As to whether the punishment fit the crime in the imposition of punishment on current student-athletes and coaches that had no fault here, it is difficult to equate Jerry Sandusky's heinous actions and subsequent cover-up with standard NCAA violations that go to competitive advantage. Therefore, I can see why many people are having trouble with the punishment being levied against the innocent members of the football program in Happy Valley. Let's put that aside for the moment, though, to clear away some of what I consider to be misinformation and misinterpretations of this latest NCAA headline. In addition to punishment itself, Mark Emmert's executive declaration of Penn State's punishment on Monday left many on the sidelines enraged over (1) a lack of "due process" and (2) setting a bad precedent for future NCAA enforcement matters. As to (1), "due process" is not accorded to member institutions in the NCAA process, and I do not believe that (2) should concern current and future alleged rule-breakers in standard areas of violation such as recruiting, benefits, academic eligibility, amateurism, etc.

As to the due process issue, the NCAA administrative law process does not accord Federal or state constitutional due process protection for those parties that go through enforcement proceedings, be it student-athlete reinstatement (SAR) or infractions. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that the NCAA is not a governmental actor and thus is not obligated to provide due process. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Tarkanian, 488 U.S. 179, 179 (1988). The NCAA is a private association made up of members that include schools and conferences. Those schools and conferences agreed to abide by the Association rules, including potential punishments for violations of Association rules, analogous to a country club and its members. (Bylaw Schools and conferences are voluntary members of the NCAA, and therefore must abide by the associated rules and regulations. See, Hispanic Coll. Fund, Inc. v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 826 N.E.2d 652 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005) (holding that the NCAA’s decisions regarding organization were not subject to trial court’s review absent allegations of fraud or illegality, because the organization was a voluntary member of NCAA). Furthermore, “[t]he articles of incorporation and bylaws of a not-for-profit corporation are generally considered to be a contract between the corporation and its members and among the members themselves.” Id, at 658. Therefore, member schools are under an enforceable contract with the NCAA and subject to its rules, regulations, and any punishment it may sentence. Bylaw 19.5.2 lists all the appropriate penalties for major violations, including (l): other penalties as appropriate. 

Courts have been, and remain, reluctant to accept challenges to the substance of NCAA enforcement decisions; the Oliver case being one of the few exceptions. See e.g. Justice v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 577 F. Supp. 356 (D. Ariz. 1983) (upholding NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations and denying student-athletes’ constitutiona land antitrust claims); but see Oliver v. Natl. Collegiate Athletic Assn., 2008-Ohio-7144, 155 Ohio Misc. 2d 1, 920 N.E.2d 190. Further, membership must tread lightly in either going to court to challenge a decision or, more likely, abiding by a court ruling overturning a NCAA decision pursuant to injunctive relief sought by a student-athlete, since the NCAA reserves the right to punish a member institution should an appellate court later reverse alower court’s ruling overturning a NCAA decision. See, e.g. Nat’l CollegiateAthletic Ass’n v. Jones, 1 S.W.3d 83 (Tex. 1999) (holding that the NCAA’s appeal from an injunction granted at the trial court level was not moot as to the applicability of retroactive penalties). Challenges to the NCAA administrative law process are for when the NCAA is not following its own “fair process.” So, the question applicable to Penn State is whether the NCAA did, in fact, follow its own fair process. 

The fair process established by the NCAA can be found in Article 32. From start to finish, including investigations and hearings, the infractions process takes over a year in most cases. The process includes a preliminary investigation, the possibility of summary-disposition, notice of inquiry, notice of allegation, institution investigation, written responses to the allegation, hearing, final Committee report and possible appeal. For example, allegations of impermissible recruiting and student-athletes receiving benefits from professional agents at the University of South Carolina first came to light in July 2010. The Public Infractions Report was issued two years later on April 27, 2012. On the other hand, the overall process with Penn State took about nine months. 

