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State hopes to undo default judgment

Virginia state lawyers have asked a New York judge to vacate his default judgment against the commonwealth and James Madison University in a lawsuit over JMU’s hiring of a new head basketball coach.

New York’s Marist College sued former coach Matt Brady and JMU after Brady broke his contract with Marist in 2008 to take the coach’s job at JMU. As the lawsuit bounced between state and federal court in New York, JMU’s general counsel tried to handle the defense of the commonwealth and JMU without help from a New York-licensed lawyer.

The JMU lawyer, Jack Knight, missed a deadline for filing responsive pleadings in the New York state court and the judge entered default judgment against both the commonwealth and JMU. A December hearing is scheduled to determine damages if the parties cannot reach agreement.

With a New York lawyer aboard, the commonwealth last month asked the judge to vacate the default judgment on the basis of “excusable default” and a meritorious defense to the underlying claim of tortious interference with Brady’s contract.

The JMU athletic director denies in an affidavit that JMU raided Marist recruits after hiring Brady.

By Peter Vieth

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