Rodriguez

Robon

Crislip

MORGANTOWN - Bragging in a Michigan newspaper may carry a high price for the legal team representing former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez.

The West Virginia University Foundation has asked Monongalia Circuit Judge Robert Stone to sanction Rodriguez for suing it, pointing to a Detroit Free Press article as proof that the suit was frivolous.

According to foundation attorney Stephen Crislip of Charleston, Marv Robon of Maumee, Ohio, told the Free Press that Rodriguez sued the foundation as tactic to gain leverage in a $4 million dispute with the university.

Now that Stone has dismissed the foundation from the case, Crislip wants Rodriguez to pay its $30,287.44 legal bill.

"West Virginia trial courts have the authority to sanction parties that file frivolous lawsuits," Crislip wrote in an April 16 motion for fees and costs.

Crislip, Al Emch and Ryan White of Jackson Kelly represented the foundation.

The firm billed $29,461 for 125.8 hours, an average of about $234 an hour.

The firm spent $826.44 on research, copies, faxes, long distance telephone, postage, courier, travel and a hotel room, according to an affidavit of Jackson Kelly executive director James Lowen.

He wrote that the firm prepared for discovery, filed a motion to dismiss, and provided research and strategy.

Rodriguez resigned Dec. 19 to take the University of Michigan football job.

West Virginia University sued him Dec. 27, seeking to enforce a buyout clause in his contract.

Rodriguez countersued, claiming the university breached the contract. He also sued the foundation as a third party to the breach.

Stone dismissed the foundation April 3, at his first hearing in the case.

Crislip, in his motion for fees, wrote that the third party complaint was devoid of any claim against the foundation.

He wrote, "Mr. Robon clearly suggested in an article in the Detroit Free Press that their reasons for naming the Foundation as a third party defendant was a 'key tactic' done to 'gain leverage' and 'equal the playing field.'"

Robon said suing the foundation didn't make university attorneys too happy, he wrote.

"Accordingly, due to the improperly plead and frivolous nature of Mr. Rodriguez filing the third party complaint, the foundation seeks the costs and attorneys' fees unnecessarily incurred in the defense of this action," he wrote.

"Mr. Robon's statements in the Detroit Free Press demonstrate that the filing of the third party complaint was done without a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law, but instead to annoy and inconvenience the Foundation and West Virginia University," he wrote.

"It was done as a tactic," Crislip concluded. "Further, the pleadings were deficient under both the federal and West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure and were, at best, inartful."

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