However, with Penn State, the NCAA did not follow the infractions process established in Article 32. So, does the NCAA's failure to follow its already-established process of investigation, enforcement, hearing, deliberation, decision, and possible appeal violate the fair process that it is bound to follow? Yes and no. A "quick look" analysis reveals that punishment was delivered by the NCAA President without regard for the existing NCAA enforcement structure; something not specifically articulated in NCAA bylaws, and certainly not something for which we see any precedent. However, the only party with standing to challenge the NCAA's declaration is Penn State, and Penn State consented to this punishment; ergo we now have a moot challenge.

As someone who regularly represents parties in NCAA processes, knowing what information is public thus far, if I am Penn State, I do not think going through the infractions process would have been a better process for the Penn State community. Sure, the punishments might not have been as severe, but Jerry Sandusky's actions were not just corruptions of the NCAA's principles of amateurism, competitive fairness, and academic integrity, but acts of profound evil. As such, as the infractions process drags on, Sandusky's acts and any cover-up of those acts would be continually relived. Further, there is a cost in terms of counsel like myself to be involved in the process. Let's go back to the South Carolina example. The school said that it spent $535,667.50 in connection with the NCAA investigation. Finally, as to those who believe that Penn State would find relief only at the appellate level in the infractions process, there is no guarantee that Penn State would have taken the case this far. My friend, Jerry R. Parkinson, who served as a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions from 2000 until very recently (including service as the committee’s first coordinator of appeals), cited in a law review article that only thirty-four of the ninety major infractions cases that went to a hearing from 2000 to 2009 were appealed. 

While I believe the less controversial route would have been an expedited infractions process that would necessarily include a summary disposition (the July 12, 2012 Freeh Report helps in this regard), for the Penn State community to heal, I have to think ripping the band-aid off quickly in the manner done here with Emmert's decision yesterday, while not ideal, is preferable to a drawn out infractions process.

Reposted with permission - orginally posted July 25, 2012 on Sports Law Blog 

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A Deterrent to Insurance Fraud

Posted on November 1, 2011 05:59 by Barry Zalma

Insurance fraud has been estimated to take between $80 billion and $300 billion a year from the insurance industry in the United States. Every state has a statute making insurance fraud a crime including the federal crimes of mail and wire fraud and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO). RICO can also be a civil action which allows for treble damages or punitive damages.

Some insurer victims of insurance fraud have become proactive. In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company; State Farm Fire and v. Arnold Lincow, D.O.; Richard Mintz, D.O.; Steven Hirsh; 7622 Medical, No. 10-3087 (3d Cir. 09/16/2011) the Third Circuit dealt with an appeal from State Farm’s successful trial against some doctors and clinics who defrauded it and those it insured.


After a four-week jury trial plaintiff State Farm successfully convinced the jury that defendants, a number of health care providers (“Defendants”), engaged in various schemes to defraud State Farm by billing it for medical services that were either not provided or provided unnecessarily, and were illegal under RICO, fraud statutes, and common law fraud. Following trial, Defendants filed motions for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial or, in the alternative, to alter or amend the judgment. The District Court denied Defendants’ motions in their entirety.

Plaintiff alleged that Defendants were members of a conspiracy that sharply inflated the costs of medical care for car accident victims by prescribing tests and treatments, as well as prescriptions and medical equipment – whether medically necessary or not – and then routinely billed State Farm for additional treatments that were never provided. At trial, State Farm’s proof of Defendants’ fraud consisted of State Farm’s claim files and testimony of patients, physicians at Defendants’ medical facilities, Defendant physicians, and experts.
After a four-week trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff over $4 million against all Defendants jointly and severally, and individual Defendants were found liable for punitive damages totaling $11.4 million


The Third Circuit’s reviews a district court’s order granting or denying a motion for a new trial for abuse of discretion unless the court’s denial of the motion is based on the application of a legal precept, in which case the review is plenary. A new trial may be granted on the basis that a verdict was against the weight of the evidence only if a miscarriage of justice would occur if the verdict were to stand.

