Judge to Leach: No fast track to discovery - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/20/10

Judge to Leach: No fast track to discovery

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Mike Leach's lawsuit against Texas Tech University can proceed - just not as quickly as he would like.

The fired coach was not in the court room Wednesday when State District Judge Bill Sowder denied a motion to speed up depositions in Leach's breach of contract lawsuit against the university.

What many thought was going to be a packed court room was anything but. With just more than two dozen people in the 99th District Court, there were plenty of seats available as Judge Sowder heard Leach's legal team argue for expedited discovery and the state's motion to dismiss the case on grounds of sovereign immunity.

The court first heard from Leach's attorneys. They say because of Texas Tech's actions, Leach does not have an income and cannot get a job.

Houston trial attorney Paul Dobrowski noted that four NCAA Division I head coaching positions have opened since Leach was fired and not one will talk to Leach. The schools, as well as ESPN, have said that he is too "radioactive" because of the firing.

Leach's council was hoping to get their hands on documents tied to the coach's dismissal more quickly to help speed up the trial process.

The judge denied that motion. "All we were seeking was some more time to shed further light on the facts and the counter facts in this case," Leach's attorney Ted Liggett said. "(Judge Sowder) told us to get together, get a scheduling order and do some discovery and that's what we wanted and we're pleased with those results."

The judge added that he saw no reason "to give Mr. Leach any special treatment in this case."

Dobrowski says this does not jeopardize their case, and they have already instituted the discovery period, "It really wouldn't be drastically different if the courts had granted the expedited discovery.  So we're very pleased and fine with the court's ruling."

Judge Sowder ordered Texas Tech to retain and preserve any documents relating to the firing of Coach Leach. "You know the judge wants to allow it to go forward a little bit to discover a little bit and then rule on it," Texas Tech's Legal Council of Record Dickie Grigg said.

The judge also told Leach's attorneys that he has some concern with the legal causes of action used as the basis for their case. It alleges libel, slander, breach of contract and violation of the Texas whistle blower act.

"The judge has indicated that six of the seven causes of action that Coach Leach has pled, that he believes is a matter of law, doesn't have a legal ground to stand on. Obviously you can tell from the hearing that on the 7th cause of action he has some real questions," Grigg said.

Also during court, the university asked the judge to dismiss the suit on claims of sovereign immunity, which means a state agency or entity cannot be sued without permission from the Texas Legislature.

Sowder says that motion will be taken up at a later date.

A few Members of Team Leach were also in the courtroom for Wednesday's hearing. Representative Charlie Hodges says if Leach's attorneys are happy with the decision, so are they. "Nothing has been thrown out. The process will continue. So just move on as any court case would. We're happy that at least we're still on the road to finding out what happened, and that's one of the goals of Team Leach."

Hodges says the Facebook group is more than 62,000 members strong and will continue to support Leach, and other Team Leach fans agree. "I do think it's important that we get some fact and some answers, and no matter who's at fault that we get the truth," Jerry Moore said.

Liggett was also asked about any possibility of negotiations for a settlement between Leach and Texas Tech. "We're not prepared to make a comment on that," but he did say, "We're always ready to listen, but right now they're going to take it one step at a time," he said.

NewsChannel 11 will continue to follow the developments in this on-going battle and bring you the latest.

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Coverage of Mike Leach Termination
Just days before the Alamo Bowl, Mike Leach was first suspended and then terminated as head coach of the Texas Tech football team. Click here for continuing coverage.
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