In a reversal of a previous decision, a federal judge ruled yesterday that lawyers in a pending discrimination case can subpeona Penn State figures to provide evidence of Penn State's culture and previous discrimination cases.
Judge James McClure ruled that he would allow former Lady Lion basketball player Jen Harris, former women's basketball coach Rene Portland and Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley to be subpoenaed in a separate discrimination lawsuit against the university.
However, all documents obtained will be considered confidential.
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon wrote in an e-mail that the university's attorneys are reviewing the judge's opinion and order, but there are no immediate plans to appeal the decision.
"The decision is directed to Ms. Harris and Ms. Portland, and we can't speak for what course they might take on their own behalf," he wrote.
Constance Matthews, a former Penn State assistant professor in the College of Education, filed a lawsuit against the university in January 2007 on the basis of discrimination for gender and sexual orientation.
Matthews's attorney, Jana Barnett, filed subpoenas for Harris, Portland and Curley to provide evidence of Penn State's culture and previous discrimination cases.
Harris settled a lawsuit against Portland and Curley out of court in December 2005 following a Penn State investigation that found that Portland discriminated against Harris on the basis of sexual orientation, but not race.
The terms of the settlement were kept confidential. Portland resigned from her post in March after 27 seasons with the Lady Lions.
McClure ruled in October that the subpoenas would not provide relevant information and that they would place an undue burden on the university.
However, in a seven-page opinion issued yesterday, McClure stated the previous ruling overlooked Matthews's claims that Penn State discriminated its employees on the basis of gender and sexual orientation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
He wrote that information provided by the subpoenas does relate to a policy or custom of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.