State Farm noted that RICO is distinct because the members of the association-in-fact enterprise include all the defendants, there is a complete identity between the enterprise and the defendants and, therefore, no distinctiveness among the defendants.  As the District Court noted and State Farm urged, the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine is not universally accepted, and it is questionable whether the Defendant’s version is completely accurate.

The defendants argued that State Farm failed to prove: (1) the elements of an association-in-fact enterprise; (2) that defendant Mintz conspired with the other Defendants to defraud, as § 1962(d) requires; (3) that Mintz’s actions proximately caused State Farm’s injuries; (4) that Mintz’s conduct fulfilled the elements of common law fraud; and (5) that Mintz’s conduct fulfilled the elements of statutory fraud under Pennsylvania law. The Third Circuit rejected all of Mintz’s claims to the contrary and held that the weight of the evidence supports the jury’s finding against Mintz and the other defendants. Therefore, the Third Circuit concluded that to let the verdict stand would not result in a miscarriage of justice.

The Third Circuit agreed with State Farm’s assertion that a violation of the Insurance Fraud statute is a civil tort and that, as the jury found and the District Court upheld, the Defendants together contributed to State Farm’s injuries and are thus jointly and severally liable. Moreover, as the District Court correctly noted, there is no requirement for district courts to instruct juries to award damages against each defendant separately and individually. Because State Farm elected to receive treble damages the Third Circuit had no reason to address the contention that the punitive damages award should be reduced.


Insurers who are the victims of fraud cannot rely on police agencies to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of insurance fraud. Prosecutions are few and far between. As readers of Zalma’s Insurance Fraud Letter, available FREE at, know prosecutions are increasing but are still anemic and those who are prosecuted and convicted usually receive minor punishments. By being proactive insurers can recover from the fraud perpetrators, like the doctors involved in this case, the insurer can recover what it lost, a bonus of three times the compensatory damages, and actually deter insurance fraud by hitting the perpetrators where it hurts them most, in their wallet.

It is time that insurers emulate the actions of State Farm and the few other insurers who are using civil suits to defeat insurance fraud by taking the profit out of the crime.

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These days, many depositions are videotaped.  If a deposition is being videotaped, is there still a need for a court reporter?  Is a stenographic (“hard copy”) transcript necessary?  This issue is currently the subject of debate in Texas and across the country, with interest groups taking positions on both sides.

On one hand, hard copy transcripts have practical advantages over video depositions.  First, hard copies allow attorneys to take part in their favorite pastime – copious amounts of highlighting and tabbing.  Additionally, most cases require careful attention to the facts, and hard copy transcripts make it easier to cite to the record.  In short, whether it is due to personal preference or the manner in which people learn, some people will probably always prefer working with hard copies.

At the same time, video depositions have unique advantages over hard copy transcripts.  In the era of C.S.I., jurors expect attorneys to use technology.  And video evidence is often more compelling and entertaining than a transcript.  Video depositions capture mannerisms, body language, and attitudes that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Because of this, adverse witnesses and opposing counsel are more likely to mind their manners when being videotaped.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and video footage of a witness losing control can be pure gold.  For example, when the witness in the infamous Texas Style Deposition told the examining attorney that he had “a case of incipient verbal diarrhea,” a paper transcript would never have done it justice. 

As other commentators have noted, both video depositions and traditional hard copy transcripts have their place.  When used correctly, each form of “transcript” compliments the other.  Because of the limitations of videotape-only depositions, however, traditional hard copies (and court reporters) are here to stay . . .  for now.


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Roger Clemens on Trial: Why?

Posted on September 7, 2010 05:43 by Bill Staar

On August 19th, the District Attorney for the District of Columbia filed a six-count, 19-page, indictment in federal court against Roger Clemens stemming from Clemens’ allegedly-false 2008 statements before Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.   Pretrial motions are scheduled for March 8th, and trial is scheduled to commence on April 5th.  If convicted, Clemens faces a $1.5M fine and prison sentence of 12 months to 30 years, although the presiding judge could grant probation without jail time.  Many are beginning to ask why this is all happening, and the voices certainly will become louder as trial approaches. More...

Categories: Perjury

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