gately of Hogan Lovells.

For those of us still scarred by the "Nipplegate" controversy that wreaked havoc upon an unsuspecting nation after Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, a split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has thrown out a $550,000 fine against CBS over Janet Jackson's so-called wardrobe malfunction during the game's halftime festivities, according to sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer. Davis Wright Tremaine and Philadelphia's Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis represented CBS in the long-running litigation.

A federal judge in South Carolina sanctioned Floyd Mayweather, Jr., this week by ordering him to perform 40 hours of community service for failing to appear for a deposition related to a lawsuit over music the prizefighter used to enter the ring at wrestling events, according to The Associated Press. In Mayweather's corner as counsel is Las Vegas litigator Mark Tratos, a cofounder of Quirk & Tratos, which merged with Greenberg Traurig in 2005.  It hasn't been all good times on the sports scene lately for Greenberg. As we noted last week, the firm is being sued by Terrell Owens over $2 million the out-of-work NFL star claims he lost in a failed electronic bingo operation in Alabama.

Federal prosecutors hit back at a motion by Roger Clemens's lawyers from Cooley and Houston's Rusty Hardin & Associates, who are seeking to have the government cover thousands of dollars in legal fees incurred by their client following a mistrial on perjury charges in July. The National Law Journal, a sibling publication, reports that Clemens's retrial is scheduled for April, just in time for baseball season.

Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone is serving as bond counsel to the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority on an ambitious $279 million renovation of the Cobo Center, according to the Detroit Free Press. Originally called Cobo Hall, the center's 12,000-seat arena was once a popular concert venue and home to several professional sports teams, including the NBA's Detroit Pistons. As part of the renovation, the complex is being converted to convention space.

And while the Penn State saga swirls, another less visible story involving a major college sports program is playing out on the West Coast, where the University of Oregon is being probed by the NCAA for possible recruiting violations stemming from the relationship between its football team and talent scout Willie Lyles. The Oregonian reports that as part of the inquiry the university has released more documents to the NCAA, some of which are from Oregon's own lawyers at Bond, Schoeneck & King. The firm, which is conducting an internal investigation for the school, is known for navigating clients through NCAA investigations and other high-profile athletics scandals.

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