OVC seeking $115,000 in legal fees in court battle with EKU

Mar. 14—EDITOR'S NOTE — An earlier version of this story that was published on the Richmond Register's website at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, contained several factual errors regarding recent filings in an ongoing lawsuit between Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). The Register has retracted several portions of the previous article, including the headline, which falsely indicated that Judge Phillip Shepherd had already granted OVC's motion filed on March 10 for EKU to pay a portion of the OVC's attorney fees. That motion has not been granted by the court. The Register apologizes for the errors and regrets the inaccuracies.

In a recent court filing, the Ohio Valley Conference is seeking more than $115,000 in attorney's fees and costs in the case between the league and Eastern Kentucky University.

The next motion hearing in the case is scheduled for March 29.

On Feb. 28, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd agreed with a previous OVC motion to impose sanctions against EKU due to what the court deemed as intentional delays on the university's part to provide discovery evidence in the case.

"It appears to the Court that there has been no good faith effort to obtain and produce the relevant emails from private e-mail accounts of EKU regents, officers and employees. It appears that the search for emails has been deliberately restricted to search terms that are unlikely to yield required results concerning the OVC's reasonable requests for documents," the Feb. 28 filing by the judge stated. "In these circumstances, the Court is left with no alternative but to award attorneys fees and to impose sanctions for the failure of EKU to comply with its discovery obligations under the Civil Rules, and with the Orders of this Court."

Shepherd gave the OVC 10 days to submit attorney's fee requests, which they filed on March 10.

The judge's Feb. 28 order also would, "give EKU the opportunity to respond, prior to issuing a ruling on attorney's fees, and will RESERVE ruling on the amount of attorney's fees, costs, and penalties to be imposed, pending review of the supplemental discovery to be filed by EKU, and pending a final resolution of all issues presented in this discovery dispute."

The OVC is requesting EKU pay the conference's attorney fees which were incurred due to repeated motions to compel, which were filed on Dec. 13, 2021, May 18, 2022 and — most recently — on Nov. 21, 2022.

"Additionally, OVC was forced to oppose EKU's baseless Motion for Clarification and for Extension of Time, which sought, among other relief, an order endorsing the completeness of EKU's discovery efforts notwithstanding the facial inadequacy of its document production," OVC's attorneys wrote in its motion.

In an itemized list in the court filing on March 10, the OVC claims it incurred $12,110.48 in attorney's fees and costs in the lead up to and in connection with the first motion to compel, in addition to $46,558.84 related to the second motion.

The OVC also claims costs of $57,181.05 "in lead up to and in connection with opposing EKU's Motion for Clarification and for Extension of Time that EKU filed on December 27, 2022," the filing stated.

On Aug. 3, 2021, the OVC filed a lawsuit against EKU in Franklin County Circuit Court seeking a $1 million exit fee, which is designated in the athletic league's constitution.