Judge orders USF to release Leavitt notes
TAMPA -- Former USF coach Jim Leavitt was back in court Tuesday for a hearing in his suit against his former employer, and a judge ordered USF to release unredacted notes from interviews in the investigation that led to Leavitt's firing in January.
USF's attorneys had released a redacted version of the notes in June, but attorney Wil Florin successfully argued that the notes should be provided to him with minimal redaction, with exceptions for references to students' medical condition. Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Bernard Silver also ordered that those notes could not be released to any third party outside the case.
USF's attorneys are still protecting 800 documents that they argue are exempted from release, either by attorney-client privilege or other measures, and the judge gave USF attorney Richard McCrea two weeks to submit a new privilege log that details why the documents -- which have been read in chambers by the judge -- shouldn't be entered in discovery.
"It was a good day. It took a long time for us to finally get to this point," Florin said to reporters after the hourlong hearing. "I don't understand why, if USF has nothing to hide, why they were fighting so hard to prevent us from getting these documents so the truth gets out."
Gerard Solis, USF's Senior Associate General Counsel, issued a statement after the hearing, explaining that USF's position was not about hiding anything but protecting the rights of its students.
"The University's priority is to protect the privacy of our students," he wrote. "We are glad that the Court's ruling today ensures that private student information will not be trampled upon for litigation interests."
With additional hearings upcoming as the two sides argue on discovery issues, and with Leavitt's attorneys seeking depositions from many of the witnesses interviewed by USF's investigators, it could be some time before the suit goes to trial. "We'll see how it plays out," the judge said in ending the hearing. "It's a long way between now and the ultimate resolution of this case."
Leavitt, who is not coaching this fall and seeks as much as $7-million that would have been contractually paid to him had he been fired "without cause," reiterated that he wants to get back to football but wants to see his name cleared first.
"It's very important that the truth gets out," Leavitt said. "It takes time. I want to coach. You think I really want to do all this? No. But I have to, because I want the truth to get out. That is paramount to me. You think I want to go through Saturdays and not coach? This is too important."