OKLAHOMA — The lawyers representing Oklahoma State University’s Daily O’Collegian student newspaper and a star football player for the school will meet in a settlement conference Feb. 22 to attempt a compromise regarding the release of court documents former OSU running back Vernand Morency filed in a lawsuit with the school. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case will proceed to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.
Morency sued the school in 2003 after he was suspended from the football team. A trial court dismissed his case in September 2004, but documents his lawyer filed contain the names and other information about an alleged sexual assault victim and other OSU students.
The court originally sealed these documents, but the Daily O’Collegian filed a motion for their release. A district court ordered the documents unsealed — with the names and information of the other students removed — on Jan. 6, and Morency appealed the order. If the settlement conference is unsuccessful, the documents will remain sealed until the Oklahoma Supreme Court reaches a decision.
Bob Nelon, the lawyer representing the Daily O’Collegian, said the newspaper agreed to the redactions because the students mentioned in the court documents were not parties in the original lawsuit. Morency’s counsel subpoenaed the university for the students’ information to prepare for the 2003 lawsuit and included much of it verbatim in court documents, something the university did not anticipate, Nelon said. He also said the school wants to avoid lawsuits from those students who might suddenly find their information in documents of public record.
Nelon said the newspaper will advocate in the settlement conference for a release of the documents without the other students’ information.
“We felt Morency waived all rights he had to privacy of student records by choosing to [reveal private information about other students] in a court file,” Nelon said.
Morency has not returned to OSU to finish his junior year and is preparing for the NFL Draft in April.
–By Kate Campbell
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