HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday removed three Penn State trustees as well as some university faculty and former Nittany Lions players from a lawsuit by Joe Paterno's estate against the school and the NCAA.
Judge John Leete denied the bid by Penn State and the NCAA to throw out the civil case, but he pared it back and gave the remaining plaintiffs a month to amend their claims to be more specific.
The plaintiffs he removed were only involved in parts of the complaint that alleged conspiracy, wrote Leete.
The remaining plaintiffs are Paterno's estate, former assistant coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney, and ex-trustee Al Clemens.
The parties are suing over the consent decree imposed over the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. This week the NCAA reduced those penalties, making Penn State eligible for a bowl game this season.
The lawsuit also claims intentional interference with contractual relations regarding Jay Paterno and Kenney, who argue their ability to find new jobs was improperly hampered; commercial disparagement regarding Joe Paterno; defamation regarding Jay Paterno, Kenney and Clemens; and civil conspiracy.
The NCAA said it was pleased that the court found no violation of any contractual or procedural protections owed to Joe Paterno when entering into the consent decree.
"Based on the court's prior rulings, we expected that the lawsuit would continue. However, today's ruling represents an important narrowing of the claims remaining in the lawsuit," said Donald Remy, the association's chief legal officer.
Joe Paterno's son, Scott, said in an emailed statement that the family was encouraged by the ruling.
"With this ruling, the path is now clear for a full, fair review of the underlying facts," he wrote.
Anthony Lubrano, one of the three trustees dismissed from the case, said the NCAA's action loosening the sanctions — Penn State will also get its full complement of football scholarships next year — does not make the claim moot.
"This complaint seeks to have the consent decree declared null and void," Lubrano said. "And the last time I checked, the consent decree encompassed a whole host of issues."
Penn State still must pay the balance of a $60 million fine and remains under the review of an athletics integrity monitor. A university spokesman declined comment on the judge's ruling.
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