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NCAA pushes back against motion for new trial in Todd McNair lawsuit

NCAA pushes back against motion for new trial in Todd McNair lawsuit
Village Christian offensive line coach Todd McNair in the locker room for last-minute instruction in Burbank on Aug. 17. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Three weeks after attorneys for Todd McNair asked for a new trial in the former USC running backs coach’s defamation lawsuit against the NCAA, the organization’s attorneys pushed back.

In a series of filings last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the NCAA disputed McNair’s contention that Judge Frederick Shaller should’ve dismissed jury foreman Anthony Bruno during the trial in April and May when the group found the NCAA didn’t defame McNair in connection with the Reggie Bush extra benefits scandal.

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Bruno worked as an attorney in the Los Angeles office of Latham and Watkins. The firm represented the NCAA during a previous appeal in the lawsuit, but attorneys for McNair and the NCAA didn’t recall the involvement until after opening statements.

“At no other time until this Motion, including during the six days of deliberations, did McNair’s counsel raise any questions about [Bruno’s] fitness to serve on the jury, including when it became clear he was serving as the foreperson,” NCAA attorney Rakesh Kilaru wrote in a declaration.

McNair’s attorneys asked Shaller to remove Bruno, but the judge elected to keep the attorney after interviewing him in chambers.

The declaration noted Shaller told attorneys from both sides that Bruno “seems to be a a very fair, open-minded, credible juror” and that “he is unaware of anything having to do with his firm’s prior involvement …”

Two Latham and Watkins attorneys from the firm’s offices in Washington and San Diego were listed as co-counsel for the NCAA on four briefs filed with California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2015 and 2016.

Latham and Watkins billed fewer than 100 hours during its 13-month involvement in the McNair case, the declaration said, and performed only appellate work.

“No Latham attorney participated in any way, shape or form — including through advice or strategy — in the trial of this matter,” Kilaru wrote in the declaration.

McNair sued the NCAA in 2011 after the organization found he engaged in unethical conduct in connection with Bush, an All-American running back, receiving extra benefits from sports marketers while playing at USC from 2003-05. The finding led to historic sanctions against the Trojans.

The motion for a new trial is scheduled for a hearing Jan. 11.

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