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Commonwealth dodges default in basketball case

Virginia has avoided automatic liability to a New York college based on the failure to file a timely answer to a lawsuit over hiring of a James Madison University basketball coach.

A New York judge last month vacated his earlier finding of default judgment against the commonwealth and JMU in the lawsuit filed by Marist College, according to a spokesman for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

“In this case, the excuse presented is law office failure due to confusion by the Commonwealth and JMU concerning the status of the instant action,” wrote New York Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood in a Dec. 29 order. Wood said affidavits from JMU officials established the default was not willful, there was no prejudice to Marist College, and JMU has a potentially meritorious defense.

Wood again rejected a jurisdictional argument by lawyers for the commonwealth and JMU. The case, involving claims that JMU and its newly hired basketball coach Matt Brady raided Marist recruits, remains pending against Brady, JMU and the commonwealth.

Wood set a trial date of Sept. 26, but urged the parties to continue negotiations. “I have indicated to both sides that it is in no one’s interest to try this case,” Wood said, as reported by the Poughkeepsie Journal. “The viability of the basketball programs at both schools is best served if this case is resolved.”

By Peter Vieth

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